Building an Online Web Design Portfolio: Tools, Themes, and Templates
There many benefits to having an online web design portfolio, but there is something more than beneficial to displaying web design work online, in the arena in which it was intended; it just feels at home. Optimized and ready to show off its full potential. A high-quality portfolio can leverage the same interactive, responsive features that a well designed website uses, letting you show clients your strengths and capabilities.
A successful online portfolio will use the same rich media functionality that a great website would, too — and with these hosting services, templates, and themes, you don’t have to be an experienced developer to do set yours up. These tools allow designers at all levels of expertise to create a sleek, functional online web design portfolio worthy of the work it displays, from low-maintenance to highly customizable.
We’ll start off by taking a look at portfolio hosting services that allow for a wide range of customization. For those who use WordPress to host their portfolio or personal website, we’ve collected responsive and rich media capable themes and templates that are specially oriented toward portfolios.
Portfolio Hosting Services
Behance is perhaps the best-known and highest-visibility portfolio hosting service on the Web. They emphasize the fact that the Behance network gets “fifteen times the traffic of all other leading portfolio websites combined” — a powerful asset for designers looking to gain more exposure and a wider audience.
Behance offers fully customizable portfolios for creative professionals of various disciplines, and its graphics-heavy layouts and multimedia options are well suited for web designers. A free account offers unlimited images, video, text, and audio, and its social-media integration lets you share your work across multiple platforms. You can display work on your LinkedIn profile, promote it on Twitter and Facebook, or use Behance’s community tools to follow other users, and gain followers, too.
You’ll find curated sites, collections, and galleries from big names to independent designers, as well as active job boards and groups. Behance aims to connect talented designers and professionals with each other and with career opportunities.
ProSite.com is Behance’s paid portfolio hosting service that features even more customization options, personal domain names, white-label branding (no Behance logos), and syncing with the Behance network. The service costs $11 per month and functions as a personal website for creative professionals; you can import your blog and develop your personal branding vision. Behance ProSite is accessible to designers with all levels of development experience: no programming knowledge is required to build a site, and you can choose from a large variety of layouts and templates.
Portfolio hosting service Viewbook is embracing the mobile revolution: it’s available on Web and mobile and offers iPad-app integration, so you can display your work on the go. The interface is clean and minimalist, though the portfolios feature plenty of customization options.
Viewbook focuses heavily on social media: you can share and publish your work to Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, and more with one click, or embed Viewbook albums in your personal website or Facebook timeline. Support is available for Adobe Lightroom, Google Analytics, and Wufoo forms for freelancers. Pricing is three-tiered, ranging from $4 per month for a basic gallery to $19 per month for a personal domain, unlimited websites, full customization, and Viewbook’s iPad app.
Cargo Collective is a web publishing platform with an emphasis on portfolio capabilities and support. The service offers public website hosting and “Personal Networks” for users, as well as a support and development forum. Some basic programming skills are needed to complete customization, though many templates are available as well. However, Cargo is best suited for those designers with more development experience.
Cargo sites offer built-in video and audio players for externally hosted content, as well as cloud-based image hosting. An expansive directory lists experienced designers and developers to aid other users in customization. Like Behance, Cargo Collective is community-oriented.
Wix is a DIY website-building service that lets users create a custom site — with no knowledge of coding necessary. Based on a drag-and-drop format, Wix now offers rich media capabilities, with both Flash and HTML5 support. Hundreds of free templates are available, and the service is based on a freemium model: users create free accounts, and upgrades cost between $4 and $16 per month for features like custom domains and e-commerce designs.
Fresh.li, like Wix, offers creative-professional portfolio services without requiring programming experience. They boast that users can create “a new website in five minutes,” using either a fresh.li subdomain or a personal URL. Free portfolios aren’t as extensively customizable as other options, and just six templates are available, but paid options allow for customization using HTML and CSS.
Carbonmade, with its simple but sleek interface, is strictly a portfolio-hosting service: no networking or career services are included, though it’s a useful option for designers who might have less experience and are primarily looking for a place to display their work.
Carbonmade portfolios are functional and relatively minimalist in design, though the site itself features whimsical graphics and illustrations. Free and paid options are available; the latter, at $12 per month, offers domain binding and technical support.
Specialized Portfolio Hosting Services
Certain portfolio-hosting services are geared toward particular categories of creative professionals, or toward goals like career building. The services below are for designers who are looking for specific capabilities from their online portfolios.
The Creative Finder
The Creative Finder is a division of DesignTAXI, a news site with a focus on web design. It offers portfolio hosting and integration with networking and career services, letting creative talent find employment opportunities and professional connections. Portfolios on The Creative Finder function essentially as galleries of a user’s work, allowing for professional contact, networking, private messaging, and linking to profiles on social-media platforms.
Sortfolio is career-focused, as well. The service offers listings for designers rather than full portfolios. It offers the most functionality to designers who are already relatively established, but who want to expand their reach to big-name clients. Free listings are available, and $99 per month will get you large, interactive display ads and personal-branding options.
Krop is a tool for job-seeking web designers and creatives; it brings together job listings from recruiters and paid portfolio hosting, at $9.99 per month. Portfolios are fully customizable, and Krop’s back-end creative database lets recruiters target designers by specific capability, location, availability, and professional level.
Subfolio, a DIY portfolio tool, allows users to configure portfolios on their own servers. The service is best for designers with significant development skills: it’s a PHP5 file browser application that lets users manage settings, file types, themes, and more. Subfolio reads the files you place within a directory folder and then turns the content into a website, turning folders into sections and files into pages. It’s currently in private beta, though you can request an invitation here.
Themes and Templates for WordPress
Many web designers choose to host their personal websites and portfolios on WordPress. The platform’s open-source software and powerful CMS offer extensive customization options for users of all development skill levels. Many portfolio-specific themes and templates are available for WordPress, and, as with the hosting services detailed above, options are available for those looking for all degrees of customization. Below are a number of themes and templates that are particularly well suited to web designers.
Responsive themes allow portfolio content to be displayed correctly — and attractively — on multiple devices, screen sizes, and resolutions. Given the rapidly increasing importance of the mobile web, it’s crucial for web designers to optimize their portfolios and content for mobile devices if they want to reach a broader audience.
ThemeTrust.com offers premium WordPress themes with responsive, minimalist interfaces, many of which are optimized for web-design portfolios. Some examples of portfolio themes (all ThemeTrust themes below cost are priced at $49):
Infinity, a responsive portfolio theme, features a grid layout and infinite scrolling capabilities. The image-heavy interface allows designers to showcase their work front and center. Among its features are a built-in lightbox, social-media integration, and threaded comments.
Solo, a single-page portfolio theme, leverages jQuery effects within a minimalist layout. The theme features expanding project displays, automatic scrolling, and integration with Flickr and Twitter.
Reveal offers an Ajax-powered portfolio with a responsive layout; the theme features animated jQuery drop-down menus, smooth portfolio filtering animations, and extensive customization options. The image-heavy, grid-system layout displays well on all devices.
Hero’s parallax home-page banner lets designers prominently feature their best work. The responsive theme includes templates for pagination and archive pages, making it easy to organize a larger body of work.
ThemeForest.net offers themes and templates for designers with programming backgrounds: for WordPress, Joomla, HTML/HTML5, Magento, and more. Below are examples of responsive themes and templates which work particularly well for web-design portfolios.
Parallax, an HTML portfolio template, offers (of course) a parallax slider, a skeleton grid system, and a three-layered background that creates the illusion of depth. The WordPress version focuses more on blog capabilities, though it also offers extensive customization options, with an intuitive interface.
Milestones, a single-page template for either personal or commercial portfolios, is a colorful template with a host of features especially useful for web designers. It offers valid HTML5, a contact form, a jQuery slider for the portfolio itself, and various social-media integration options.
Themify.me provides WordPress themes that are extensively customizable — without requiring coding knowledge. Theme packages do include PSD files and Themify frameworks if you have programming experience and would like to further customize them.
For designers focusing primarily on networking, Folo is a useful theme: it allows designers to display their work samples and available services, and features the same customization options as other portfolio themes. Folo’s circular slider and twenty-one layout options — lists or grids — make it a flexible option for designers looking for business opportunities.
Blogfolio’s interface combines a web-design portfolio with blog posts, turning your portfolio into an integrated personal website. The theme’s image-heavy layout features threaded comments, custom menus, feature boxes, and various grid or list options.
Simfo, a responsive portfolio theme, offers full customization for designers with programming experience; it’s coded with HTML5 and CSS3. The theme offers a feature slider, a plugin-free lightbox gallery, and optional search options, RSS, and social-media icons.
In the End
Whether your development skills are as well honed as your design abilities or whether you’re looking for a simple, straightforward online portfolio, there is an array of choices available for hosting services, themes, and templates. The best part? Flexible customization options mean that you can change your portfolio as your skills, needs, and experience changes — all with the support of design communities and networks. What are some of your favorite web design portfolio options?
Diana Kole is part of the editorial team at Fueled, a New York-based mobile design and development company that specializes in engineering iPhone applications. She writes about the mobile and tech industries at the Fueled blog, and her work has appeared in Maisonneuve Magazine, among others. You can follow @Fueled on Twitter.