What Platform to Build Your Portfolio on?
Online Portfolio Platform Advice
If you are just starting out, you know you need to build your portfolio but you might not be sure where to build it or get it out to potential employers. The old fashion way of doing this was creating a print portfolio and sending it out with a résumé. However, in today’s society, to be taken seriously as a designer you really need to create an online presence and the best way to start is by creating an online portfolio. By creating your own website or having your own online portfolio, potential employers can easily view your work at their own time from virtually anywhere. I will help walk you through the different options for creating your online portfolio and the different and best options to start your online presence.
Your Personal Domain
The most professional way to set up your online portfolio is to buy and set up your own domain. By spending a little money now, you are investing in your future and you show others and potential employers you are serious about your career. Domains are fairly cheap to buy and not too expensive to host. When figuring out what your domain name should be, I personally recommend using your own name. For example, my domain is www.justinsantiago.com. By using my name, I am advertising myself making it easier for people to associate my name and therefore my brand with whatever it is that I’m marketing myself as on my website, which in my case is a graphic designer. Now I did get lucky in the fact that my name.com was still free, however I did not know because I did not go to one of the sites to see if it was free. I cannot stress enough, but DO NOT look to see if your desired domain name is free UNTIL you are ready to buy it! People often sit on those sites and get updates to see what people are searching for and buy them before you can get to it and try to sell it to you for triple the cost. Always have a list of 4 or 5 domains you want for your business so if your first choice is taken, you can default to your backup choice. When I bought my domain, I had a few backups because I thought my name.com would have been taken. I recommend going with your name designs.com or your name photography.com, something that identifies what you do as your domain name. Now I only recommend these as backups in case your name.com is already taken. If your name.com is free, take that one first and if you want to buy multiple domains go for it, but it isn’t necessary even if you have different portfolios, as mentioned in Design Discussions # 5, because it makes it easier for people to find you and you can always put different portfolios on different pages of your website.
What Domain Extension Should You Use?
.com, .org, .net .info or others
There is no right answer for this, but in my professional opinion, I recommend going with the .com extension because it shows that you are a business. Now you might not be doing any freelance work or might not be marketing yourself as a business, but it helps portray your professional status. The .org and .net do as well but not as well as .com, which is also the most common extension making it easier for people to find your website, especially if you can get your name as your domain. Typically, .org is reserved for nonprofit companies or sites who want to get information out into the world and .net is short for “network” and was originally used for network providers and it is often harder to rank in search engines. I will go more into ranking and search engine tips and tricks in a future article. Choosing the right domain extension is a pretty crucial part in helping potential employers and clients find you, and it is always better to go with the safe bet of .com.
A great platform to build your portfolio is WordPress, which is one of the biggest platforms on the internet right now. WordPress was originally designed for blogs but has since advanced through countless plugins so it is one of the easiest way to build a website. WordPress is a great foundation to build a site because you can build a great starter portfolio site completely free if you’re willing to put in the time to do research on the best free themes and plugins to customize your site. Often times, WordPress themes have a free and pro options so you can start with the free to see if it meets your needs and then invest in the full version. I recommend to start off with the free version while you get used to the platform and how to navigate the tools. Keep in mind that if you have the free version your custom URL will be linked to WordPress, so it will be yoursite.wordpress.com.
After you test your options and themes, I highly recommend you invest a little money now into buying your own domain. You can either do this by upgrading your WordPress plan or you can purchase your own domain through another company and easily integrate WordPress into that site. When upgrading to the premium plans, the prices offered are not outrageous at all. If you however want to purchase and host your domain through another site, I do recommend Blue Host as they have made it easy for you to incorporate WordPress and you have great reliable support. You have other options when purchasing your domain and hosting so shop around for special offers, but if you’re wanting to save some time, I have done a lot of research on different hosting, and Blue Host is the one I keep hearing the most positive feedback and that I use myself.
WordPress is a little harder to teach because often certain features vary by theme, but there are certain features that remain the same in setting up a website. WordPress is a great choice for designers who do not have a coding background as there is not a lot of custom code writing. You do have the option to go into the CSS or Java scripts and customize certain plugins to make it fit your needs, but often time, if you just know some basic HTML and CSS, you can do whatever you want without really going into the back end of website design.
Another great free platform to consider is wix.com. Wix is a responsive template based platform that makes it easy to build a simple first portfolio. If you want to focus more on your work but have a clean simple to follow portfolio online to showcase your pieces, Wix might be for you. They already have a variety of templates to suit the new and student creative with little to no web design experience. If you are a photographer, artist, or writer but are intimidated by the coding that goes behind web design, wix takes all that out and all you do is drag and drop—it’s that simple. This is a good place to start building your online presence while you’re focusing on building your portfolio quality, but if you stick with the free version you will not have your own domain. You can upgrade your plan to connect your domain you purchase through another site, like Blue Host, or obtain your domain through one of Wix’s premium plan. The prices are not terrible here and if you are on a budget and want a simple interface, give this platform a shot. It is easily customizable but doesn’t have all the options of WordPress, mainly because there are just not as many developers for this platform.
A staple among creatives for portfolio platforms is the Adobe site Behance. This site is specifically targeted at creatives to allow other creatives to see your work. It is a great site to visit if you want to get some inspiration by viewing other creatives’ work in your field. I will go more into ideas on finding inspiration in a future article. There are pros and cons to a huge site like Behance, mainly there is a lot of traffic on the site. This is the biggest pro and the biggest con since you have the potential to have your work viewed by hundreds of thousands of people easily, but you are also competing with countless other creatives to get those project views. Because Behance is a free platform and the amount of traffic, I recommend to use this platform in a way similar to social media. It is great to have as a supplementary site to obtain more interest in your work, but shouldn’t be used as a stand-alone portfolio site. Use this site to help drive traffic to your main portfolio site and leverage it to market yourself and your work.
One thing to keep in mind is that Behance is an Adobe product and it does use an Adobe ID to log in, but it is a free platform whether you use the Adobe Suite or not.
This is a relatively new platform for portfolio representation. Adobe Portfolio is included in your Adobe CC Suite membership which is great especially if you’re using the CC suite, which I go more in depth about in other articles. If you already are paying for the CC membership this is a compelling option to consider because you can get your own customizable domain and you can sync your portfolio to your Behance projects. The site builder is clean and intuitive to use and the finished product of your portfolio is clean as well as responsive. If you are on a budget this is a good option to consider but there are some downsides, mainly, lack of customization. While there are a variety of options to choose from to customize your site, there are nearly not as many options as some of the other platforms mentioned above. I recommend this site to those who want to have more consolidated payments as it is tied in with your Adobe CC account at no extra charge, and you want to get the most out of your monthly subscription. This would also be a good site if you want branch out into a different field or have different domains for your design portfolio and your photography portfolio, for example. I believe you can only have one domain through your Adobe ID, so if you want to have multiple domains, you will need to have one here, and then use another platform, making this a great supplemental portfolio site.
While there are many different platforms out there to host your portfolio, this article only names a few. The number one choice is to invest in your own domain name and hosting and then use one of these platforms to integrate into your site. I personally use WordPress in my domain that I host through Blue Host. However, the main thing you need to consider when choosing your platform is your budget, your familiarity with web design, and what your main goal is for your portfolio. If you plan on having a diverse portfolio site with many different aspects and features, you would be better off with WordPress and their vast variety of plugins. If you want something simple and straightforward you might want to go with Wix. If you don’t have the money to put into a site right now but you use the Adobe Suite, Adobe Portfolio is probably your best bet. I recommend that everyone create a Behance account to supplement your portfolio, no matter what platform you choose.
Remember, your online portfolio is meant to provide your name and your work to potential employers and clients so you want to make sure your name and what you do is clearly labeled and it is easy to navigate. If you want to learn more about what to include in your online portfolio, you can find out more in Design Discussion #5.
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