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July 1, 2011

2

Off The Shelf Portfolios

by Rick Byrne

With Flash, Dreamweaver and HTML’s capabilities always improving you would think that there was no need for off-the-shelf portfolio sites anymore. However the prospect of changing a portfolio has become an increasingly daunting task that gets put off repeatedly. Using an off-the-shelf portfolio (henceforth known as OSPs) gets something up fast that can be easily and constantly updated/amended. For most of the OSPs once you pay a monthly fee they’re all on a par with each other. As a result I tried to get right into the nitty gritty in comparing the top 5 off-the-shelf portfolios.

CRITERIA

When it came to deciding which of the various OSPs I should use I first had to decide what was important to me. I then used these criteria for judging all the OSP the same way. So here are my mandatory criteria:

1. Completely custom URL
2. Custom look – so it didn’t look too ‘off-the-shelf
3. Capacity to look good
4. Custom masthead
5. Display work well
6. Able to handle Flash SWFs
7. Universally accessible
8. Simple to use and easily editable
9. Size of pieces had to be big enough.
10. Low number of clicks for the end user.
11. Individual URL for specific projects/pieces.
12. Looks good on Mobile devices.
.


BEHANCE.net

Overall: Behance presents work well and provides the opportunity to add a great deal of information per project (however there are lots of steps to get pieces up). Disappointingly Behance has ads on the site but these can be removed if you pay the monthly ‘ProSite’ subscription of $11. The upgrade gets you:

Behance is orientated towards building a community and is vocal about crowdsourcing. The Behance approach uses crowdsourcing to help the best content and the best designs rise to the top in a design competition, but without any entries or work being submitted on a speculative basis. The idea isn’t to create work specifically for the competition, but to showcase your existing work. Here’s an example: http://www.behance.net/Competitions/Identity-Design-Showdown/1383698

Continuing the theme of community Behance allows users to share your portfolio directly through Facebook, LinkedIn, and StumbleUpon. If you find another designer/photographer/artist you like you can ‘follow’ them to be notified if when the add new work to their portfolio.

STATS:
Free:
• all images will be resized to 600 px wide

Paid:
• $11 a month
• custom formats (with no coding needed)
• custom URL
• Behance branding removed,
• no ads

Criteria:
1. Custom URL: available with paid subscription
2. Custom look: available if you can play with simple CSS/HTML
3. Looking good: many examples provided on site
4. Custom masthead:
5. Display: a variety of formats are available
6. Flash SWFs: need to be hosted on the another site
7. Accessible: yes
8. Ease of use: lots of steps
9. Size of pieces: all images max 600 px wide, 3MB (audio 20MB, video 50MB)
10. Few steps: quite a few steps to upload projects
11. Individual URL:  no
12. Mobile: good size for mobile

Summary:
Behance’s WYSIWYG format makes it very easy to build a custom website quickly however Flash units have to hosted elsewhere though.
.

CARGO COLLECTIVE.com

Overall: Since Cargo Collective was recommended to me by several people I started with this one. Like most of OSPs you need to pay a monthly fee to use the best features. I built mine in a week of doing about 4 hours a day – that included getting all the images together and sizing them.

Since there are numerous questions already asked on the Cargo Collective forums it was easy to navigate any problems including trying to find how to become a member (through ‘contact’). It has a nice use of thumbnails to navigate the work and was the easiest to use. Finally a word on branding: a small mention of Cargo Collective appears on the page, even on the paid version. While I couldn’t get rid of it in HTML I was able to move to a point outside the browser window.

STATS:
Free:
• 3 project pages with max 12 pieces per page.

Paid:
• $66 a year or $9 a month
• custom URL
• custom look through CSS/HTML

Criteria:
1. Custom URL: available with paid subscription
2. Custom look:  available with paid subscription/with simple CSS/HTML
3. Looking good: many examples provided on site
4. Custom masthead: available with some tinkering
5. Display: a variety of formats are available
6. Flash SWFs: very complicated process to add them
7. Accessible: yes
8. Ease of use: very, WYSIWYG to change order of pieces.
9. Size of pieces: customizable to any size you want
10. Few steps: yes
11. Individual URL: each project automatically has one
12. Mobile: good size for mobile

Summary:
Cargo is very good for static images but not so good for Flash which has to be hosted elsewhere. The ability to customize your portfolio through CSS/HTML is fantastic. The questions forum answers a lot of questions.
.

COROFLOT.com

Overall: Coroflot was one of the earliest OPS out there which may explain why it is the least customizable. Interestingly several recruiters have contacted me through Coroflot, possibly because it is easier to search through the various Tags, SEO and custom search images.  Coroflot has it’s own branded header on every page and there’s no getting around that – something that I feel makes it look less professional. After that there are a few other small things like not having custom thumbnails or a separate bio page but these are only minor points.

What Coroflot has that the other OSPs doesn’t is stats of image views, profile views and even how often you appear in other people’s searches, a great way to get an objective view of what’s good (or not) in your portfolio. Seven weeks after updated my portfolio in late May (see above) I could see that there was a huge leap in it’s viewers (1014 views in the first 7 weeks).

Surprisingly my Coroflot profile from 2004 seemed to generate phone calls from recruiters so it must be searched more regularly than I imagined, possibly because an interested party can email you directly. Add to this the employer directory and daily/weekly job postings round-up email and you have a portfolio site that is linked directly to the process of finding a job too.

STATS:
Free – no paid version
Unlimited uploads.
Max file size: 700x1000px

Criteria:
1. Custom URL: no, only a Coroflot based URL
2. Custom look:  no
3. Looking good: very set format
4. Custom masthead: no
5. Display: no variation in layout allowed
6. Flash SWFs: just set the size and go (much easier than other OSPs)
7. Accessible: yes, search images and tags help search optimization
8. Ease of use:  yes but you load up into ‘portfolios’ but cannot move pieces around from there
9. Size of pieces: pieces can be large in size and vast in quantity
10. Few steps: yes
11. Individual URL:  specific URLs per individual images and set of images
12. Mobile: good size for Mobile

Summary:
While Coroflot has no ability to edit its format it handles Flash very well. Also seeing the stats of pageviews/clicks gives you very good feedback for your individual pieces.
.

KROP.com

Overall: With substantial job postings and your résumé being formatted alongside your portfolio Krop is primarily intended to help you get a job. However with the free version limiting you to 10 images and Krop’s inability to host Flash units (use Photobucket or similar site) it is harder to get your best work up. Differing styles/formats are only available with the paid version which severely limits what you can do. Luckily the basic layout is clean, minimal and has a light feel to it.

The format you choose in the paid version can’t be converted to a custom layout and there isn’t even a way to search the existing portfolios, the assumption being that you would search for someone via their résumé. One of the unique aspects of Krop is the ability to download your résumé as a pdf, however it ends up being 5 pages of very large type. You can also add your own RSS feed and clickable links in your header for the paid version but does not allow unique mastheads.

STATS:
Free:
• 10 image limit

Paid:
• $9.99 a month
• unlimited images
• style gallery access
• custom URL
• video embedding through Vimeo

How it meets the criteria:
1. Custom URL: available with paid subscription
2. Custom look:  available with paid subscription
3. Looking good: generally yes
4. Custom masthead: no
5. Display:  clean and minimal
6. Flash SWFs: no
7. Accessible: yes
8. Ease of use:  yes
9. Size of pieces:
10. Few steps: yes
11. Individual URL:  available with paid subscription
12. Mobile: good size for Mobile

Summary:
Quick to fill out for the free version as your options are quite limited. The paid version offers few unique features which cannot compete with the other subscription based Off-The-Shelf portfolios.
.

CARBONMADE.com

Overall: Elegant.

While the language and imagery on the CarbonMade site is playful throughout, the free version of CarbonMade has limited choices such as the background being only black or white, serif or sans serif fonts; and the chance to have larger images or a personal logo are only available on the paid version. The CarbonMade website even refers to the free version as “Meh” and the paid version as “Whoo!”

On the positive side the thumbnails have 3 formats, even long horizontal strips. These allow the user to scan through the work brusquely so a potential hirer doesn’t have to do a lot of work. You have to go into each project individually rather than being able to see everything at once.

STATS:
Free:
• 35 images
• Flash units hosted

Paid:
• $12 mo/$120 yr
• 50 projects
• 500 images
• 10 videos
• custom formats
• custom URL
• high quality video
• priority tech support

How it meets the criteria:
1. Custom URL:  available with paid subscription
2. Custom look:  available with paid subscription
3. Looking good: many examples provided on site
4. Custom masthead: available with paid subscription
5. Display: custom layout and thumbnails available
6. Flash SWFs: upload directly into CarbonMade
7. Accessible: yes
8. Ease of use: yes
9. Size of pieces: limited/larger if using paid version
10. Few steps: yes
11. Individual URL: yes
12. Mobile: good size for Mobile

Summary:
I did feel that the paid version of CarbonMade was ‘Whoo’ and the free version actually was ‘Meh’ except for the fact that unlike most other OSPs it loads Flash files directly.

OTHER SITES

CREATIVEHOTLIST.com
One of the oldest OSP sites and it looks it. A key place where design job are posted. Linked to Communication Arts.

INDEXHIBIT.org
Mainly for artists, the work here is very inspiring but not really the place for graphic designers looking for a job.

SQUARESPACE.com
With three paid for bands of pricing ($144, $240 and $432 per year) the key differentiator for this site is having unlimited pages, bandwidth, storage and more editing features. There is no free version of this site but you can try it for free for 14 days.

FOLIOHD.com
From their hmepage:”Who uses FoilioHD? Photographers, Make-up artists, stage designers, illustrators, journalists, costume designers, 3D modelers, product designers, architects, interior designers…”

JOBRARY.com
Combines résumé production and portfolio into one integrated site, something most designers could do anyway…
.

CONCLUSION

If I had to choose one site that was the best I would say Behance is just a little bit better than CargoCollective. The former is easily designed through their WYSIWYG layout tool but cannot host Flash units directly like Coroflot. While Cargo needs a knowledge of CSS/HTML to customize it is extremely easy to update once designed and can host Flash units directly. I also recommend setting up a Coroflot version of your portfolio just to see which pieces create the most interest (through the stats) and modify your portfolio accordingly.

PORTFOLIO SITES:

Ahead.com
Behance.net
Carbonmade.com
Cargocollective.com
Coroflot.com
Creativehotlist.com
Deviantart.com
Foliohd.com
Freeonlineportfolios.org
Hostmyportfolio.com
Indexhibit.org
Krop.com
Jobrary.com
Squarespace.com
Weefolio.com

Sites about portfolio sites:
http://www.viget.com/inspire/put-your-portfolio-online/
http://freeonlineportfolios.org/

2 Comments Post a comment
  1. Natalie
    Aug 12 2011

    Rick – this is a great round-up. I sift through a ton of portfolios each year and it’s frustrating when a designer has a great body of work, but their site presentation looks like a crack fiend built it for them.

    When I’m reviewing portfolios it’s important that I can see the work “at a glance” and easily toggle between flat images and animated files, including videos. Your post will help a lot of young designers put their best foot forward!! Nice work.

    Reply
  2. Aug 22 2011

    Rick: This is useful, I’ll make sure to pass it along to future candidates.

    I think one thing to mention, and why I recommend people using these sites is that they become searchable.
    For example, if you’re just “rickbyrne.com” … unless you are an expert in SEO, no one will find you.

    As a recruiter, I go straight to behance or Coroflot because you can search by categories, region, etc, and I can find great passive talent.

    Reply

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