If you are a designer, photographer, developer or an artist, having an online portfolio will greatly increase your chances of getting hired by potential clients or selling your work. Putting samples of your work up on one of the popular portfolio sites can be OK to start with, but if you are serious about getting hired, presenting it through your own website is the way to go.
Whether you are a professional developer who can put together a stellar site or a beginner with no website building skills at all, WordPress makes it easy to create an impressive online portfolio of your work. And perhaps more importantly, this CMS lets you design and publish your site quickly. After all, whatever time you spend on making your portfolio is the time you could be spending creating or selling more projects. Here are a few tips for using WordPress to put together an impressive site showcasing your best items.
1. Choose the Right Theme
Choosing a great theme is the first step to building a successful site that will act as your portfolio. When choosing a theme, you want something light and not overly flashy, so that your work is the main focus of the visitor, not the theme. Consider that many people will browse your site using their mobile devices, so you should look for a theme that’s fully responsive. Look for a theme that’s both professional and creative at the same time. Depending on whether you are an artist or developer, and depending on who your clients are, you might want to lean one way or another, but it’s generally a good idea to stick with something clean over a theme that’s overly grungy or otherwise extremely artistic. Once again, let your art speak for itself rather than having the theme do all the work or, even worse, distract the visitor’s attention.
Some of the good free WordPress themes to consider for your portfolio are Sixteen, Pinboard and Pilot Fish. Go with Mantra, Parabola or Virtue if you prefer a highly customizable theme that’s loaded with options. Pick a theme with built-in WooCommerce plugin, such as Vantage, to be able to not only present but also sell your work online. If you want your theme to stand out from the crowd and come with customer support, opt for one of the premium options like Folio Black, Illustrate or Photocrati.
2. Add Plugins
Not many themes will come with all the functions you want in a site, but there’s a way to solve that problem. If you really like a particular theme, but a couple of options you need are missing, you can always add the plugins that have that functionality.
The free Portfolio plugin, for example, lets you create a page on your site to display your work. It allows you to add screenshots, descriptions, URLs, completion dates and other info. WP Portfolio is a similar option, allowing you to display your portfolio as a single page on your site. This free plugin automatically generates thumbnails and supports group entries, which means you can divide your work into categories. Gmedia Gallery is another free plugin providing users with a comprehensive interface for managing images and entire galleries. It lets you create photo slideshows, add tags to each file and automatically assign images to different galleries based on their tags.
If you are a Web designer or developer, you might also want to add client testimonials about your work. The free Testimonials app allows you to randomly list or slide quotes, reviews and portfolios. The app comes with multiple display options as well as SEO functions to help improve your site’s rankings.
When it comes to premium plugins, Media Grid is a great choice for portfolios. It allows the creation of unlimited portfolio grids, which automatically change the display size of every item to fit the grid size that you set. You can manually customize the look of every grid, categorize items and add multiple overlay colors, among other options. OnePage Portfolio is another paid plugin you might want to consider. It lets you easily add your portfolio pieces to your site and categorize them by using tags. The plugin is very minimalistic and displays your items in a clean, Pinterest-like layout. You can group individual pieces into work categories or provide an option to display them all at once. Clicking on any item will display its description. ZoomFolio premium plugin is also worth your consideration. It allows creative individuals to build an elegant looking, customizable portfolio. You can easily change the background of the grid, the color of text links and the hover color, among other options. Each portfolio item is displayed in a lightbox when it’s clicked. Thumbnails can be expanded into full-screen images, which is a great way to showcase your photos or art pieces in full resolution.
3. Keep the Amount of Features to a Minimum
Remember that loading your site with plugins and widgets might slow it down, and if your site features a lot of images, which most portfolios do, you are already slowing down your loading speed as it is. You can safely get rid of your blogroll and similar widgets that are not absolutely necessary for your potential clients to see. They won’t make any difference in whether or not you get hired, and might actually have a negative effect by creating an unnecessary distraction from the main focus of the portfolio, which is your work.
You don’t want to upload hundreds of work samples to your site either, no matter how much work you have done and how experienced you are. This will also make the site too bulky and slow, and cause recruiters to get lost in the sea of portfolio items, rather than concentrating on the few of your best samples. Choose 10 or 20 designs or photos that are your absolute best pieces, and let their quality speak for your experience, not the quantity.
Finally, you might want to think twice before enabling the comment feature on your WordPress portfolio site. If your projects are art pieces or photos that you own, it’s safe to get feedback from visitors. But if they are websites, logos or other design elements created for clients, you might want to disable comments. Remember that any negative feedback can reflect badly on the companies for whom such work was done, not just on your personal design skills. Even if your reviews are overwhelmingly positive, getting just one negative comment can cost you a client and is not worth the risk.
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