How do I present my work? That is always a very complicated question, whether in hard copy or online. A portfolio can be arranged in an infinite number of ways, and an online portfolio can be arranged in an infinite number of ways plus one. Finally it comes down to weighing the pros and cons of the different formats, and just plain personal choice. But arriving at that decision is never easy.
On my old site, the portfolio page had links to subsections like ‘print design’ and ‘illustration’. Each subsection had B/W thumbnails for the work which linked to individual pages per project. The project pages had a short description of the work and one or more smallish, but visible, images of the work. Is this still a good structure? That’s what I need to decide.
When you look around the net, you come across certain standard formats for artist’s portfolios. Some have large pages of thumbnails which lead to large images with short descriptions, some have text links to projects which lead to small images with long text descriptions. And, you find everything between these two extremes.
The first decision to make appears to be between thumbnails and text links. The positive point of thumbnails is that they provide a visual cue to what is on the other side of the link. Unfortunately, thumbnails do not tell the viewer what to expect regarding content. Does it link to a CD cover, a magazine layout, an illustration? It’s impossible to guess. The strong point for text links is that they can be descriptive. For example, if someone is interested only in corporate identity related works, they do not need to browse through irrelevant pages before they reach an appropriate project. But, text links provide no visual cues.
The obvious solution is to use both, but again, HTML technology provides many methods to archive this. You could have text links/descriptions next to thumbnails. You could put in descriptive text into the “ALT” setting for the image so that the text shoes up as a ‘tool tip’ when the mouse pointer stays over it for a second. A third alternative with CSS is to have a text description appearing on the page when the mouse pointer hovers over a thumbnail, or a thumbnail appearing when the mouse hovers over a text link. At the moment I have not selected between these because I have yet to study which solution is easier to manage and smaller in code size, while still keeping in mind the aesthetic quality of the page.
As far as the project pages are concerned, right now I feel medium to large images with minimal text descriptions is the way to go. It might also be a good idea to keep multiple pages for projects with multiple images, rather than keeping a single large scrollable page with many images. This makes sense as it breaks up the bandwidth usage, and the viewer has a choice as to how much they wish to explore. I think text should be kept to the minimum as the work should speak for itself, with explanatory descriptions provided only when essential to the understanding of the work.