Website Builders for Online Portfolios

Written April 15th, 2011
Categories: Articles
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Another guest post from Izzy!  This time she’s walking us through some easy-to-use online website builders that you can use for building your online portfolio.  This is in addition to sites you already know about like Blogger, Google Sites, Tumblr, or (my favorite) WordPress.  Enjoy!

For many, many people, web design is a total mystery.  Conversations about CSS, Javascript, Flash versus non-Flash enabled sites, and meta-tagging elicit blank stares.  Companies, and businesses that are financially stable, generally run out and find someone to design their sites for them.  They recognize their lack of knowledge and seek someone more experienced.  The price tag for this necessary marketing tool can be quite high.  For those individuals, new businesses, or companies that are not at the point of hiring a dedicated developer/designer, the process of launching an attractive online presence, can feel quite daunting.

However, there are a few web-based design programs that are actually user-friendly, cost-effective, and allow even a novice designer to create something that is both professional looking and functional.  Below, we outline the five best online web design programs for those people with little to no development knowledge.

Wix is an online web design service for building flash sites.  The interface is very user-friendly, and requires zero coding knowledge.  The system is basically “point and click” to add elements.  The design page setup is akin to that found in Microsoft Word, or very early versions of InDesign.  Mousing over a menu item brings up a series of drop down menus, or additional windows with multiple options.

There are literally thousands of templates available, almost half of which are free to use.  Building a site from scratch, however, is not particularly difficult, as the available design elements are laid out in a clear, precise way.  The system also offers a handy “forward and back” feature that allows you to look at changes you have made in sequence, thereby enabling you to choose the best.  Be aware, while flash sites are awesome to look at, they will only function on laptops and desktop devices.  You may want to consider creating an additional non-flash based website for viewing on handheld devices.

Moonfruit websites can be built utilizing Flash, HTML, and HTML5 for handheld devices, like iPads.  Like Wix, the design interface is very easy to use.  While it does not seem to have a real corollary between any of the current design or word processing programs, it does seems to borrow its style from a combination of Photoshop, PowerPoint, and Dreamweaver.  It can take some getting used to, but once you get the hang of it, it allows for a great deal of variety.

Templates are available, the majority of which are simply excellent, or you can work from scratch.  Moonfruit was designed with the novice user in mind, so it is quite easy to create an attractive site with no experience using their web builder.  They also have a very helpful customer support team.

FolioSnap was created expressly for designers and artists to showcase their portfolios in an attractive way.  However, because of its very well thought out interface for selling artwork, and its simple, effective series of templates, the program has become popular with people outside of the visual arts community, as well.

It has become especially popular with small businesses selling handmade goods, antiques dealers, and bed and breakfast-type organizations.  Like Moonfruit, FolioSnap allows users to choose Flash or HTML options and templates can either be customized, or the site can be designed from scratch.

The only drawback is that working with a template on FolioSnap is noticeably simpler than working from scratch.  When working from scratch, it is sometimes necessary to input code, as the number of designs options is comparatively limited.  However, if you are a painter or fashion designer, and you need an attractive, elegant way to display and/or sell your work, FoliSnap really cannot be beat.

Big Black Bag is relatively new on the scene and, like FolioSnap, caters primarily to visual artists.  It has become a favorite among photographers due to its easy upload and image organization features.  The layout for its merchant section is attractive and very easy to use for both the artist and potential customers.  The interface is similar to Word, or any wysiwyg editor, and while it does not offer quite as much variety as the other builders, what it does offer makes for very attractive, easy to use, and well-laid-out sites.

For performing artists, the requirements for a website can be quite different from sites dedicated to commerce.   Performing artists must showcase themselves, often through a combination of video and photographs, and they must also provide information about their work history, current projects, and upcoming work.  In other words, their sites change almost daily.  Fully customizable, and very easy-to-use, Virtual-Actors allows for pain-free design and daily changes.  The available templates were created with performing artists in mind, and offer page headings such as “Bio”, “Resumes”, and “Gallery”.

Whether you are launching your own bakery, your custom sectional sofas business, or your acting career, one of these online web-building sites will work for you.  Prices vary, but all of them allow free trials.  Look for the site whose interface makes the most sense to you and start designing.  You have the best understanding of your business, so use one of the web-builders above to put your best foot forward.

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