Continuing Education Blog
Online Portfolio has become one of our most popular weekend workshops. Emphasizing quality content in a condensed time frame allows students to make big steps forward in creating their site. We spent a bit of time chatting with instructor Sarah Moon about the class.
Can you talk about how you conceived this class and what your students accomplish.
I developed the digital portfolio class after teaching PNCA’s Web Design Tools course. I had a number of students who enrolled in that course because they needed a personal website, but had little interest in learning web design as a profession. They simply needed to have a professional web presence. It seemed silly to me that people were taking an intense, eight-week course just to create a simple site for themselves.
So, I created the online portfolio class to serve the needs of people who want to create a high-quality, easy-to-maintain website for themselves without having to learn the ins and outs of web languages like HTML and CSS.
This course, like the Web Tools class, is a bit different than most web classes in that we also focus on creating and structuring quality content. This includes writing a strong, distinctive “about” statement, selecting quality work and considering dynamic content such as a blog or newsfeed. We also talk about using your online portfolio as a nexus for your online presence.
Why is a digital portfolio important?
A digital portfolio is critical for anyone who wants a professional web presence. I love social media, but it is absolutely not a replacement for an online space which you control. With a professional site, you control the look, the content and the presentation. More importantly, you own your content. There are numerous stories of businesses utilizing Facebook, for example, for their primarily web presence only to have their page taken down because they’re unknowingly violated the company’s ever-changing terms of service. When that happens, the online relationship with customers or clients is eliminated and it’s tough to rebuild after that.
There’s also something intangible that goes along with having a professional-looking online portfolio or website. If you’re a visual artist, it encourages you to consistently document and archive your work and can help you feel more like a “real” artist or designer. I’ve had students say at the end of my digital portfolio class, “I had no idea I’d produced so much work!”
Additionally, these days most professional contacts (galleries, clients, even graduate schools) expect to see a web presence. They want to take your business card and look at your portfolio on their own time, rather than sit with you and go through a printed portfolio.
Why do you use Squarespace for the class?
I used to use Wordpress for this course, but I discovered that since many people come into the course with zero technical skills, they struggled with the interface and we spent more time than I’d like just getting comfortable with the platform. Frankly, I want my portfolio students to be spending the bulk of their time creating an attractive site with quality content—not fighting a technology learning curve.
As a result, I spent a lot of time researching and testing a slew of content management systems and was incredibly impressed with Squarespace. Squarespace puts content first, which is critical for someone in the arts, design or other creative fields, because ultimately, it’s all about the content.
Not only can a student create an attractive, functional website with no coding knowledge, they have access to 24/7 technical support for the same cost as a no-frills Wordpress webhosting package. They’ve recently released a new version of the platform featuring what’s called “Layout Engine” and I’m excited to see what my students will create with such a robust design platform. Squarespace really is one of the best-kept secrets in web creation.
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