I'm starting a YouTube channel to give tips and tricks for those interested in data visualization or data art.
Here is the first video about how and why you need to build a dedicated portfolio on your own website and not rely on third-party services.
I also give some pointers to get started in less than 10 minutes.
Here is a loose and shortened transcript of the video above.
Why do you need a dataviz portfolio?
Today I want to talk about an important topic for those of you who work as data visualization designers or dataviz engineers: the portfolio. If you are looking to work in this field as a freelancer or if you want people at your company to better appreciate the value your bring, having a good portfolio is not optional.
I will start by explaining why you need one and also how to build one easily.
The first thing to notice is that data viz is a subbranch of information design, and so as a designer, explaining your process, and clearly presenting your design choices is fundamental.
Sure, you can upload your work on Tableau public or Behance but it does not give enough insight to understand what were the constraints, the challenges you had to overcome, the details of the technical implementation, and more generally the way you think.
Let's say you work with PowerBI but later on you expand your skillset and use d3.js. Naturally, you will start to publish on Observable.
Your work is now scattered over several platforms with no single entry point. And it's the same story with Python or R, you can upload your notebooks on GitHub but most people will not bother downloading or reading your work there.
The most simple thing you can do to get started is to have your own website. Think about it, you want people to recognize the work you do, but the only way to find is through proprietary services over which you have no control... not great!
Better to simply index everything in one place on the web where you can write your explanations, upload your hand-drawn sketches, wireframes, dataset extract, images, and interactive vizzes. You can link to other platforms only if you too.
When Google indexes your website, it will act as the source of truth, and your name will rank higher when someone types data visualization. You can also put links to your social media and create an about section.
Note that it is necessary to have your own domain name as well. Just having mywebiste.wix.com or name.github.io is a bad idea, especially when you will want to change your host. All the backlinks pointing to your former website will break, and you won't have any control over them.
You can buy a dot com for 10 EUR/Dollars per year online and be done with it. You will simply have to update your DNS record to point to where your files are, and most hosting provider/ website builders do it for you automatically.
How to build one?
Hopefully, you are now convinced! So what are your options?
You can create your own website from scratch, which could be a great learning exercise if you want to improve your front-end skills, but I would strongly advise against it if you are to focus on dataviz. The pain of maintaining your website is real and could discourage you over time. Worse, your coding skills may be impressive, but your web design may not or vice-versa.
To tell you that let me tell you what I did with my own website, which I own for more than 10 years. I basically tried all the solutions out there, from my own private server to static site generators, to hosted WordPress to more integrated services like Webflow that I use now.
It doesn't really matter, but you have two main general constraints: time and money.
Do you really want to spend 100 hours building your own theme and maintain it? Or do you prefer to buy one and customize it? Which is more valuable to you: time, or money? I will choose to buy a professional theme and customize it every day of the week, but if it is not an option for you, you can also find free templates online and have something for free!
If I had to make a dataviz portfolio from scratch quickly today this is how I would do it:
- Find my domain name, my first name, and last name firstnamelastname.com if available as if you change your job or career, people will find you regardless.
- Second, create a portfolio website on SquareSpace, templates look professional, and it takes less than 5 minutes to build one. You can buy the domain name from their interface.
- Finally, upload your images and start writing about your process. You can also embed interactive work with ease.
I hope that this video was informative and that you are eager to put yourself out there. I will make a more detailed video about this topic in the future if you are interested.
Let me know via Twitter or by commenting on the YouTube video above.