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Goodbye portfolio site

Arto Tukki on January 27, 2019

I wrote about this in my own blog previously. For as long as I've been programming (that's a whopping two years now) I have had a custom portfolio...
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Matt Ericsson

I'm definitely in the same boat when it comes to using WordPress. So many clients like the idea of having control of their content, but in reality they'd rather go to someone else for changes (in my experience). That's why I always recommend designing and building over using a platform. There are pros and cons to both, but I can't imagine using WordPress in my workflow.

To answer your question, yes. I believe a portfolio site is important if you're in this industry. It's a great way to showcase your work if you're looking for work and/or have quality work to show--whether that be design and/or function.

To me, a blog is nice if the content is relevant and how often it's updated. I can't tell you how many times I've been to a blog site and there not be posts for months or even years at a time. From what I can see on your site, you're doing great with staying active with posting. Great job!

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Arto Tukki Author

The thing about portfolio site is that while every one recommends having one I personally haven't had the opportunity to show it as I said. And when it comes to building a portfolio of projects I don't have that many quality products to show outside of work. To be honest I'd say I have exactly one bigger project that is worth mentioning.

The other projects that I have built are a lot simpler just because I lack the time (and especially ideas) to do these big and great projects. And when I am building something I need to be enthusiastic about it and it has to have some real value or use case.

Outside of blogging, I wouldn't use WordPress. If I'd want to show my talents with the site, WordPress really wouldn't be my first (or even second) choice. But since that is not the case WordPress is just fine.

Thanks! I try to blog at least three times a month. So far it's been rather easy because I do enjoy writing and usually I have something to tell about my programming endeavors. :)

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Sunfire

Even if you haven't had a need YET to show off your portfolio, it's good to have a record of the things you've done, so you can look back later and see how you've grown.

I use WordPress for my own site (uberdreamer.tech), but only because [s] I built a custom theme for it, and [b] most of the sites I build for clients I build on WP for their convenience. If I had my say, for security and retainability reasons, I would only build non-CMS sites. Most clients don't take advantage of WP once I've handed it over, and end up coming to me when there are issues...

The thing with the portfolio site that I've found is to pick a design and stick with it, so that the only updates you need to do are to add new projects. If you spend too much time constantly changing the design of the site, you'll never really have anything else to show off, and that's time you could be spending on something else (in your case, being consistent with your writing).

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Arto Tukki Author

I'd like to think that my blog can work as a way to show my progress. Of course, reading it takes way more time than just checking out a page where I'd show my projects.

Sticking with the design was kinda hard. I always felt there was room for improvement since my designing skills are almost non-existent. But the last iteration was good and I could have stuck with it a lot longer. I just couldn't get myself to update the pages because it felt so awkward to start "working" with Django again after such a long time. Maybe if I'd used Node (like I previously had) I might have not made the switch to WP.

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Matt Ericsson

I hear ya! I think the blog route in your case makes total sense then. That's definitely something that I haven't done with my portfolio is go into detail on how a site was built, the features used, the why, etc. It's great that I can say I've done a project, but it doesn't give the viewer total vision. I guess where I find my space here on dev.to will help mold that aspect.

That's awesome! Best of luck down the road in writing and development growth.

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Jason C. McDonald

Funny thing is, I just made the switch in the other direction. Wordpress, which I used for years, didn't really give me the control I wanted, and added so much unnecessary complexity. For now, I'm happy with my pure HTML/CSS site (indeliblebluepen.com), and eventually I may add a blog subsection using Grav or some such.

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Andrew Wooldridge

A lot of folks are moving away from WordPress and doing static sites generated by tools like Gatsby or 11ty. I'm one of those, and I'm really enjoying getting back to basics with a static site, yet being able to create a great blog experience as well.

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Arto Tukki Author

I think that might be the next thing for me if (and probably when) I get bored with WordPress. :)

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Arto Tukki Author

I think mostly that is the direction people go if they know how to code at all or work in this field and not as I did. :)

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Trey Huffine

Maintaining a portfolio site is tedious, but I think there is value in being able to share our developer story with people. Most portfolios contain almost identical information, so I attempted to automate the process.

I formed gitconnected.com to make it easier for developers to create a portfolio page through their profile. It imports all your projects from GitHub, allows you to add screenshots/videos, and provide links for all your important pages from around the web.

I would be interested to learn if you think it solves your problems of maintaining a portfolio while still allowing you to make the information available.

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Arto Tukki Author

I try to use my blog to share my story and progress. Although I get that people don't have time to read it through just to see where I come from.

Something like your site could actually work really well. :)

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Trey Huffine

Thanks for the feedback! :)

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Tim Smith

My portfolio site has helped me get both freelance clients and full-time job offers. I think it’s a good idea to have one, if for no other reason so you have something to work on and continue to grow with as a developer.

As far as WordPress goes, I develop WordPress sites for clients and I like it as a platform. I think it really comes down to your needs. If WordPress is meeting your needs, then who cares what a “self respecting” developer would use. Really a self respecting developer would know what his time is worth and the ease of use that comes with WordPress would allow him to spend that time on other things.

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Arto Tukki Author

Of course. Use the tools that are best for the job.

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Marc Mercer

Im rather curious why you would choose something as heavy as wordpress when you could go with something much lighter, like a static site generator? If it's only a blog, even wordpress is overkill, and would have a lot more security concerns.

Ones that come to mind are:
Nikola
Pelican
Lektor

Easy to setup, minimal effort to write entries assuming youre ok writing in markdown/restructured text, etc.. cheaper requirements than wordpress too (no db backend, etc).

Just curious if you had considered that when you decided on WP.

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Arto Tukki Author

To be honest I did not really consider any other options. I had previous experience with WP before so that made me choose it.

I haven't heard about those before and I was a bit time constricted when I set up the site so didn't really have time to do any research. WordPress was a fallback to a "safe" option so to speak. :)

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Marc Mercer

Makes sense, was just curious given your use case :)

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Stefan Dorresteijn

This has been an ongoing issue with my own portfolio site as well. When I was learning my web development basics (a looooong time ago), I used my portfolio site as a way to learn new skills. I'd learn how to use jQuery (Yep, that long ago) and I would apply it to my site. I'd learn PHP (Mhm) and build a small blogging system on my site. Then as time went on, I had other projects and still wanted something good online, so I installed Wordpress and threw a theme on it. That was fine as a junior but since I'm freelancing now, and picking up more interesting jobs, I need something that really represents what I can do. This is why I'm working on a fully custom portfolio in VueJS. I'm designing it myself, developing it myself, doing everything all by myself, to show off what I can do.

I think as a senior, that's what you need. You need to be able to show off your skills and the best way to do that is by building an entirely custom web app.

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Arto Tukki Author

Yeah sure. But is portfolio really a thing that is the best way to show you can build a custom app? I'd rather use my other projects which usually are a lot more complicated than any of my portfolio sites have been. That might just be me, though.

I do get that when you're freelancing you might need to have a portfolio site to highlight the stuff that you have done. :)

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Stefan Dorresteijn

It might not be the best place to do it, but it's the first thing anyone sees when they google you (hopefully). This is why I want my portfolio site to really represent who I am, and I don't want to give anyone the chance to say "Ugh, it's Wordpress, he doesn't know what he's doing".

Of course on my portfolio site, I show off my most interesting projects, which are meant to impress. The portfolio site itself exists to pull them in, and the projects exist to pull them over the line.

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Arto Tukki Author

I get that. I really do. I might set up a portfolio page again in the future if I feel the need for it. Especially if I'd start freelancing but that's not something I see myself doing any time soon. :)

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Stefan Dorresteijn

Yeah, that's only fair. I need to constantly be selling myself, so the portfolio site is very important.

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Adaś

I always go back and forth on these sorts of things.

At the end of the day, the ultimate hack is to have enough willpower, do what it takes, and move on 😝

Anyways, WordPress is a great platform and don't think you can go wrong with it! Also with "headless WordPress" you could still use whatever you want for the frontend and have all the WordPress CMS magic.

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Arto Tukki Author

That could be an option later on, too. Mostly I like the option to have a decent looking theme to use since my designing skills leave a lot to be desired.

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Ryan Smith

I have mainly done portfolio sites as a way to practice or try out something new. I like that as a side project because it can be a relatively simple content site to get a feel for the technology. There is even room to expand by making it more dynamic with a publishing feature.

I can see how that may not be the same for others. If you are more into having a solution that works out of the box, I don't think there is anything wrong with that. From your post, it seems like your preference leans towards getting blog content out there, so I think WordPress is the right tool for the job. If your site was more of a static content site, I would think that it would be more work for minimal gain.

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Arto Tukki Author

Setting up a portfolio site sure is good practice. I think I just got bored of redoing the same thing over and over again with different technologies.

The first one I made was done without JavaScript so just an ugly static site. The second one had jQuery as well since by then I had gained more experience. The third one was done with Vue.js because I wanted to practice that. The fourth one had a backend done with Node to be able to blog. And the fifth was done with Django.

I did learn a lot from all of those projects but now I just can’t see myself doing it anymore. :)

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Arek Nawo

Back when I was setting up my blog I needed to decide mainly between WordPress and Ghost. And, as I'm not a decisive guy, it took me a while to finally choose Ghost 👻. It might not have as big community as WP but it gives me more control and ability to use tools that I love - NodeJS. Now I'm struggling with decision on porting my blog to a static website. Well, it seems life is one, big decision-making process. 😅

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Arto Tukki Author

I feel you. 😁

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Jamal Al

Hey Arto nice read. Out of curiosity what did u use for deployment?

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Arto Tukki Author

I deployed it to my Digital Ocean droplet if that is what you meant? Or did I misunderstood you? :)

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Jamal Al

I never deployed with docker on Digital ocean. So how exactly you did it. Do u get one droplet or multiple ones?

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Arto Tukki Author

Just one droplet. So far it has been more than enough for me to host my projects.

Well, basically I since I had Docker already installed I just made a docker-compose.yml file and after that typing docker-compose up -d was enough.

Currently, I have the basic droplet with 1 vCPU, 1gb of RAM and smallest storage and I got maybe ten or so Docker containers up.

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Guayo Mena

Hey, I'm very glad that you've found a better solution for your blog!
Just out of curiosity. Did you consider any Jamstack or any headless CMS? I'm interested to know why developers would choose WordPress over any of those.

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Arto Tukki Author

Actually, I did not. I landed on WordPress pretty much because I had experience with it and I knew it to be suitable for hosting a blog. :)

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Jackson Elfers

Github pages.

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Arto Tukki Author

Crap. That would've been an excellent solution. :D

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Pavel Vergeev

I just came to point out that even the big guys like Basecamp are OK with using Wordpress: m.signalvnoise.com/signal-v-noise-....

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aRtoo

HOLY CRAP!! why didn't I think of this!!! I created my portfolio 6 times. oh my. Thank you.