Do you smell smoke? Yeah, that's my brain.
November 2, 2007 5:37 PM   Subscribe

Trying to redo my design portfolio site. I've been told I need it to be in Flash. I'm great with other programs but not Flash, so I'm teaching myself. I SUCK. I don't know what I'm doing!!! So I need 1) technical help* and 2) feedback on the design I have so far. 'Cuz this is all really new to me and I want it to be well-received. Do you have a portfolio site? What works for you? *Calling all Flash wizards in the Bay area! Wanna make a few bucks & help me?

Take a look at what I have and see if you think it's heading in the right direction... what works best for a portfolio site? Any ideas I might not have thought of? And as mentioned, if you're a Flash wizard who lives in the Bay area, please e-mail me, I don't think I can do this alone. I need to get it finished ASAP so I can go back to doing paying work. Thank you.
Okay, so I don't know what I'm doing, as mentioned. I fleshed it out in Photoshop first because I know Photoshop like the back of my hand, but I'm just flailing around lost and stupid in Flash. Please don't laugh at my pain... there is smoke coming out of my head. Here's my first attempt at the beginnings of a simple splash page. It's just the first thing I came up with, really. I decided to make it look pretty and a bit ethnic-looking to balance out the children's design work I've done. I don't want to pigeonhole myself and have people think I can ONLY design things for 4-11 year olds. At this point I don't even know how to create buttons or do action scripting to make the site functional yet. I'm just learning from tutorials still. What I WANT is for the buttons below to open up portfolios of my work. A white gradation should fade in, and the designs should appear when you click on boxes in the window. Here is a Photoshopped mock-up. I just want it to look clean and simple, and for the design of the site to be neutral enough (but not boring) so that the work stands out as the focus of the site. Ya dig?

Sooooo... thoughts? Advice? E-mails saying you can help me figure out how to get this damn thing up and running by the end of next week? 'Cuz if I don't get this done soon, then I can't get any new clients. And if I can't get any new clients then I can't pay my rent. And if I can't pay my rent, then I'll end up a smelly, homeless mess, swigging Thunderbird in an alley with my poor hungry puppy. You don't want my puppy to go hungry, do you?

Thanks, nice hive people.
posted by miss lynnster to Computers & Internet (37 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I've been told I need it to be in Flash.

By who and for what reason?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:41 PM on November 2, 2007 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Two different agents in the Bay area told me that my website turned them off, that it looks old and needs to be updated. Can't disagree with them. One woman was a little bit harsh actually, she told me that my site doesn't reflect my talents and that I should never forward my site again, that she would be "embarrassed" to show it to a client because she knows they wouldn't hire me since it doesn't represent me well. I was told that people wanted to see portfolios that are "very plain and simple and in Flash."

I don't want to make it just a white page, so I'm trying to make it designy but still simple. I don't know what I'm doing really though. I created my old site in 2003 so I know it needs updating. The Patron Saints theme was a HUGE hit for me in 2004 and it got me a lot of attention (got me into HOW Magazine & a few David E. Carter books)... but that was when Passion of the Christ was about to come out so it was ahead of a trend. But now people are actually looking at the religion thing more literally and I think it's a turnoff. So I need to get rid of it as the theme of my self-promo stuff. And I need to modernize, I guess.
posted by miss lynnster at 5:54 PM on November 2, 2007

Response by poster: BTW, when I was in LA, I was always so busy that I didn't really need a website. The Bay area's apparently all about flash web portfolios though. I'm being told it's crucial to my survival here, I guess. Otherwise I can't get in the door with people.
posted by miss lynnster at 5:57 PM on November 2, 2007

Best answer: Dear sweet mother of god, if you have any sanity, don't make your site all-flash, UNLESS and only UNLESS you specifically specialize in flash work.
posted by SansPoint at 6:19 PM on November 2, 2007 [10 favorites]

I've not touched any code nor kept up on developments for a good few months now but I'd second SansPoint. There is definitely a move away from sites entirely in Flash.

If agencies are insisting on Flash, I'd develop a good, accessible site (the design you've sketched is great) and have a flash header.

p.s. I have such fond memories of the Patron Saint series, was it really 2004? :-)
posted by ceri richard at 6:27 PM on November 2, 2007

Response by poster: Okay... soooo what do you guys recommend?

This is one of the reasons I'm posing this whole question here... I want to know what works before I hurt my brain and find out I did something totally wrong. And if this is what I DO need to do, I want it to be the best I can make it.

I just really to get great new clients and to be sure I have the best very site I can. I'm open to all alternative ideas that will steer me towards that. I mean, I've art directed flash stuff before but I'm just don't have a programmer brain.

So if you have thoughts... please... shoot!
posted by miss lynnster at 6:29 PM on November 2, 2007

Best answer: NEVER make your site all-flash.

First of all, text embedded in your flash is not spiderable. That means you won't be found in google searches! People won't be able to find you when they look for you - that's a big problem. And personally, i find Flash pretty dated, and a bad solution to almost any problem, unless you're a game designer or a vector illustrator or something like that.

I know dozens of designers - interactive and print - in the Bay Area. None of them use Flash portfolios, except for the one really crappy guy whose name I will not mention so as not to embarass him.

Please stay away from Flash ... ask any decent UI designer, it's the road to ruin, especially for a portfolio.
posted by luriete at 6:30 PM on November 2, 2007

Remember, simple is better. You want to pare it down so that prospective clients see only you and not the site, right? You don't want your WORK to compete with the site, unless the site IS your work (that is, unless your work is interface design, which yours doesn't seem to be).
posted by luriete at 6:31 PM on November 2, 2007

I wouldn't recommend doing a splash page, either.
posted by kirkaracha at 6:36 PM on November 2, 2007

Response by poster: Yep, it was 2004. It seems like yesterday. I was thinking about doing more saints, but with the comments I've gotten lately I'm worried about people not having a sense of humor about religion the way they did when I made them (thanks to Mel Gibson). So I guess i have to reinvent myself yet again.

BTW, here was the super nice article HOW did on them. Such a major highlight for me. I should start praying to them again, work's scary slow right now.
posted by miss lynnster at 6:37 PM on November 2, 2007

Response by poster: I must confess... since I suck at it, I'm actually not unhappy to hear you all say that these agents were wrong...
posted by miss lynnster at 6:40 PM on November 2, 2007

There are some javascripts out there that can give you some Flash-like effects without having to resort to Flash.

Scripts demo:

Examples (of rotating banners and/or news items)

You may want to look into Ajax-y things too.

Good luck, Miss Lynster!
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 6:48 PM on November 2, 2007 [1 favorite]

Sorry -- Lynnster!
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 6:48 PM on November 2, 2007

I'd take the anti-flash stance here with a pinch of salt.

There is a gradual shift away from building your entire site in Flash, but the majority of the cutting edge creatives still do it... you can't compare with the amazing immersive experience that a well built flash site can give. (see praystation, hires, tdr, etc)

Anyway to answer the question lynnster, if you're serious about doing it all in flash, what you want isn't rocket science. Drop us an email, i'm working this weekend anyway, i'll try and help you as much as i can.
posted by derbs at 6:52 PM on November 2, 2007

I'm actually not unhappy to hear you all say that these agents were wrong...

I don't think these agents are wrong per se. If you're a creative, and you want to impress potential clients, you need to build your site in Flash.

Most clients aren't technical, and don't give a shit whether your site is built in ruby on rails with standards compliant javascript frameworks web2.0 blah blah...

They're employing you to design something that looks cool, not program them a back-end system
posted by derbs at 7:18 PM on November 2, 2007

If I was looking at a design portfolio in Flash, I would assume that's what I'd get if I hired that particular designer. So if Flash isn't your thing, show off what is your thing. I'd sooner see decent photography of print pieces than what happens when a great print designer makes beginner's Flash.

If you're trying to look current, you'll want to reference the clean designs of google and flickr. Think light, airy, and 2.0 ;)
posted by advicepig at 7:41 PM on November 2, 2007

Only stupid people require all-Flash. If you work in Flash, which apparently you don't and so won't be looking for Flash gigs, then put your Flash work on a sub/gallery page like any other category. It maintains usability, provides easy access to your previous work, and is plainly more sophisticated as a showcase for a multitalented person.
posted by rhizome at 7:46 PM on November 2, 2007

Hmm, looking at your existing portfolio, I see that you're not doing web design, which maybe makes the Flash / non-Flash issue a little fuzzier to me. I personally wouldn't go with an all-Flash website, though; among other things it's easy to get bogged down in the scripting part if you aren't already used to that, and with straight HTML potential clients can print a page out to pass around with no additional work from you.

I'll second the idea of taking a look a, which is pretty easy to get started with and can give you a lot of the same animation effects you're using Flash for. There's at least one book out on it, which may make it easier to learn if you're a learn-from-books type of person (as opposed to a mess-around-with-it type of person).

If you are going to go with any Flash, I'd recommend using swfobject to display the movie from your HTML - it's easy to use, may make techie types more inclined to think you know what you're doing, and you can get google to index the non-Flash version of your movie. Plus, it works around the outline thing on IE (pull up your test page in IE and you'll see what I mean).
posted by whir at 7:55 PM on November 2, 2007

I agree with the "don't do it in Flash" sentiments.

My guess is the agents want you to use Flash in order to sell you as a Flash designer/developer. Damn near any design position I see advertised requires Flash experience. It's like a fucking plague.

"very plain and simple and in Flash."
Talk about your oxymoron.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:07 PM on November 2, 2007


I personally hate Flash, but the bottom line is that almost all creative type websites are done in Flash. The only exceptions are for both people who are creative and technical.

Technical people hate flash, and I'm a technical person and I hate Flash. And if you want to impression technical people, don't use Flash.

But I'm man enough to admit that my biases are just that, biases, and mine alone.

But if you want to impress non-technical creative types, I think you are better off using Flash.


Also I took a look at your website and it's very, er, 1998. It looks like it's "Optimized" for 640x480. This is a 1280x1024+ world. I think what people want isn't flash so much as fancy dynamic graphics. DHTML would also be good, as long as stuff moves around the page in an interesting way.
posted by delmoi at 8:37 PM on November 2, 2007

As most of the people here I intensely dislike using Flash when something doesn't require it.

Yes, your site looks somewhat dated. No, it's not necessary to use flash to make it look good.

There are many sites that showcase good CSS/XHTML designs for portfolios. For example:

Most of the sites shown in those sites don't use flash, and if they do it's very minimal.

Good luck.
posted by Memo at 9:25 PM on November 2, 2007 [3 favorites]

But if you want to impress [the] non-technical [snip], you are better off using Flash

Too true.

My primary background is programming and secondary is visual design. People subscribe to how something looks as the product, unless they have a bias — case in point delmoi and I. My unfettered opinion: Flash is not necessary to make something look and behave great.

Be aware how Flash will help or harm. This is the One Rule. Your audience is your goal, not what biased outsiders say, either way.
posted by pedantic at 9:45 PM on November 2, 2007

Let's go easy on the tool; it's not hard to put together a disaster of a website in Flash, and goodness knows plenty have worked hard to prove that statement. It's also possible to do some amazing things with it. My company specializes in full Flash sites that are compact, dynamically populated via XML, indexable, bookmarkable, and broswer back-buttonable. Flash for us is more a programming language than an animation tool.

That said, I fully agree that unless you're looking to be a Flash animator or developer, there's no need to have a portfolio in Flash. Make something that's clean, modern, and visually pleasant while being unobtrusive enough to serve as a vehicle that lets your work shine. You can create that in Flash, but you could also create it in circa 1996 html, the latest and greatest CSS, and everything else in between. Keep it simple, and good luck.
posted by jalexei at 10:01 PM on November 2, 2007

I've been told I need it to be in Flash.

You've been told wrong. Flash is a technology, not a design solution. Find out what information your portfolio needs to convey and what visual capabilities it needs to have. Then figure out what technology you need to make it work. That may or may not be Flash.
posted by kirkaracha at 10:25 PM on November 2, 2007

I've had a tiny bit of experience in the art department of a magazine, so I know just enough to be dangerous to myself and others. But when I was working there, I found the photo editor and art director both liked sites where a) they could look it the entire portfolio fairly easily and quickly, and b) they could bookmark individual pieces to show to the other person or the rest of the art department. Flash sites, generally speaking, fulfill neither of those basic requirements.
posted by chrominance at 11:01 PM on November 2, 2007 [3 favorites]

Just the humble opinion of a non-pro, but I would think about making your site a little more taste neutral. It looks like you're doing a lot of contemporary work, but your site mock up has a bit of an old world romantic feel. It's nice looking, but I could imagine it being off-putting to clients who aren't looking for that sort of style. Make the focus of the site high quality, detailed images of your work, not the trimmings.
posted by gennessee at 1:36 AM on November 3, 2007 [1 favorite]

There is Flash and then there's flash. All people really want is little-eff flash, it just so happens that these days that often comes wrapped in big-eff Flash. If you build out the site as you've mocked it up in HTML you'll be miles ahead of where you are now—and well in the little-eff flash territory without any big-eff. I suggest doing that now to get you back to feeding the dog and fiddle with Flash later, on the side. Or find the money to pay for a Flash person to do what you want.

I think your new design is really nice, FWIW. The old-worldiness sets off the modern look of the pieces well. I'd suggest paring down your nav choices, though.
posted by wemayfreeze at 2:05 AM on November 3, 2007

I agree with delmoi. Your site could use a redesign, but it doesn't have to be in flash. Just a couple of quick comments on an upgrade:

Yes, your content needs to be bigger (the percentage of people viewing the net at 800x600 is minuscule these days). On your splash page your link to your patron saints of graphic design is on the top, which makes it seem the most important thing on the page (that's the first place I clicked when I went to take a look). I do remember when you got a lot of play on that and I thought it was pretty funny. But the thing about the net is that fame for what you've done is fleeting. Here today, gone tomorrow. So, I agree, de-emphasize that and emphasize your latest work. If you are using the site to sell yourself as a designer then your portfolio links should be emphasized. And, btw, on your portfolio pages, make your work large enough to really see.

Next, the value difference is not great enough between the background with your links (the left box of your splash) and the background of the page itself. Your information seems to float on the page (especially since the design already appears too small). And one last tidbit: if you are going to use accents with the word "resume" there should be two, one with each "e;" résumé. A small thing but if you're trying to sell yourself, everything should be perfect.

A flash-based site isn't necessary. But a good solid redesign would definitely help you.
posted by Taken Outtacontext at 5:28 AM on November 3, 2007

Do you have a portfolio site? What works for you?

How NOT to display your artwork on the web.
posted by fake at 8:14 AM on November 3, 2007

Best answer: You can use the color contrast checker to make sure there's enough contrast between your foreground and background colors.
posted by kirkaracha at 8:41 AM on November 3, 2007 [1 favorite]

clean and simple is the way forward but I personally think photoshopped sites are much better than flash ones. Of course it depends on what your intentions are. flash sites ive seen look amazing but they tend to be like 3 min tv ads in content. they seem to exist to promote specific things. I suppose it depends on whether you want to get into advertising or not.
posted by browolf at 3:39 PM on November 3, 2007

Best answer: I agree that your newer design is nice, but I think what sets modern websites apart is, basically, full bleed -- the days of a website floating right in the middle of the page with a simple solid color as a background are basically over. here's an example of a full bleed site

You need to make the website resize based on the size of the window, which for people hiring designers will *start* at 1024 width absolute minimum. Basically, I think for your audience you want to design *for* the 1280x1024 screen, but making sure that it doesn't break a 1024x768 window.

I think one of the real drawbacks of your current design is that while it does feature something that was loved a while back, well -- the thing you're featuring is a few years old right now, so it seems kind of old. I would put the emphasis on all the rockin' graphic design you've done. If you can, create a script so that it puts out a random offering from your portfolio on the front page. Make a bunch of case studies...people will look at content graphics and they will affect how they feel about the layout graphics...
posted by Deathalicious at 5:48 PM on November 3, 2007

Late to the party but...

Fuck Flash. That's all I ever did in school. Flash is like a stereotypical blond girl with big breasts - attractive but dumb and annoying as hell. You are a print designer, you have so many other things to worry about than learning this program. A portfolio in Flash will net you some of the most annoying and clueless clients, they'll want a 30 second long splash page and a pretty website with bad navigation (can you make this load on a 56K modem in 10 seconds or less?). It's also a pain in the ass to add recent projects and to update your resume. Your current mockup structure will work just fine in HTML. If you really want to get animations in there, a bit of Javascript will do the trick. It's faster, easy to learn, and compatible with more browsers (many people disable Flash).

I have an HTML version of my portfolio sitting on the backburner. Flash doom I'd like a site with less useless animation, easier to update, more flexibility, and add some descriptions to my pieces. With this, I'm trapped in whatever I did my senior year. Bleh.
posted by idiotfactory at 7:02 PM on November 3, 2007

The moment I saw "I've been told it needs to be in Flash" I knew there'd be controversy.

I would really like you to go back to the person who told you that and ask them what exactly they meant, and for some examples.

I mean, just for the record, yes, Flash is way, way over-used, and almost always makes a website worse than the equivalent HTML version in every possible way, but if this person believes, for whatever reason, that the industry requires it, I'd ask them to be more specific.

It may simply be that, despite what they said, a plain HTML website will be fine, except for the gallery section where an off-the-shelf flash gallery system could be used to load and display stills of your work.

And it also may be that the person who said it wouldn't be able to tell whether a site was actually Flash or not, as long as it used alpha effects, wipes, etc. -- if you used some of the CSS/Javascript systems talked about above, they'd probably say "It looks great, see? Flash was what you needed!" and you could have a laugh at their expense.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 12:24 AM on November 4, 2007

I was told that people wanted to see portfolios that are "very plain and simple and in Flash."

That's a bullshit requirement, along the lines of, "even though you're worked on national campaigns, you need to take a portfolio class to prove to us that your serious."

A copywriter friend of mine got that advice last summer. And then she got the job anyway, by sidestepping HR and going straight to the people in creative.

What you really need is contacts who can hire you without making unhelpful blanket statements.
posted by roger ackroyd at 12:08 PM on November 4, 2007 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Okay, so here's what I've got so far if any of you are checking back. I decided to make it Flashy enough that people think I know Flash, but to keep everything bookmark-able for convenience and so it's going to show up on Google. I was told to not put many samples on it, but I want to really show variety. So I think I found a simple solution... I noticed that still uses pull-down menus & I thought to myself, "Self? If it's good enough for then haters can suck it. It's a clean and easy way to navigate through stuff."

So there ya go. Feel free to MefiMail me if you have any ideas on how I can make it better. :)
posted by miss lynnster at 8:49 PM on November 9, 2007

Response by poster: Epilogue... for those of you who gave me advice on my site, thanks so much. After this post I did one version that lasted for a few months, but too much of it was based on me trying to shift my image to accommodate various advice from some SF agents. But it didn't take long for me to realize that their advice was really wrong for me and I'd done myself a disservice. They had wanted me to take out my LA entertainment work... but I'm proud of that stuff and I still have LA clients so that was a dumb idea. Also, the site was way too corporate and didn't have any of my personality in it. It was just not representing me accurately. At all. There was nothing of "me" in it, which felt wrong.

SOOOOO, my SECOND redesign of my site was unveiled a week ago and I'm finally really proud of it. I need to make the Flash animation on the opening page go faster, and I need to switch out a few of my portfolio pieces, but it's very much me now and I'm very happy with the whole presentation. Soooo, I'm going to keep this design for a while. Especially since my dad is thrilled that it features a picture of his grandmother in her favorite big feather hat.

So again, thank you all for your advice. It really did help me to sort through things until I finally came up with the right solution in time. Which was, of course, NOT about having it all white and entirely in Flash. You guys were totally right. But I'm sure you knew that.
posted by miss lynnster at 5:06 PM on February 27, 2008

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