CMSs and online web-development portfolios
November 16, 2014 7:11 PM   Subscribe

I noticed that a lot of famous web development companies and professionals have listed several Drupal and Wordpress-based websites as part of their online portfolios. If a web developer set up a client's website using an already existing theme on one of these CMSs, does it still count as a portfolio piece?
posted by omar.a to Computers & Internet (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Can you give an example? I think a lot of this depends on the level of customization and what the site actually does, not whether the theme or the other parts are home-made or not. Theoretically web development (as opposed to design) is all about getting the content in the container, not just making the container fancy. Or, put another way, if they're famous web development companies that are doing this, then it clearly does count as a portfolio piece. I can think of examples where this would be a big deal

-porting a bunch of stuff over from another CMS and getting it to work properly
- adding a ton of metadata so stuff is more discoverable and findable
- integrating a bunch of custom plug-ins and/or getting the site to work in useful cross-domain ways
- having something the staff can actually use and manage

All of those would be decent goals of a web development project that might result in a stock looking website being an actual portfolio-worthy piece, to me.
posted by jessamyn at 7:20 PM on November 16, 2014

Response by poster: I've come across quite a few but two that I can think of right now would be the Sidecar website as well as the Anonymous Content website by UseAllFive.
posted by omar.a at 7:42 PM on November 16, 2014

Those site both have custom modules/plugins built for the project, and as far as I can see, are using custom themes.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:46 PM on November 16, 2014

Response by poster: What if the themes weren't custom but like jessamyn mentioned, the web developer went to great lengths to getting the content working properly and integrated plug-ins/adding metadata, .. would it be right to add the website as a portfolio piece? I'm trying to find out where the line is supposed to be drawn.
posted by omar.a at 7:49 PM on November 16, 2014

As long as you are clear about what you did, I think it's fair. It makes sense to have in a portfolio if that's what you are offering to subsequent clients.
posted by advicepig at 7:59 PM on November 16, 2014

I'm trying to find out where the line is supposed to be drawn.

The line is drawn at willful misrepresentation. A portfolio shouldn't just be screenshots — it should at least include a few words about the work you're claiming to have done (IA, UX, Design, Development, Content Strategy, SEO…). Ultimately, you're going to walk someone through your portfolio and explain why specific work you've highlighted is applicable to their project. At which point you'll be very clear about what aspects of your work this example represents.

As long as you're clear that you created a child theme here, or are relying on certain third party plugins there, it's fine. Very little is built from the absolute ground up these days — you're unlikely to build your own CMS. You're probably going to use jQuery. You may dig up some weird script to do a specific thing that you and three other people on earth need. You may well begin from a pre-existing theme and modify the hell out of it, because it's a nice starting point with the hooks you're familiar with. Just be honest and don't let your potential client make broad assumptions—if they think your capabilities are greater than they really are, you may be doomed to disappointing them.
posted by mumkin at 9:39 PM on November 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

The only thing I'd be concerned about is, if you're putting it in a portfolio for freelance work, I would be sure that all the plugins and themes you're using are licensed such that you COULD have done the same work for a freelance client. I know some CMS themes are licensed to noncommercial use only, for example, and so if what you're advertising is a service where you'll set up and customize a CMS for a client for money, you should be sure what you're showing them is a similar result to what they could get from you normally. They're not likely to care whether you're doing the actual theme design, but they are going to care if they want a similar theme and you can't get a license for it, for example.
posted by Sequence at 8:29 AM on November 17, 2014

What if the themes weren't custom but like jessamyn mentioned, the web developer went to great lengths to getting the content working properly and integrated plug-ins/adding metadata

It's fine. There is an art to choosing the right theme for the client, their brand, and content you know!
posted by DarlingBri at 10:22 AM on November 17, 2014

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