NOTEBOOK DUMP: Using WordPress blogging sites for building a personal online portfolio

This is no great revelation — just an old writeup I found in my notes, an exercise for an online course (about managing online courses!) that required me to come up with some kind of content for example lesson material. It’s sort of morphed into actual material for an actual course I may teach on web content management systems. It’s been fleshed out a bit, but mainly I wanted to dust it off and share it with an intern I’m introducting to WordPress.

I’m reposting it here because why not? With WordPress now powering 30 percent of the web, it seems like it could be a useful roadmap for some folks out there. Just keep in mind that its original intended audience is post-secondary educators who mostly professed to not being “tech savvy,” many of whose students are being encouraged to build online portfolios.


WordPress is typically known as a blogging platform, but it’s actually a full content management system (CMS) capable of running entire websites. It’s also well suited to deploying a portfolio-style website quickly.

WordPress.com allows users to create a free account and create and manage any number of different “blogs” or, in this case, websites. When you create a new WordPress “site” after starting an account, you are prompted to enter a site name – example:

_______.wordpress.com

I chose:

jaysonpeters.wordpress.com

(Paid upgrades to use a custom domain name, such as jaysonpeters.com, are available but not strictly necessary.)

WordPress sites consist of Posts, which are analogous to “blog entries” but also can serve as announcements; and Pages, which are for content of a more “static” nature, such as “About Me” pages, resumes and entire portfolio entries. In our case, one Page can be used to display Graphic Design work, another Writing Samples, and yet another References.

Either Posts or Pages can use images, uploaded from your PC or loaded from another website URL. Posts and Pages have “Titles,” which act like headlines or labels for the content of a Post or Page.

Posts, unlike Pages, can be sorted into Categories (broad subjects) and Tags (specific subjects), which can be used for navigation – like a table of contents. This is optional.

Pages generally get added to a WordPress site’s navigation menu automatically, but this can be controlled in Appearance options. Different layouts, or “Themes,” treat this differently. Many Themes are available at WordPress.com, but the selection is more limited than if you were using the WordPress software (obtained from WordPress.org) on your own web server – but there are so many on WordPress.com now that the selection there should be more than sufficient for a portfolio site.

On either Posts or Pages, you can display images either individually or in Galleries, which can be displayed in grid or slideshow formats. This is handy for showing off photos, graphics, illustrations and screenshots of your work.

Videos, also, are easily embedded in WordPress Posts or Pages, often as easily as just pasting the full URL of a YouTube video where you want it to display.

The advantage to WordPress is that all content can be exported as an XML file that can be imported later to a different WordPress site, so a portfolio creator can start at WordPress.com and move to a self-hosted site, or vice versa.

Self-hosted, you say? That refers to websites outside of WordPress.com’s walled garden, maintained by those who have downloaded the open-source CMS from WordPress.org and installed it at a host that allows more control and customization than WordPress.com.

But if you’re just getting started with WordPress, it’s best to play around for free at WordPress.com for a while first.