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Building a Web Portfolio

August 19, 2009

We hope these tips will help SOC students and others get started thinking about and designing professional e-portfolios:

SCOPE OUT THE COMPETITION
Browse the online portfolios of professionals in your field. What do you like, or dislike? What choices are they making about how they present their work, how they approach the design, what industry jargon they use? You can find pros’ websites/portfolios just by Googling the name of a person whose work you admire, or even the field you’re interested in pursuing. These sites are ubiquitous—which should motivate you even more to create your own!

SECURE A DOMAIN NAME
Before you begin to build your site, you can secure a domain name. Even if you’re building on a platform that gives you a ready-made address, you can usually link it to an alias URL that’s easier to remember and connect with your business or your name. One of the most popular places to screen and purchase domain names is www.godaddy.com .   Make it short and simple, flexible, and memorable. Often, your name alone is a great choice (unless your name is something like John Smith, and it’s already taken!).

PICK A PLATFORM
There are a number of ways to build an e-portfolio, from  (ideally) designing your own Website if you have those skills, to using a package such as www.visualcv.com or www.interfolio.com (http://www.interfolio.com/product/portfolio/index.cfm) , to using free blogging platforms like www.wordpress.com or www.blogger.com.   If you’re interested in building your Web design skills, you can take relevant SOC classes  or sign up for free classes in multimedia programs like Dreamweaver, Fireworks, Photoshop and more at AU’s best-kept secret, the Office of Information Technology. If you’re going to try one of the packages mentioned above instead (or for now), most offer a variety of themes or layouts that you can build on. Here are a few links to get you started…

We may be offering more information on the how-tos of using WordPress and Blogger as portfolio platforms soon—particularly if you let us know that you’re interested.

THINK STRATEGICALLY ABOUT LAYOUT
Given your particular experience and goals, what are the elements you will want in your portfolio? You’ll want to customize the look, at least somewhat, and you’ll definitely need a spot for your contact information, and your resume or bio. But unless you have one targeted video sample, and that alone, to share, you’ll need to make choices about what work samples you include, and how you include them.

If you have two or more areas of interest or expertise, you may want to consider different websites for each niche, or at least different sections/pages of your portfolio for samples of each. The former solution allows you to most effectively target a particular employer’s needs, and make your case quickly (since the portfolio will already be established).  This is where getting ideas from others’ websites can help. Then it’s just a matter of using the tools at hand to build your vision.

BRASS TACKS
Gather your goods. If you want to link to a number of items that are already online, create a document that lists the links and their descriptions—just so you have all those items in one place to cut and paste onto your site. It will make your life much easier. Create a folder on your computer for all the final versions of media you want to upload onto your site—whether video, photos, or pdf.  (If you have large print items you want to include, the UPS store across from the Eagle’s Nest in the tunnel can create PDFs of images up to 11 x 17 at a reasonable rate. It is also pretty easy to link multiple page images into one PDF file. ) Then go back to thinking about your audience. Which of these items will make the greatest impact;  what kinds of work does the employer you’re targeting need to see to believe you can do the job? Can you create multiple categories (or multiple pages) for different audiences, or simply to reflect your range? The answers all relate to layout, and it’s always good to re-think layout with your actual work at hand.

BELLS AND WHISTLES
If your work is not particularly visually interesting, there are sites where you can find free photos and clip art to spruce up the Website itself: www.openclipart.org and www.copyrightfreephotos.com among others. You can find interesting fonts to download at www.1001freefonts.com, www.dafont.com, and www.urbanfonts.com — and even create a font from your own handwriting at www.yourfonts.com. But warning: don’t get too caught up in bells and whistles before having the basic structure and content worked out, nor have too much “fun” and end up making the design the focus for the reader instead of your work.

SPREADING THE WORD
If you have one website/portfolio that serves all your needs—and (after critiques from friendly mentors, tweaking on your part, and even more feedback) definitely does so effectively—you may want to consider ways to make that site as public as possible: comment on relevant blogs, and hotlink your name to your website; put the website on your Facebook or LinkedIn page;  etc.  Be Google-able. Make sure that there are tags and searchable terms that an employer might be looking for if they’re looking for someone like you. At some point, go out and learn more about SEO (search-engine-optimization) than we’ve bothered to mention here.

If you are creating multiple websites for very different job searches, particularly if website A would send a confusing message to employer B, you might think about doing less publicity, and simply sharing the appropriate URL with the appropriate employer. There are also platforms that allow you to keep your website completely private and not searchable.

BOTTOM LINE
In general, whatever your e-portfolio needs are, there is probably a technological fix to serve them, and if there’s not one today, there may be tomorrow.  As business and social networking rebel-guru Gary Vaynerchuk says, “Your Google results are your resume. If you’re not talking in that space, it’s to your detriment.”  So take advantage of the tools at your disposal and build yourself a solid home on the Web with an e-portfolio!

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