Are Personal Portfolio Websites Dead?

We all know blogging and personal portfolio sites have been very important for designers looking to increase their visibility to clients and others who admire their work. But there are some key developments that have risen up over the past decade which, in my opinion, are threatening to eliminate the need for having a personal domain.

Information is spread so quickly these days through social media that it’s impossible to keep up with all of it, and the truth is that potential clients and people who like your work are rarely going to take time out of their busy day to visit your website. Today, we’re going to talk about the best ways designers should be marketing themselves in today’s world.

A Faster Way To Market

These days, you don’t really need your own website to market yourself as a designer (I don’t have one). You can reach out to the design community via social media, as we saw earlier, but there are other ways to distribute your content. You can do guest posts on other blogs, create an email list, or even do something unconventional like a podcast. All of these things will spread the word much faster than simply creating content and putting your stuff on it.

Flat design vector illustration of modern creative office
Image Source: Flat Modern Creative Office via Shutterstock.

If you’re looking to market your services as a designer, then time is always of the essence. Yes, you can still build your personal brand extremely slowly, relying on organic search traffic to send you tiny increments of traffic over a period of years. But who has time for that? You’ve got clients to get and a reputation to build, pronto!

Let me be clear here: I definitely think that websites can be an important part of your marketing plan. They do provide a certain legitimacy to a designer’s online presence that social media doesn’t – at least not yet. At a later date, you can make your personal blog as elaborate and inviting as you please. But if you’re just starting out and need a boost to your visibility, ditch the personal site and start circulating your content in a broader variety of places.

What’s Your Ideal Outlet?

You might think that blogging is a straightforward thing: you get a blog, write some posts, and voila – now you’re a blogger. That used to be the case about 8 or 9 years ago, but now, the market is saturated with others doing the exact same thing. The explosion of social media has also affected the landscape quite a bit. Designers have far more choices through which to spread their message, and each one has its pros and cons.

Seamless doodle social media pattern background personal portfolio illustration
Image Source: Seamless Doodle Social Media via Shutterstock.

Should you be blogging on your own website, or is there a social media outlet that’s more ideal for the type of work that you do? The best way to find out is to try a few of the most popular channels: Behance, Facebook, Tumblr, et cetera, and figure out exactly what’s right for you. Are you a Facebook person, or would Twitter or Pinterest be more your style? What does your audience respond best to?

Getting The Knowledge Out There

Again, I’m not saying that having your own website or blog isn’t important at all. But there is definitely a right way and a wrong way to blog as a creative professional, and, I’m sorry to say, most people are going about it the wrong way. The point isn’t to put something on your blog and have it live there forever. If you want to change minds and affect people with your ideas and your work, it needs to float out there in cyberspace, far from home, and find new homes with others who find the most value in it.

Sharing your knowledge and ideas helps connect you with others in the industry whom you can bounce ideas off of. They can also carry your message into far-flung corners of the industry which you might not be able to reach yourself. This is the science behind “viral” content. A group of readers finds your content valuable, and they each share it with their friends. Those friends find it equally valuable and share it with their friends, and so on.

personal portfolio Web development and blogging design illustration flat
Image Source: Web development and blogging design via Shutterstock.

The more visible you are, the more people trust you, and the more your opinions can be far-reaching – much more so than your actual design work. Designers like Jessica Hische, Marian Bantjes, and Michael Bierut are all vocal about their opinions on the design industry, and many people know them as much for that as they do for their beautiful designs.

What Do You Think?

Are personal portfolio websites dead? How much traffic and job offers is your personal website bringing you? What do you think about the changing face of media and how we designers need to be marketing ourselves online?

(73 Posts)

Addison Duvall is the author of Food Identities, a blog that explores the crossroads of food, design, art, and culture. She’s written some things, designed other things, and eaten a whole lot of food.

Comments

  • Mirko

    Interesting point, but let’s say for example, a potential client is intrigiued by my blog post, or similar. They see me as a potential person to do their next website/app/whatever, what is their next move? I believe it is seeing my work, and one of the creative ways of presenting is having a nice portfolio. So, dead, I think no!

  • karks88

    I can understand the sentiment behind the post, but I’m still a big believer in having your own site. There’s a legitimacy issue with not having one IMO. A big problem with social media is that it’s full of clutter, and your stuff is bound to get missed when people are following hundreds (or thousands) of other accounts. I try to spread things around via my own site, guest blogging and using social media. That said, it’s true that if you have the right connections and aren’t necessarily interested in advertising to the public, you can be successful without having your own traditional site. I would think that is a niche group, though.

  • Theracoon

    My portfolio site is as important as ever. I don’t expect it to drive potential employers to me but provide a single point where they can see my work. I’m not going to put links to blog posts on my CV.

  • Meh

    Personal sites are not dead. What I have deduced from your article basically is that as designers we basically need not limit ourselves to a site but create/find additional platforms to get out there – viral market ourselves

  • Mohiuddin Parekh

    The Strategy I adapted two years ago while building my site mohi.me was that I kept all my portfolio into a third party site like behance and dribbble , and designed my website in a way that it can show maximum potential and encapsulates all my skills beautifully. so the actual pieces of portfolio was not on my personal site itself but both portfolio (behance etc) pieces were interlinked together to achieve maximum results

  • Luke Pettway

    Betteridge’s law of headlines

  • Luke Pettway

    I totally back this.

  • Nope, personal portfolio websites are not dead. Why? Because customers will check to see if you have a website and see if you are a legit and serious designer. I’ve lost a lot of clients over that. They said that they don’t trust me enough because I didn’t have a public website on which they can find out more info about me. I currently work hard to get my website online ASAP.

  • Aynex

    I completely disagree with this post. Yeah, you can’t design a personal portfolio and sit back and wait for the clients to fall off the sky. But you NEED a personal website. At the very least, a Behance site or something like that. Guest blogging and podcasting is all good and helps your brand and get clients but where else are you going to show a body of your work? Clients are not going to hire you because you sound like you know what you are talking about. They want to see what you can do. All those people you mention have their websites and that was probably one of the first things they did.

  • Allan McAvoy

    I totally disagree. A personal site is vital when trying to sell yourself, and often acts as a portal to your 3rd party accounts like Facebook or Twitter. I strongly believe that social media should be an extra additon to your brand and not your sole online presence.

    The problem with using social media as your main medium is the lack of control you get. Your work could easily get lost in an album or a could post get drowned out by thousands of competitors. And don’t forget about Ad’s…. Ad’s everywhere. (Attached).

    A portfolio is is a great way to show your creativity and build your brand. I also personally feel it shows your passion, energy and love for what you do. I use my site AllanMcAvoy.co.uk for testing new ideas, Blogging and as a main point of contact.

  • Vin

    The stupidest question ever! You should read more before you wrote this.

  • Kay

    I totally agree with @karks88:disqus ! Especially now when Facebook for example shows content on people’s timelines based on the number of comments or likes, and if you are a page, it serves your content to a limited number of people just so they push you to promote your posts for money. Also, I think having only social media accounts would make you be more obsessed with metrics and getting followers and likes instead of focusing in bettering your craft. Just as other people have said in here, many clients want to see all your work in one place, they don’t have time to scroll through hundreds of posts to see everything that you do. The only social media platform that you’ll get close to a portfolio is Behance, but not everybody is using Behance, plus is harder to get contacted there than it is let’s say… having a contact form on your website. So yeah, I still think having a website is important, just because you have all the important things in one place. Personally I wouldn’t think of hiring a designer or developer for my company if the person only had a Facebook, just doesn’t feel professional.

  • I think the importance of personal site is still there and always will be , your personal site does not only show your portfolio it shows many perspective of your personality that what is your level of design because most of designer make their personal site on the trend or type they way like minimal , clean or showy. It helps client to choose which one is right for their project. On the other hand it shows your complete project presentation the case studies and more , as you said that client dont have enought time that;s wrong if they searching and want it really they will have look at your website. We have communities like dribbble and behance but that the showcase only so still your personal works.

  • Personal sites are not dead if people are appreciating your work.Get on your toes and do the best possible work to get client’s attention.After all,your website says it all. interact with people more.Put links on social media to improve user clients response.market your site on all types of social media like fb,Linked in to make your personal portfolio reachable.