Creating an Online Portfolio

by Jacob Johnson

Creating a modern, well-designed, and content rich online portfolio can be an extremely rewarding and eye-opening process, and with today’s democratized technologies it can be an easy one as well. Creating a website can seem like a daunting task at first, but with a little guidance, curiosity, and creativity you can have a proper online presence in no time at all. Most importantly, that small time investment can pay great dividends. Creating a personal website is an investment in yourself. It can help you get noticed by future employers, gives you a place to share what you are passionate about, and can help you develop a new and exciting set of skills.

The first step to creating an online portfolio is overcoming the hurdle of intimidation. Creating a great website can be as simple or complex of a project as you want to make it. The internet provides a number of free and intuitive tools for creating very basic but great looking websites all with a few mouse clicks but also supports content creators who want to take a more behind the scenes approach. Whether you are a design student who simply wants a place to share your latest work or a computer engineering major looking to create ‘the next big thing’, the first step to getting there is starting.

Although I come from a computer engineering background and took a more hands on approach to creating my own portfolio, for the purposes of this guide I will assume most people know very little about the subject of web development. For those of you with a more advanced understanding of the subject, go wild. For the rest of you, we need to focus on two key areas: content creation, and content hosting.

When I started the process of designing my own website I assumed I would be writing a lot of code, dealing with networking, etc. In truth, I spent a majority of my time composing written content and taking pictures. Most websites, portfolios in particular, focus on simply communicating written text in creative ways.

Before you begin writing it is a good idea to figure out exactly what type of message you want to communicate with your site and who is your realistic audience. My portfolio focuses on resume items, specifically elaborating on topics that are too complex to fully discuss with a bullet point. To that end I spent a majority of my time discussing my education, work, and leadership experiences and included detailed descriptions of some of the professional and personal projects I have taken on. Perhaps an English major would have a blog or page dedicated specifically to some of their works or a graphic design student would create an album of projects with short descriptions of each. In the end, focus on the information you care about and most want to share.

Once you have a good amount of information written you can start thinking about where and how you want to host it. This is where things get a bit more technical, but stay with me. Hosting a website comes down to two decisions: where and in what form will you share your content. More technically competent creators should explore domain name registration, hosting services, and DNS lookups. However, for this brief guide to creating a web portfolio I am going to skip those more advanced steps in the interest of clarity.

There are a number wonderful web creation and hosting companies who do a great job of walking beginners through the process of creating a new website. Some of the more popular are squarespace.com, weebly.com, and wordpress.com. These sites comes with a number of great tools to help you quickly and easily design modern looking websites in just a few mouse clicks using pre-made templates, store your website content efficiently and intuitively, and even purchases a unique domain name for your website. The catch is that they charge for these features but if you are short on time, lack a technical background, or simply don’t mind the cost they can be great options. If you are interested in a slightly more complicated but flexible approach to web design you might consider building your own site from scratch, though I will not go into the details of that process here.

There you go. Thats really all there is to it. With just a few hours of work and research you can have a simple web portfolio up and running, ready to share photos with family, resume information with employers, and your passions with the world. Of course, the topic of web development is a deep one and there are a million and one ways to complicate the process with some breathtaking results, but if you simply want a quick and easy web portfolio just take the leap. In the end you will have a great feature piece to help you stand out among your peers, will have learned a rewarding and powerful new skill, and with a bit of luck discovered a thing or two about yourself along the way.

For a little inspiration check out my portfolio site at jacobmichaeljohnson.com.

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