For design students looking to present their best work in a unique, non-templated manner, it is not always clear what the best tools are for building their portfolio.
Many new designers flock to easy-to-use templated tools like Squarespace and Wix, which does their jobs wonderfully for non-designers who are looking to quickly put up a website for their business, but for professional UI/UX designers, these all-in-ones, off-the-shelves solutions, unfortunately, don’t help them stand out. So what tools should designers use instead?
The answer depends on what you want to achieve. Let’s break them down by scenarios.
You Want To Customize Absolutely Everything With Future Extendability In Mind
If you want to make everything you designed live online exactly the way you want it, you have 2 options. One is coding it yourself, which many designers don’t do and shouldn’t have to do, since development is a separate job. The other one is learning no-code development.
There are a few popular no-code tools available that are extremely powerful and can practically make any design happen online. One is WordPress, another is Webflow.
WordPress vs. Webflow
Let’s talk about when you would choose WordPress over Webflow.
Imagine trying to figure out the best computer for your needs. You can either buy a computer available off-the-shelves or buy parts and put together your own power PC workstation.
The vast majority of consumers choose the former because they have no advanced customization needs. IT professionals or computer power users often choose the latter simply because the configuration that they need cannot be found in readily available computers.
Professional UI/UX designers are just like IT professionals or power PC users. If you identify as one, and you want your site infrastructure to accommodate future expandability, including adding complex databases and many other advanced features in case you want to start a business, all without coding, WordPress is a better choice than Webflow.
What You Need To Set Up WordPress
There are a few things you need to have in place in order to set up WordPress:
- Domain Name: Think of it as the address of a house
- Hosting: Think of it as the foundation of a house
- WordPress Installation Package: Think of it as interior design raw materials
You can often obtain all of the requirements from one provider. There are many hosting and domain name providers out there. We tested many of them ourselves and the ones that truly stand out include:
Hostinger is the epitome of a good balance between value and quality when it comes to domain and hosting. The company has been in business since 2004, which means it has stood the test of time.
We recently tested out their hosting services and were very impressed by how simple it is to set up a site. If you have an existing site somewhere else that is not from a closed platform like Squarespace or Wix, you can also choose to migrate to Hostinger.
It is optimized for WordPress and with 99.9% uptime (100% is impossible for any provider to guarantee).
We also tested out their customer service — it was very responsive. No long phone line wait — they do not have phone support, but email and text support is very efficient in the area of tech support because you can screen share and screenshot if needed.
Over the years, we have tested out many hosting providers and experienced issues such as the lack of WordPress optimization or expensive plans. We are happy to recommend that we finally found a great solution that is affordable, reliable, and also easy to use for designers at any level.
Hostinger provided a short 10-min video that shows how easy it is to set up a website there. We recommend checking it out before you sign up.
If you are an aspiring designer looking to make the most of a customized portfolio, and you are also planning for the long-term, WordPress with custom hosting and domain name is what we would recommend.
Check out Hostinger’s plans here. The company has kindly provided a discount code for design students: PATHUNBOUND
You Want To Customize Your Portfolio But Plan To Use Your Website Just For Portfolios
If you don’t think you will have the need to extend the functionality of your website in the future and plan to use your website only for portfolio purposes while also don’t mind paying a little bit more, we’d say Webflow is a great choice.
Webflow is a more recent no-code builder that has gained a lot of popularity due to the lower learning curve of its platform and more streamlined processes.
With WordPress, designers can customize anything and also add advanced functionalities that Webflow doesn’t offer. Designers can also shop for different hosting plans as they wish and host their sites for cheaper if they want.
With Webflow, everything is in one package. You will choose from one of their plans, which can be more expensive than custom hosting, but instead, you have fewer things to worry about.
The interface of Webflow is reminiscent of design programs, which can seem familiar to designers but are often a bit deceptive in this way.
On the web, no-code builders require designers to understand that things cannot simply be dragged out on the webpage. Designers need to think in “sections”, which are blocks of content.
However, due to its relative ease of use, Webflow is a solid choice for designers who want to fully customize their portfolio websites with limited advanced database-related functions.
Webflow has a wide range of tutorial videos that make it easy for designers to get familiar with the platform. It still has a learning curve, but if you can learn design programs, you can learn Webflow.
In our Portfolio School program, we teach Webflow in-depth while providing exercises and hands-on instructor coaching for students who are serious about making their portfolio the best it can be.
You Don’t Have Time and Don’t Mind Your Portfolio Is Templated
There are situations where you just cannot invest too much time to do your portfolio website. If you are a designer that doesn’t focus on the visual aspect, for example, a pure UX designer or you are an art director that just needs to showcase your projects and nothing more, templated portfolio sites aren’t the worst things.
They are not the focus of this article, but a few major players like Squarespace and Wix have been well known to designers.
Up-and-coming providers in this area shouldn’t be ignored as well because of these reasons:
- Squarespace cannot be used for free
- Wix has a free plan, but it comes with a visually-unappealing banner at the top
Some new providers have stepped up to provide alternatives for these shortcomings of major players.
We have tested Tilda for a while and have been impressed by how simple it is to use and how elegant the interface is. Although it is templated, the result that a designer can quickly put together would always be elegant.
The only downside is it is limited in the layouts of templates, as is the case for all templated website builders.
But the best thing is, Tilda offers a free plan for designers who need a very simple site. When you are ready to make it a bit more advanced, either pay for a subscription or migrate to a more customizable platform like WordPress or Webflow.
*This article contains affiliate links.