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There are many good reasons to invest time (and even a little money) in a well-designed professional website. For one, more and more job applications are asking for them, with many certificate programs now including portfolios as part of the curriculum.
But beyond practicality, building a personal website can be a fun and creative experience, allowing you to represent your skills, personality, and individuality.
"Some people are more creative than others, some are more technical than others, so it is only right that the deliverable we need from you is the one you'd feel comfortable showing," says Mac Lofton, a lead user experience design instructor at General Assembly.
When it comes to picking a platform to build their site, Lofton says "the most common thing I see is students selling themselves short, saying 'I want to [build] something easy, and then, once they jump in, realizing they're more creative and wanting something other than what they are provided [by their website builder of choice.]."
To prevent this from happening, Lofton suggests doing as much research as possible before starting your website. There are certain tools that should be expected from every site, but there are still many important differences that should be considered depending on your skills and specific needs. (For example, a graphic artist might have different priorities than a journalist or UX designer).
With the newfound importance of personal or small business websites, it's important to pick the right platform, so that you can focus on showcasing your content (rather than get frustrated during the actual building process.) There's no right or wrong platform to use — only the one that best serves your needs.
WordPress has something for everyone: Plenty of options for those who have never made a site before, and lots of customizability for people with years of coding experience.
The free templates are a great place to experiment with the look of your website. There are 112 free themes — pre-built webpage styles — that users can customize by adding their own content. So long as you're okay with having a wordpress.com URL, and the occasional WordPress logo in the footer of your website, Wordpress's free templates are a great way to figure out exactly what features you want for your website, without spending any money. WordPress is also a powerful host, so you can make the entire website just on the WordPress platform.
If you choose to upgrade your site to a paid plan, or just buy simple new features à la carte, you can easily build off of what you've already made. If you have any coding knowledge, or want to expand on what you already know, WordPress also gives you ample opportunity to customize your site by playing around with the HTML.
You can watch WordPress tutorials on LinkedIn Learning or Udemy.
Squarespace is visually appealing and, like WordPress, has a domain, host, and builder all in one place. Squarespace websites are beautiful because of templates that allow users to drag in prebuilt galleries of images, headlines, form fields, and more.
But, however visually appealing, these templates are not all that customizable, so you won't always be able to add animation within a component or dramatically shifting proportions of an element on the Squarespace platform. On the bright side, Squarespace does have many special template options to help you to sell products online, run a blog, showcase a portfolio, or meet other important needs. If you aren't convinced Squarespace is the right choice for you, the site offers 14-day free trials.
You can watch tutorials on LinkedIn Learning and see examples of Squarespace websites made by other creators.
Those interested in Squarespace's simple and sleek features for beginners should also check out Wix, available for $14 per month. Like Squarespace, Wix is very popular among those new to making websites looking for a clean interface. Wix has slightly more customization when it comes to editing widgets and less of a focus on clean templates.
Adobe Portfolio has a lot of benefits for those already familiar with the Adobe Suite. It allows you to easily put images made in Photoshop or edited in Lightroom directly onto the site, or use the fonts you already have in your Creative Cloud account.
It also uses similar commands to other Adobe products, so you don't have to learn a totally new interface. Adobe Portfolio, like Squarespace, offers templates that users fill in with their content, hosts users' content, and provides a domain name. Plus, if you already have an Adobe Creative Cloud account, or the Lightroom and Photoshop plan, Adobe Portfolio is totally free, making it a time and cost-saving option.
You can read more about designing an Adobe Portfolio on Adobe's website.
Semplice can be accessed through a free WordPress dashboard and gives you a new interface to use, providing you with incredible amounts of creative freedom, movement, and beauty. Semplice is the place to go if you have a vision (and patience). It's been used by Disney, Spotify, Google, and others, marketing itself as a site made for designers by designers, without requiring coding knowledge.
I will admit that when I first downloaded Semplice, it wasn't a stress-free process. In addition to the time it takes to understand its unique builder interfaces, Semplice also asked me to get my own domain name, which I purchased for $.99 through GoDaddy.com, and my own host. They recommended I use FlyWheel as a host, and, although Flywheel has helpful customer service staff, I later found out their price, $15 a month, is far more than other hosting sites like Bluehost or SiteGround.
While using Semplice, it's clear that there are some imaginative people working there. For example, instead of forcing users to wait for a site update to get new features, Semplice has a Hacks page that provides users with code they can drop into their sites on their own. Although the Semplice staff can't help users with problems that might occur with the code, sharing this information empowers website makers to customize and learn on their own.
Like Semplice, Elementor is accessed through WordPress, giving you a lot of widget, customization, and style options. Elementor is a great platform when it comes to working with teams, and lets users know what pages their teammates are working on through an easily accessible revision history. This can be helpful for businesses or anyone who wants a trusted editor to help make tweaks to a site.
Elementor comes with 29 free basic widgets, including icons, toggles, progress bars, and testimonials. However, I found myself wanting to use some of the 58 paid widgets and looked up YouTube videos to see how they worked before paying to use them. Elementor took me the longest to get comfortable with, as every new element has tabs to edit the content, style, and other advanced options, so remembering exactly where to make each specific change was a learning process. However, all of these options mean that those who stick with Elementor have lots of freedom to tweak features to make them their own.
You can watch Elementor tutorials on LinkedIn Learning.
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