A lot of young people create their own website as they go into the creative industries. In particular, designers and advertising creatives who need to have an online version of their portfolio but also anyone else who wants somewhere to point people for more information, a place to showcase their work or simply somewhere to demonstrate their attitude and personality. If you’re thinking of creating a website, or you’re looking to improve an existing one, this guide will help you out.
- Do you need a website?
- Custom domains
- Choosing a website builder
- Coding for websites
- What to put on your website
- Website design advice
Do you need a website?
Websites are a great way to show off your personality online without restriction. They can also collate everything about you making them a single, easy entity to point people to, rather than asking a new contact to add you on LinkedIn and follow you on Twitter and look at your Instagram photos, YouTube channel and Pinterest boards. In fact, whether you choose to have a website or not, you should really only bother asking people to go to one place. If you have a profile somewhere that does the trick then by all means use that. Otherwise you should consider a website.
What is a custom domain?
A website’s domain is the unique name that identifies it online. For example, Facebook’s is Facebook.com, Campaign’s is Campaignlive.co.uk and FutureRising’s is FutureRising.com. So a custom domain is just where you choose your own domain instead of relying on one generated by your host e.g. www.members.webplicitycustomsites.com/racheledison1993portfolio.
Should you have a custom domain?
On the one hand, your website is easier to find with a memorable custom domain, it looks more professional, URLs on your site will be kept shorter and implies you have more pride in the website. On the other hand, custom domains cost money. If you really can’t afford it (probably a few quid a year from your domain provider plus you may have to pay extra if you’re using it with hosts such as Wordpress or Cargo), you won’t be penalised too much for not having one. But if you can afford it, there’s very little reason not to have a custom domain for your website.
How do you get a custom domain?
There are hundreds of providers selling domains such as I Want My Name and Go Daddy. All of them offer different prices so be sure to shop around. Once you have your domain, you’ll need to look in two places to piece together the instructions to activate it, your domain provider and your host website. Your provider will explain where to look in your account while your host will tell you where to point your domain.
Choosing a website builder
If you can’t design and code a website from scratch then don’t worry, there are loads of services that will take care of the hard work for you. Here are some of the pros and cons of the most popular ones to help you decide which to use.
Squarespace’s big selling point is that you can make very pretty websites with absolute ease meaning that even complete web beginners can have professional looking websites. Unfortunately there is a 14 day free trial before you have to being paying. As far as premium services go, it’s not the cheapest. If you’re a freelancer who relies heavily on their website then you may want to invest, otherwise Squarespace might not be worth it.
There isn't much you can do with about.me. But if you're looking for something clean, simple and free then you might want to check it out. The premise is that it's a single page where you place a giant picture of yourself and write a little bit about yourself. Most people then add links to their various other online profiles. If you want any more than that then this isn't for you.
As one of the most popular places to create websites and blogs, there is a lot of support out there for WordPress users. If you know what you’re doing, there is very little you cannot do with a WordPress website. You can create a WordPress website for free if you want to use a basic template but most of what WordPress can do isn’t available unless you pay.
This isn’t exactly like having your own website but many creatives use a Behance profile in place of a website for good reason. A free Behance profile gives you a well presented portfolio, with some control over design (mostly colours), and places you in a community of other creatives. In fact, if you have a portfolio, it’s worth investing the time to put it on Behance anyway, purely for the feedback you can get. Though once again you can’t use a custom domain unless you buy a Behance ProSite.
Cargo creates portfolio websites. Many advertising creatives use it. As one of the few site building services designed specifically for portfolios, you’ll find it a lot easier to use than trying to create portfolios within the other services. Unfortunately a lot of functionality, including the ability to add a custom domain, is limited to paying customers only.
While Tumblr’s main function is as a simple blogging platform, it’s entirely customisable. Because of this, people have been using it in a range of different ways. If you want complete control over your website without having to pay a thing, Tumblr is a great place to check out. There are even a number of portfolio themes to play about with. To really take advantage of Tumblr’s flexibility, you ought to know at least a little code.
Wix sites pop up all over the place, probably because they are very easy to build. The problem is that if your using a free Wix site then various ugly graphics will fill the screens of your visitors telling them it is a free Wix site and that they should sign up to make one. It's a little distracting and unprofessional.
It’s pretty helpful to know a little bit of coding for the web, or at least to be able to understand it. It’s not difficult to learn and it will give you a lot more control over your website. Almost all the website builders above will give you access to the coding behind the website so an understanding of it will allow you to make changes, such as tweaking standard templates to make them more personal, or add extra elements. This story about websites to learn coding is good place to begin learning if you haven't done so already.
Hyper Text Markup Language (HTML) is the basic coding language on the web. It’s very logical and structured making it a pretty easy language to learn. All you need to know is how it works. Anything more specific can be Googled at any time.
HTML works in elements. You open an element with a tag, and close it with a tag. This tells the web browser that anything between those tags is that element. There are elements for headings, paragraphs, images, links, and much more.
Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) is a little more complex. As the name suggests, they can add or change the style of things on a web page where HTML doesn’t do the job so well. There’s a little more to it than that of course but the real question is whether or not you should learn CSS. If you want full control over a website that allows you to change the CSS (e.g. Tumblr or Squarespace) then go for it. It can certainly be helpful to know CSS, or at least understand it, but it’s less likely you’ll need to use it.
What to put on your website
- Tell us who you are.
- Experience and awards.
- Your portfolio.
- Link to anything you want people to see.
- Add some personality.
- Show off.
- Always leave them wanting more.
- Always have more.
Who you really are. Don’t just state your name and profession. Tell us more. What are your interests? What’s your sense of humour like? What do you do outside of your profession? How do you dress? Do you think there’s intelligent life on Mars? You don’t have to write a long essay about yourself, your “about” section can be anything from a single sentence to a collage of pictures. Just as longs as it’s interesting and tells us something about who you are as a person. Afterall, employers want to work with people they get along with.
This isn’t a CV but it’s always good to have a little overview of your experience if you have something good to put in there. Keep it simple and just include a list of super relevant positions or anything you’re very proud of. Then include a link to either a downloadable CV or a clean, easy to follow FutureRising profile incase an employer wants to know more.
If you have work, it should definitely be on your website. Most employers will go there expecting to see work and will throw your name in the bin if they can’t find any. Also, it’s handy having work on your site in case you’re ever without your physical portfolio when you meet someone who want’s to see your stuff.
Work, social media, your blog, anywhere you or your work has been featured (e.g. FutureRising). Don’t go overboard though, chances are no one is going to explore hundreds of lists on your site so prioritise what’s really important.
It’s important to put personality into every aspect of searching for a job. So important in fact that you’ll find that sentence in most of our guides. Make sure your website reflects who you are and it will be more effective at attracting the employers you want to work for and pushing away the ones you don’t.
Your website will be one of your biggest promotional tools so don’t hold back on saying how amazing you are.
Try to be intriguing. The more interested people are in you the more they will want to know and the more likely they are to invite you for a cup of coffee or even a job interview.
If you do get an interview, you better have something left in the bank to wow them with. If they’ve already seen all your work on your website or read all your interesting stories then they’re going to feel like the meeting was a waste of time. Hold a few things back and you’ll only impress them more.
Website design advice
- Simplicity is key
- Must be easy to navigate
- Test the website in multiple browsers
- Online presence guide – This will help you out with conducting yourself online
- Where to learn coding – A list of free and premium services to help you learn coding.
- Awwwards – Website awards to give you design inpiration
Online portfolio examples
Here's some personal portfolios and websites that we recommend checking out for inspiration. They're from a range of talented individuals including designers, creatives, planners, developers and so on.