You see portfolio sites all over the web from web designers showcasing the sites that they’ve designed. And now and then you see web developers posting a portfolio including a few sites they’ve managed the HTML coding for. But you never see a portfolio of a developer showing the site architecture that they’ve rocked.
Here’s a weird paradox: I want to showcase the work I’ve done for clients. The work I do is primarily writing site-specific code to enable a certain unique feature on a site, or assembling the parts to produce that feature. But often I can’t realistically use a screenshot of the site to characterize that work, since the screenshot is of the graphic design, which is something I had nothing to do with.
Consider a simple example of configuring a Drupal (urg) site to manage an email newsletter. I can assemble and configure all of the parts to achieve this goal. It is not uncomplicated, since it has many moving parts and often involves some server knowledge to ensure email deliverability. Often, the only point to the site is to provide a few static pages and this mail feature, so it’s a pretty significant item for the project. But I can’t very well take a screenshot of “managing/sending email subscriptions” like I can the graphic design of the site, can I?
This is a topic that has perplexed me for a long time, since I am not (primarily) an HTML guy. People never hired me explicitly to convert their graphic designs into HTML. Primarily, I’m an architecture guy. I write the platforms that drive your sites. I write the plugins, modules, and apps that the HTML-writing folks use to build your site. So how do I put my code portfolio on display?
I was recently reminded of this portfolio issue by Geri’s Credits and Recognition article at 24 Ways. She presents many good thoughts on creating a portfolio and properly crediting those who are involved for the parts in which they are involved. All too often I feel like designers take credit for the entire work of a website with their credit links, when the site wouldn’t actually function without the behind-the-scenes work of the developers – the work that can’t actually be seen by a visitor.
It’s gotten so bad in my head that I don’t like to show a screenshot of sites I’ve worked on at all because I don’t want people who view my portfolio to think that I do graphic design, and I want people to understand that it’s the functionality that I produce, not the pretty design parts. (Yes, yes, UXers, I know, just shut up.) It’s hard to convey what work is done with an image, and it’s hard to call a thing a “web site portfolio” without an image. So hard, in fact, that I don’t really bother.
Some might say that my GitHub page (or something like it) serves as a better portfolio of work. To a degree I think that’s true. But man, wouldn’t it be nice to have a pretty graphic portfolio that characterizes what I have accomplished in images, rather than having to explain code to people that, by definition if they’re hiring me, don’t understand what I do?