A Creative Career

A guide to putting your portfolio on the web

9 June, 2008


Your name in lights by cheechman via flickr.

Tracy over on Red Bubble asked in the forums:

A little while ago I set myself up with a free website to display some of my stuff, but I really would like to have a swish bang site like some of the ones i have seen from other bubblers.

Where do you go to find cool looking websites to make your own? and at what cost?
If paying for a site, does everything come with it like a template thingy for you to add your own stuff or is there different fees for different things?

I thought this was an awesome question and one that warrants further exploration, so after dashing off my quick answer to her I thought I’d sit down and write a more comprehensive guide to getting your portfolio on the web. You might be a photographer, print maker, painter, illustrator, sculptor, jeweller, cake maker or stylist – but unless you’re a web designer there’s no insta-magical way to showcase your portfolio on the net. (Even if you’re a web designer it’s not insta-magical!)

Your name, in lights

The first thing people usually think of when they are pondering a web presence is registering a domain name and setting up a site on their own hosting. This is the most expensive option, and also a road paved with tears, late nights and caffeine. Buying a domain and hosting will set you back financially within minutes, and if you haven’t got html and css coding skills it’ll mean you’re out of pocket before your jpgs even hit the server. Don’t get me wrong, this is the most professional route to take but you must consider all the pros and cons before you get out your credit card.

If you don’t have web site building skills, please do yourself a favour and pay someone with those skills to build you a beautiful site. Sure, you can buy a template site out of the box or find a free one – but do consider the following:

  • How many other people are using that template?
  • Will you be able to grow your website with a bog standard template?
  • How much time and patience are you willing to invest in googling when something goes wrong?
  • Does a template present you and your portfolio at their best?

Finding a CMS to call your own

Don’t think that TLAs like CMS are just for big business. Content Management Systems are good for creatives too.

There are few free CMS (Content Management Systems) that are specifically engineered with artists in mind. The best one I’ve seen by far is Indexhibit. Red Bubble user mimobase has used this application to build his personal website mimobase.com with fabulous results, in my ever so humble opinion.

Little known fact: You can use most blog platforms as CMS for portfolio sites. WordPress and Serendipity in particular are reportedly very good. I use Serendipity for this here blog, and I enjoy it very much but I haven’t put much thought towards using it for managing portfolio content to be honest.

Keep in mind – even if you use an open source or free CMS, you’ll still need a domain and hosting.

Free stuff makes the internet turn ’round

In this day and age you’ve got so many free options with regard to establishing an internet presence that you’d be silly not to explore them before shelling out your hard earned cash money.

If you want to start a zero-outlay site to display a schmick looking portfolio fairly easily, I highly recommend tumblr. Tumblr doesn’t have a categorising system, but tagging is available so you can do some quasi-categorising if you tinker with your theme.

There are a number of templates that would be rather becoming of a portfolio:
Screenshot
Box Factory
Museum

There are lots of free portfolio communities out there. You don’t have to purchase a domain or hosting, however the trade off is that you don’t have very much flexibility when it comes to customising your page.

Dripbook
Coroflot
Behance

Whatever you decide to do, keep in mind that if you can’t code it – hire someone who can to do it. All too often I come across poorly designed and/ or coded portfolio sites that don’t reflect very well on the creatives they are representing. Don’t be afraid to get in contact with a web designer to discuss a portfolio design that can be customised to suit your specific needs – after all, creatives like us need to support other creatives too!

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