In the mid-noughties anyone who was anyone had a blog. Many of those blogs were and to a degree still are used as Internet calling cards; a place to exhibit personal work and to write about subjects close to heart. Then Twitter hit the scene in late 2006 and the social media boom put an end to the “blogging revolution”.
Two things have happened to the blogosphere since the rise of social media. One, it has drastically shrunk in size. This is not necessarily a bad thing since at its peak the blogosphere comprised so many sites that were arguably 80% word pollution. Two, many of those who used their blogs for self-promotional purposes have migrated to more targeted social media platforms – or – have shifted from using WordPress as a blogging platform to WordPress as an online portfolio.
The line between a blog and a portfolio is not always clear, but the general idea is that whereas blogs provide a contextual space around your area of work or interest, portfolios are entirely devoted to highlighting the most salient aspects of your work – a sort of glossy resume if you like. It’s not uncommon, however, for blogs and portfolios to overlap and if you take a quick look at the selection of WordPress portfolio themes on ThemeForest for example, you’ll see that blog components are still an essential feature.
So what makes a successful online portfolio? To help me answer this question I’ve decided to highlight three exceptional WordPress portfolio themes released in 2011 by an up and coming design company, ThemeTrust. I think there are many ingredients that make a successful Web portfolio, so I’m only going to go over the most important ones. Each of the three WordPress themes highlighted below excels in all of them:
Let’s be clear. Your portfolio represents YOU. What is at stake is the reputation of your work in the eyes of a potential employer or client. From the moment a prospective client visits your site, s/he must be in no doubt that you are professional and that your work is better than the competition. There’s a saying in English “start as you mean to go on”. If you’re putting your work online to attract business, then you need to make every aspect of people’s interaction with your work resonate with quality, confidence and a professional attitude. In short, your portfolio must lead by example.
So how do you set the example? First of all the presentation of your work, regardless of the field, must be clear and consistent. In each of the 3 examples below, the first thing you will get a sense of is clarity. What does that mean? In the context of a portfolio it means that your area of expertise, the range of past work and your availability for new work are all conveyed within the first 10-15 seconds of landing on your front page. There’s no place for lengthy explanations, no place for confusing navigation structures, no place for clutter, the presentation of your work should speak for itself.
NARRATIVE / STORYLINE
Your portfolio should have its own through-line and it should convey something of your personality/character. The narrative of a portfolio begins with the choice of site name, and then is followed by the tagline or slogan explaining in a few words the services you offer and the type of work you do. It then moves on to examples of the work itself. Each project example should link to a page with further details and illustrations of that project.
OPEN FOR BUSINESS
Many individual portfolios that I looked at in drafting this blog post forgot one of the key factors in the relationship between their work and the audience they were trying to impress with it: how do I go about hiring your services? Not only that, but exactly what type of services do you offer? These two pragmatic points seem to be increasingly overlooked, substituted for concerns of aesthetics. A good portfolio should balance practical information and aesthetic beauty. As a potential client, I want to know whether you’re open for business, but before that I want to know what sort of business you’re open for!! Services page + contact form = fundamental!
What each of the following portfolio themes has in common is an immediate sense of professionalism, clarity and usability. If you’re thinking about launching your own portfolio, you could do a lot worse than go for one of these themes. What I particularly like is the use of jquery filtering to order portfolio entries without having to jump to a new page. In each of these themes, the potential is there for the immediate audience response I spoke of earlier. So, without further ado, I give you the Craft, Solo and Filtered themes.
EXAMPLE 1: CRAFT THEME
EXAMPLE 2: SOLO THEME