If you’re a creator, maker, artist, fabricator, designer, craftsperson, etc. – I highly recommend having a website to showcase you and your work.
Nowadays, an online portfolio can really separate you from other candidates depending on how you showcase your work. Some job applications require you to have a website or online portfolio. It’s also a neat way to build your brand.
Arguably, Instagram is headed in the direction of being a platform to showcase work. Employers definitely search social media platforms of candidates as a part of the hiring process, so it’s worth it to build your brand through social media, as well as on your website.
Where to Start
So you want to make a website to showcase your work. First, you need to find a platform to build your website. Nowadays, most of these platforms will offer a plan to host your domain and build your website all in one – which is great, but I suggest doing your research about what’s out there before settling.
Basically, you need a domain name (your URL), a hosting service, and a website building platform. For example, I bought my domain and am hosting it through Namecheap, and I’ve connected that domain to WordPress so that I can upload content/build my website there.
The best advice I can give about this –
buy your domain and do not go with the free version which is something like yourname.wixsite.com/yournameagain or yourname.wordpress.com – you get the idea.
Here are my reviews of some common website building platforms:
+ Wix: Now, I’ve seen some really sleek portfolios made with Wix – but you have to invest a lot of time into making those templates look professional. The layout and customization might seem really easy and user-friendly, but they really don’t give you many options to fully customize your site. I personally would not recommend Wix.
+ Weebly/Carbonmade/Crevado: I’m just going to group all of these here – mainly because they have a similar interface for uploading and customizing content. Your options are extremely limited with these website building platforms. You need control over your image quality and size, so I also would not recommend using these programs.
+ WordPress: This is what I prefer and what I use, both for this blog and my online portfolio. I like WordPress because you can start with a pre-made template or theme, and change it to make it work for you pretty easily. There is so much available to you as a WordPress user (plugins, code for making something scroll differently, hit counters, etc) – and that makes it really fun to come up with something that really works for your specific needs.
+ SquareSpace: Although I don’t use this one, I would still recommend it to anyone looking to make an online portfolio. SquareSpace allows you to have control over a lot of customization options, while maintaining image quality. It’s also pretty user-friendly. Word of advice about SquareSpace – I’ve seen a lot of portfolios made with SquareSpace that look the exact same – so make sure you invest time into making your site both functional and tailored to your own work.
Starting out, you may not know what you’re looking for in a website – so just upload some content and play around with themes until you’ve landed on something that works for your needs. Research some other online portfolios and figure out what you like or don’t like about them to help you with your own site. Either way, don’t get intimidated by it – but know that you have to invest time into it. Don’t just expect to upload some photos onto a platform and be done with it.
Navigation & Function
Sure, you want your website to look pretty – but it’s not functional, what’s the point?
+ Try and make it so that your viewer doesn’t have to click more than 3 links to get anywhere on your site. For example, don’t have them follow a path like “About Me” > “Portfolio” > “Painting” > “Academic Work” > “See Gallery”.
+ Showcase your best work, don’t make an entire online archive of every project you’ve ever worked on.
+ Create menus for different categories, but limit this to about 4-5 depending on your specific website. It keeps it clean if you stick to a few categories, and doesn’t overwhelm your employer. Maybe something like “Work”, “About”, and “Contact” is enough – see how minimal you can get with this while still helping your employer get to where they need to go.
+ Really think about how your photos function within your website. As an employer, I want to be able to enlarge a photo easily, and navigate through a photo album by looking at all the thumbnails at once. Your employer is probably not going to stick around to watch your slideshow reel of photos, so make it easy on them and give them what they need to see.
+ Prioritize your information associated with a project. For example, if I designed a show – the production photos are probably the most important piece of the portfolio, followed by renderings/model photos, then process photos/research. Organize your content to reflect this, so that you can grab the attention of the employer or viewer.
+ Show credits and descriptions are important – but again, prioritize here. Make the photos larger than the text.
+ Upload a logo, and have it link to your home page.
+ A logo is different from a favicon. The favicon is the tiny little square next to the website page name in your browser. Customize this so it looks like your put effort into your website (otherwise it’ll default to the SquareSpace logo or similar).
+ Have your resume on your website, easy to view without downloading. Put a download link next to it. Also, make sure your references’ contact information is not on this version of your resume – you don’t want to put your references on blast.
+ Think about your home page – what do you want your employer to see first? I personally dislike the splash page/click to enter trend in websites, as it’s one more click to get to the portfolio. What happens if your “work” page is your home page?
+ Avoid crazy fonts and clashing color schemes – keep it functional and make sure your viewer can get to things easily.
+ Check how your site functions on a mobile device and tablet. Most people are on their phones a lot, so when you send them your website – there’s a good chance they are looking at it on their phones.
+ Check your website on gtmetrix.com or a similar optimization website tool. This allows you to see problems that your website has (file sizes too large, etc).
Your images are the most important part of your website.
+ Get good quality photos of your work.
+ You can add watermarks to your photos. Lightroom does this really quickly through an edit you can make in the export process. Photoshop can also do this – you just record an action and batch process your files.
+ Organize your photos in a way that makes sense. Do you have all your production photos in the same row? Do you have process photos for the same units next to each other in the gallery?
+ Check the crop of your thumbnails – don’t cut off important visual information.
+ Check your file names! Sometimes, your website builder will take the file name and default it to the image caption. You want to avoid having “DSC_481350.jpg” as a caption.
+ Proofread your images like you would proofread text. Is there something in the photo you wouldn’t want an employer to see? Are you wearing safety glasses in that photo of you using the panel saw?
+ Really think about the images you are including. Did you actually work on the project that is being displayed in the photo – or were just around the shop when it was being built? If you can’t talk an employer through the process of building/painting/designing a piece – don’t bother putting that piece on your website. On another note, if you’re a designer – think about if the images you’re including are helping to tell the creative story behind your design. Don’t just fluff up your website with pictures – select a handful that tell the important facts and story.
+ Don’t overcorrect color or saturation. It’s super obvious and looks very amateur to have an obvious Instagram filter over your work. Keep your image edits subtle and make sure they are actually improving the clarity of your work.
Hopefully this was helpful to some of you! Follow me on Instagram for updates about content, what I’m up to, or new things in the blog world. Thank you all!