Unique alternatives to the 'portfolio' website design
September 3, 2016 5:23 AM   Subscribe

I want to build a new website, mainly to showcase my work as an artist, writer and academic. I'm looking for inspiration, and perhaps even some Wordpress templates. I want to do something a bit unique, responsive and forward thinking. Can you help me think beyond the current portfolio model?

7/8 years ago I built a website out of a piece of abandonware software (Sweetcron) that aggregated material from any RSS feeds you fed into it. I used this to build a site that collected my Delicious links, YouTube videos I favourited, Flickr images etc. and I also integrated it into my Wordpress blog with categories and tags, so that part of it could function as an archive and portfolio. It worked brilliantly well, and for a long while it felt fresh and unique. It was kind of an ode to web 2.0, and it was quite prescient of the way people would eventually start using Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram as a way to 'showcase' their lives and their work simultaneously.

Now it is starting to look old, and the 'series of square images that link to my work' layout has become standard in the art world.

I want to capture something about the contemporary/yet-to-come web, something that reflects how information and online identities are organised and presented today, and I'd like this to become the basis of a new website design.

I know this might be asking a lot, but very simply put I would just like some inspiration. Not necessarily from pre-existing portfolios, but ideas about how to organise my online, artistic and work life into a simple, effective portfolio website. What's the new zeitgeist people!?
posted by 0bvious to Computers & Internet (4 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Form follows function. Start by asking what you want the function to be. "Different" can be a natural outcome of thinking more.
posted by amtho at 7:12 AM on September 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: That's kinda my point though. 8 years ago I said "I want a website that showcases not only my 'work' but also my online activities". At the time there wasn't much of that around. So my question is based around updating that desire for now, today. And then, yes, the design part comes after that. But I am fishing for ideas relating to both.
posted by 0bvious at 7:17 AM on September 3, 2016

Here's some ideas and links that could inspire you.

A major part of the zeitgeist is about right now. Snapchat and now instagram stories have a portrait form factor - the horizontal letterboxing and vertical video is a 2016 thing whether you like it or not. There is Facebook live, Periscope. There are things like Twitch and there is the rise of vlogs. People want a peek into someone else's life that feels authenthic and real. Yet when you walk around on the streets many perceive the world through the camera lens of their phones - especially if they are hunting for Pokemons. Augmented and virtual reality are daily topics on the tech sites I frequent.

A very interesting site in this regard is the new aesthetic, a tumblr that collects "material which points towards new ways of seeing the world, an echo of the society, technology, politics and people that co-produce them."

Cameras, sensors and hardware in general are becoming tinier and more connected day by day.

Advanced filmmaking techniqued like timelapses that were hard to pull off a few years ago are now in the hands of everyone with a smartphone.

One of the most original websites I've found lately is Jon Gold's, but if anything it's half modern and half a throwback to old computers.

Sagmeister put a webcam on the ceiling of his studio as the homepage a few years ago. The current site still has this but for me the idea feels old school now.

I feel a 2016 website that is truly original would mix the real world with the digital world using today's interconnected hardware, possibly using the user's "data" (i.e. where they are in the world) in some way. A few days ago on the radio the show host praised the music artist James Vincent McMorrow for a page on his website where he invited listeners to find a quiet place where the album would stream (as I understood it would only stream at certain places).
posted by wolfr at 9:31 AM on September 3, 2016 [2 favorites]

I think you should consider who the portfolio page is for, and focus less on how fresh or dated it looks and more on how you can help those people get what they want. I would expect the portfolio to be something for people who are interested in your work, and possibly also want to have you do work for them. Right now you are presenting the items without context, and I often have no idea what I'm going to see before clicking through and what/how/why/when you made something. But maybe you have other ideas about who it's for and what they want/need!

Having said that, I think a major contributing factor to your current portfolio page looking "old" is the fact that it feels a bit cramped. Current design trends tend to larger font sizes and more whitespace. In itself your portfolio page isn't terribly far off the current mainstreaming of cards as a design element. Giving each item a full row, or otherwise making each item larger (maybe in a masonry-type layout a la Pinterest) could freshen things up.

As for how people present their identities, I think more people (who in the past might have maintained more of a self-owned website) are opting to outsource their publishing to various platforms (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc), and when they have a website will have quite a plain one just linking to their accounts on the various other websites, possibly combined with a general "about me" page and/or blog, and might post updates on these other platforms when they've made/written/etc something new somewhere.

As for publishing updates, etc, you could go the indieweb route and still publish these on your own site first before pushing to various platforms (like Twitter, etc), there are some links to sites of people doing that here (the term POSSE stands for "Publish (on your) Own Site, Syndicate Elsewhere"). Of course, this would have some additional technical implications. But it's related to your questions about online identities, and in this case of ownership of that identity.
posted by bjrn at 12:52 PM on September 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

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