The DOs and DON’Ts of Constructing a Successful WordPress Portfolio!

Use WordPress to Organize Your Portfolio
In today’s economy, there are no guarantees. No amount of education or experience has proven defensive against the Global Financial Crisis. Many have found themselves between jobs, prompting more education or lateral career moves. Several studies have shown that a person has a better chance of gainful employment by enhancing their current skill set, rather than ditching it for a new one. If you are currently unemployed following a successful run as a designer or developer, or if you’re looking to take preventative measures against potential job loss, it may be time to enhance your online portfolio! WordPress happens to be a perfect solution for organizing portfolio assets and presenting them in the best light!

While this article is intended for mid and senior level professionals, it may be too advanced for those new to WordPress and the world of dynamic publishing. For a quick crash course, please read Teaching WordPress to Absolute Beginners. Likewise, those who are already familiar with WordPress are encouraged to check out 21 Free WordPress Portfolio Themes.

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The DOs and DON’Ts

This article provides tips for building a successful WordPress portfolio in DO and DON’T form. While not a definitive guide, it highlights factors that can “make or break” your online portfolio upon first glance. Comments and additional tips are welcomed below!

#1 – DO invest in a new domain name and separate your blog from your portfolio assets

This may seem like a no-brainer, but many professionals make the all-too-common mistake of lodging personal and professional content under one roof. Personal content, such as a blog, can have negative impacts on your portfolio (aside from the fact that you may be a poor speller). Employers and recruiters scouting for production specialists are concerned about one thing: Production. They want to SEE whether or not you can do work. Making them sift through unnecessary or secondary content could cost you the opportunity.

When choosing a domain name for your portfolio site, keep it professional and simple. “BetchaDidntKnowIWasThisDamnGood.com” may be catchy — even suitable for a personal website. But in the world of business it’s too risqué. A top-level domain using your actual name is always a safe or winning bet. When opting for lower-level domains, however, you should proceed with caution. Corporations rarely venture pass .com, .net, and .org.

#2 – DO strip your WordPress Theme to a bare minimum

Luckily, the majority of WordPress portfolio themes automate this task for you. But if you are adamant about creating your own theme, you should carefully consider what features are absolutely necessary. How many recruiters do you expect to visit the links in your blog roll? Is a horizontal AND vertical bar pertinent to the site’s navigation?

In essence, your online portfolio should be simple and clean. Keep wording to a minimum, and use Custom Fields to assign customization to each portfolio entry. Additionally, you should alleviate any robust or complex feature to ensure an easy and navigable user experience. Recruiters will get a taste of what you can REALLY do when they open the various links to your projects!

#3 – DO include your resume and letters of reference (Optional)

You should include your resume by creating an individual WordPress page for it, or providing a link to an external PDF. Letters of references, on the other hand, should be kept as authentic as possible. Include PDF links of your references on your “About Me” or “Resume” page.

NOTE: If you are a multi-faceted professional and plan on applying for jobs that aren’t necessarily related, you should create a generalized version of your resume or exclude it from your website altogether. The last thing you want is for your online resume to conflict with a printed, or individually submitted one.

Your WordPress Portfolio Should be as Engaging as Printed Ones

#4 – DO NOT date your work

This possibly contradicts everything you learned in Art school, but you should remove all date and time stamps from the front-end of your WordPress portfolio. This means mining through your template files and removing every instance of the php the_time() syntax. Next, remove all dates from external files, copyright notices (NOT the copyrights themselves), and letters of reference. Recruiters are only scouting for the “latest and greatest.” Your work may be well ahead of its time, but a time stamp denoting a project’s age will immediately disqualify it and make people question whether or not you are still practicing, or worst, whether or not you can still do the work.

#5 – DO NOT include all your work

It’s a reality we all must face: Everything we do isn’t a “hit.” Only include your strongest work, avoiding repetitive and similar entries. You should diversify your portfolio by including your most distinct work. If you simply HAVE to publish everything you have done, take advantage of WordPress’ ability to toggle between public, private, and password-protected entries.

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The following points are exclusively (and optionally) for senior-level professionals…

It’s all a matter of preference, but the following suggestions are especially suited for senior-level professionals whose portfolios are comprised of well-known entities and high-dollar commissions. If you have dealt with intellectual capital, trademarks and secrets, and sensitive information, you will be more apt to…

NOT promote the website online

Senior-level professionals understand that their online portfolio is for promotional use. Therefore, their URL is distributed ONLY when they or their affiliates share the URL. Not promoting your website means that on top of ensuring that ALL sensitive information is blocked or removed from your work, you also adjust your site visibility by asking search engines to not index it.

One might ask that if work contains sensitive information, why bother distributing it in the first place? The answer is because portfolios are our greatest asset. Every designer and developer has a basic bundle of rights which includes “fair use,” or, the right to display commissioned work for promotional purposes. As long as you have not forfeited this right, it is imperative to utilize it to ensure your rightful place in the industry!

NOT include a comments form, or share portfolio assets on Social Networks

As a reputable professional, you actually owe this to your clients unless they specify otherwise. Many times, the work we produce is for consumer or internal use. These are sensitive grounds and you should tread lightly! This means that you should eliminate all vices that allow comment, critique, or outside observance! Remove the Comments form from your WordPress theme and avoid incorporating the three, major social networks in your site.

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In summary, your WordPress portfolio website should be your greatest online asset while serving as a testament to your professionalism and all that you have accomplished. By implementing these basic DOs and DONTs, you can bank on a fulfilling career in spite of economic woes or the pitfalls of our industry. WordPress is the ideal solution for your online portfolio and will ensure that your work remains at the forefront of competition!

Photo: Cookin’ portfolio from Flickr
Photo: Portfolio Resume from Flickr

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