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WordPress Basic: Building a Web Portfolio

Building a web portfolio can be an overwhelming experience, even for a technologically savvy user. The problem with portfolios is that they need to showcase your talent, but they can’t take a lot to maintain. Learning to use HTML and CSS is easy, but if those are not the primary tools of your trade, having to warm up to remember those skills every time you need to update your portfolio can be cumbersome. Your portfolio is a representation not only of the work you’ve done, but of the active engagement you have in your field. If you can’t throw a new work sample up on your portfolio in a matter of minutes, you’re going to put it off until an update of your portfolio becomes a monumental undertaking. Luckily for you, we are quickly approaching a golden age of web development. Every day there are more and more tools being created to take web development to the level of word processors and page layout software. Web development is no longer the sole demain of web developers. There are many solutions out there for those looking to build a web portfolio that is robust and easy to manage. WordPress is perhaps one of the fastest growing and best at balancing sophistication and usability.

Step 1 Hosting Your New Web Portfolio

In order to carve out your own internet real estate, you’re going to need to do two things: reserve your site and find a place to store your site’s files. These are respectively referred to as domain registration and hosting.

There are countless domain registration farms where you can go to quickly and easily reserve your own little web address, however, my goal here is to make building a web portfolio simple, so go with the simple domain registration choice: simply get your domain from whoever hosts your site.

There are three ways you can host your new Web Portfolio.

  1. Self Hosting is another way of saying BYOS—bring your own server. If you are a particularly savvy user, you may know how to set up your own server at home. However, that also means you have to maintain it. And if your server shuts down (because of hardware issues or power outage) your website disappears from the internet. It also means you get to install WordPress manually, so be prepared for some tinkering. And you will need to register your domain separately from your host (yourself) and ensure that they connect to each other. Make sure you are comfortable with and ready for that before diving into a self-hosting solution. There is certainly no lack of forums, how-tos, and tutorials to help you if you choose to undertake this task.
  2. Web Hosting Services are a plenty in today’s internet, and most if not all will have simplescripts for WordPress. What this means, is that you pay to host your site on their server, you log in to their control panel, you follow a quick installation wizard—much like installing software on your computer, and then you’re in action. This is a great way to get everything taken care of in one place without much hassle, while still having the flexibility to do more with your domain than just hosting your WordPress site. WordPress.org has a list of recommended web hosts if you are not quite sure where to start.
  3. WordPress.com offers a quick and easy way to set up and host your blog for free (with the option to purchase a domain name rather than using the wordpress.com domain). So why use web hosting when WordPress.com is free? You don’t get anything but a WordPress site on WordPress.com. Web hosts give you access to a plethora of more tools: email accounts, exchange servers, multiple domain names, FTP access, and more. Additionally, WordPress.com comes with 3GB of storage. Likely this will be plenty for most web portfolios, but can add up if you plan to host a lot of graphics, animation, video, or audio on your site. If you are clever, much of this can be hosted elsewhere (like YouTube or Vimeo) and embedded into your pages so you can avoid the heavy space usage. If you are looking for a full web solution, WordPress.com is not your site. But, if you don’t ever plan on doing more than putting up a web portfolio and keeping it current, this is a great, cheap way to go. Below, I’ve included a video for how to set up your very own WordPress blog at WordPress.com.

Step 2 Adding Content

Once you’ve created your side, you will probably want to add content. There are four primary ways to add content to your site:

  1. Posts
  2. Pages
  3. Media
  4. Widgets

WordPress is originally and at it’s core, a blog. It has grown far beyond that initial purpose, but the core of where it came is still there. Posts in WordPress work like in many other blogs. Each post has metadata  which allows for posts to be filtered by date, category, and tag. Plugins will expand the metadata fields and extend the functionality of posts. By default, WordPress begins with your page of posts—your blog—as the landing page, but this can be changed as you’ll learn in step 3.

While posts are dynamic content (like entries in a database that can be called up when needed), pages are static. These are places where you can put the more stable content in your website: portfolio examples, resume, about you, contact forms, etc. Using pages, you can add simple text-based content, or you can add media.

The WordPress media uploader acts as both the storage tool and the placement tool for media on your site. You can upload media to your WordPress gallery, associate it with a page or post, and then insert it into the content. You can add media from your dashboard or right from the page or post you want to use it.

Watch this short video on how to add content using pages, posts, and media in WordPress.

Widgets are another way to add content to your site. This content can be part of sidebars, footers, or other content areas and can be specific to a page or general to the entire site. As such, they are an integral part of the appearance of the site and will be covered in step 3.

Step 3 Changing the Appearance

Now that you have some content, it’s time to decide how it will look to your visitors. The Appearance menu will be your primary place for this. There are three parts of your site appearance that I’ll cover in this introductory lesson:

  1. Themes
  2. Menus
  3. Widgets

Themes are like the Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) of a website. They define how aspects of the site look. You can quickly install and activate free themes from your dashboard, or you can purchase premium themes and load them into your WordPress site. You can also create your own theme or modify existing themes if you are familiar with the CSS and HTML coding within the theme files. In this lesson, I’ll show you how to activate free themes. Stay tuned next week for more on how to load a premium theme to your blog.

Menus allow you to modify the navigation structure of your site. You can create nested menus and rearrange the order of the menu to meet your site’s needs.

Widgets are a tool that allow you to add content to special content areas of your theme—often in the sidebar, header, or footer. Widgets are a great way to add content that you want to be consistent throughout your website.

Watch this short video on how to change the themes, widgets, and menus in WordPress.

What’s Next?

Now that you’ve got your site up and running, there are endless possibilities. It’s time to explore. Checkout the many features of your new WordPress site and explore some of the possibilities to expand it. Next week, I’ll be talking about Plugins and Themes, so stay tuned for that as well as a bonus fourth video tutorial on installing and using a premium WordPress theme.

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