help me create a portfolio website that doesn't scream "student work"!
January 21, 2009 6:20 PM   Subscribe

I'm an independent graphic artist looking to create a simple but not amatuerish-looking portfolio website to showcase my work. And because of my limited budget, I pretty much have to do it myself. However, I'm having trouble getting started because there's so much information out there, a lot of it conflicting, out-of-date, too specific, or too general. Please help me do this right! Plenty

Basically, what I want is a simple main page leading to a few different galleries of my work, a blog, and a contact page. Nothing outrageously fancy; just crisp, professional, and clean. (Flash is not for me.) Anyway, at this point I can't really afford something like liveBooks so I have to do it myself. I've done a very basic portfolio website for a class, so I'm not entirely clueless, but I'm definitely hoping for something more polished than my student work.

Obviously, there's a lot of information out there (and in here), but I'm finding myself confused and hung up on all the particulars.

Examples of the kind of stuff that makes me nervous: domain registration, how hosting works, making sure a site is visible in different browsers and on different screen sizes, structuring a website, updating, adding site navigation & text to Photoshop-created galleries, making sure my site doesn't get hacked, etc.

I know this is a vast subject and I'm not expecting anyone to spell out every little detail here on MeFi. What I'm hoping is that some kind and clever people can point me in the right direction, perhaps by recommending specific books or detailed online tutorials that deal with creating online portfolios that are a) readily intelligible by (relative) web design newbies; b) current; c) not tacky or gimmicky. Any other resources or general words of advice would be helpful.

posted by MagicalHypotenuse to Computers & Internet (9 answers total) 48 users marked this as a favorite
Maybe you can partner up with someone who does web work and trade services? Making a website can be pretty intimidating and it's something that you really need to look professional. And web folks can always use some good design templates.
posted by bristolcat at 6:50 PM on January 21, 2009

Best answer: Yes, there's a LOT to consider when creating a website - step one, Grasshopper, is that you realize this. (I admit, I have disdain to graphic designers who dismiss web stuff as just-another-medium, like ink on paper)

To simplify your request:
1. get a domain name. - about $9 a year. BUT don't get hosting within them or any other services. Wade through the circus-like site and just spend the $9 for a domain. Others may recommend different registrars, that's OK.

2. Hosting- go with a reliable service, such as Media Temple or LunarPages. Avoid GoDaddy, DreamHost and ThePlanet - the problems are innumerable, the service non-existant.

3. Engine/content management - use Wordpress. The hosts I suggested have a 1 step install for wordpress, could not be easier.

4. get a Template - search for Premium WordPress Templates or WordPress Portfolio Templates in google, find one you like, and install it to your wordpress admin, takes about 5 minutes (really). We like Elegant Wordpress Themes (search for that)

You're done, except that the design is not yours. That's OK, for now - get yourself up and running first.

Now, you can circle back and figure out how to skin a wordpress template, which is not all that hard. Use the template you picked as the base, upload your own logo/branding and colors by replacing some graphics, and tweaking the CSS (style sheet file).

That should do it. Maybe $200 total costs (domain, 1 year basic but quality hosting).
posted by MTCreations at 7:08 PM on January 21, 2009 [11 favorites]

MT's tips are excellent and what I do is essentially the same. I use Joomla instead of WordPress, but that is a personal preference and for what you're doing, WordPress is probably easier. You may look at it and think, "A blog? I don't need a blog." WordPress can just as easily be used to create a standard webpage, contrary to what it might seem.

Some additional resources:
Web Designer Wall - they have a few tutorials on WordPress skins. Sometimes they list outstanding websites and among them are usually a lot of portfolio sites which you can draw inspiration from. - They have all kinds of tutorials of benefit to designers, but their web programs are particularly strong. You'll find tutorials on both WordPress and Joomla there.
FreelanceSwitch's 101 Freelancing Resources - A huge list of amazing resources for designers, but there are some nice links to to helpful website resources.

I could probably try to find more. If you have any questions and don't know where to turn, feel free to MeMail me!
posted by bristolcat at 7:24 PM on January 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'm an artist, and I really enjoyed working with They were very nice and easy to ask for help, not all that expensive ($20 a month if you want paypal for your website, $5 or so if you don't care) and you get an email account, domain name and tons of templates and resources.

Seriously, I'd give it a try.
posted by big open mouth at 8:15 PM on January 21, 2009

indexhibit was built to do pretty much exactly what you want, it's simple to install and use, and it's free!
posted by lia at 10:08 PM on January 21, 2009

MTCreations has sage advice, this is the direction to go in.
Using a template to begin with will take care of the issues you were raising. The good templates have already been tested and beat upon so you don't have to worry about things like designing for different monitor sizes.

I've worked with many a graphic designer transitioning to web and trust me, if you try to do this from the ground up it will be many months before that web site sees the light of day.

Therefore, as MTCreations suggests, your goal should be to get the site up and running as soon as possible. One habit I've noticed from working with graphic designers is something picked up from print: it's the need to have your portfolio "perfect" before it's launched. Beat that impulse down and realize a) websites are always in a constant state of flux and therefore never finished and b.) there is *not* a critical audience of people out there watching your every move
posted by jeremias at 4:28 AM on January 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

You might also want to consider putting your work up on Creative Hot List or Seems like a lot of folks in the ad/graphic design/interactive industry are looking at those sources.
posted by Work to Live at 12:09 PM on January 22, 2009

I needed a simple portfolio but didn't want to shell out for Livebooks. I ended up using Autoviewer which is a cheap Flash program. They have another one that is more "gallery" based called SimpleViewer. I get lots of compliments on my website (link is in my profile if you want to see it in action) and it was easy to set up and customize.
posted by bradbane at 2:19 PM on January 22, 2009

Response by poster: Very helpful as always! I'm going to go with WordPress-- I was planning on a WordPress blog, I didn't even know that portfolio themes were available. With that, everything starts to fall into place. I know it'll be a lot of work, but it definitely seems manageable now. Thanks, everyone!
posted by MagicalHypotenuse at 1:14 AM on January 23, 2009

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