After I purchased the domain name DamianBariexca.net, I sat on it for a good couple of weeks before I actually attached it to a website. I spent a good amount of time considering what I wanted the website to look like and what information should appear on it, but I didn’t really get anywhere until I framed the question like so:
What purpose do I want this to serve?
At this point, I started getting somewhere. I decided that I wanted my site to serve the following purposes:
- Online business card/”point of entry” gateway for getting in touch with me
- Showcase of my work, both as a psychologist and PD trainer
- “Lifestream” aggregate of my online activity
Next issue: what format should this take? My previous attempt at an online portfolio was a wiki. While this made uploading and hosting downloadable documents very easy (and I’d still highly recommend a wiki as a beginner’s platform), I found that with the external elements I was hoping to integrate (e.g. Twitter, Google Reader stories), Wikidot or Wikispaces wikis didn’t give me fine enough control over the appearance and widgets. Having already moved this blog over from a hosted third-party company to my own private host back in december 2008, it didn’t take me long to decide that I was going to host my site on my own, and use WordPress as the content management system (CMS).
Can we agree that looks aren’t everything, but they are important? Finding an appropriate theme for my site was probably the hardest part of this process. I wanted whatever theme I ended up with to have the following qualities:
- Clean – some visuals are fine, but I didn’t want a lot of junk cluttering up the site.
- Tabs – I needed a way to showcase the different pages of the site, and figured this would be the most expedient way
- Three column – I wanted to pack as much onto a single pageview as I could, and with the number of widgets I was considering, that meant two sidebars
- Played nice with widgets – well, duh
After a lot of searching around for free themes, I decided to pay for the Thesis theme. Lots of options for changing the appearance, and it was really the only theme I found that satisfied all my criteria.
My next post will get into more depth about the content of my site, but I wanted to post here a few preliminary words about the design and physical layout of the site. If you visit DamianBariexca.net, whether you like the design or not, I think it’s evident that it wasn’t slapped together on the fly, but rather I spent some time considering how best to lay it out. As you construct your online portfolio, please consider the following elements of design:
- Colors – make sure your site is not an assault on the senses, but rather a nice mix of contrasting colors that makes it easy to read
- Fonts – will your fonts render on different computers, and in different browsers? I understand that Arial, Times New Roman, and Courier tend to be pretty safe bets for universally readable fonts (I believe Georgia is the default font in the Thesis theme)
- Whitespace – large clusters of text are difficult to read on a computer screen. You’re not writing a term paper; break up your text into smaller chunks (I often forget to do this in blog posts, but I made a concerted effort not to do it on my site)
- Structure – initially, I had too many pages in the page menu, which made my header look very cluttered. I had to tweak my theme a little to achieve this, but I was able to cluster a few of those pages together (Bio, Resume, Portfolio, and Testimonials) and create a drop-down menu under the “About” tab. Now, as you can see, the page menu tabs look a lot cleaner and easier to navigate:
Next time, I’ll take you through my thought process regarding the content of the site, from deciding page content to downloadable files to which widgets are which (also, what the hell is a widget?).
What visual elements do you consider most important in a website that’s meant to represent you?