How to start designing websites for your portfolio?

Hi FCC friends!

I have been working my way through Front End and am working on my advanced projects. I have a background in art and design, and I’m really most interested in web design and user experience. I love to design the site as much as I love building it in code. So to beef up my portfolio before I begin an eventual job hunt, I’d really like to create some beautiful websites (probably for friends with small businesses) that display my skills.

But stepping out of my little FCC world is overwhelming, and I don’t even really know where to start. How do I start such an undertaking?? Do I simply design a site from scratch, and find a place for them to host it? Won’t I need to know some backend to truly create a site from nothing?? Should I learn how to design custom sites or templates to be used on Squarespace or Wordpress? I guess I’m actually a little clueless when it comes to applying my new skills in the real world. :confused:

Thanks so much for your advice - I love this community so much!

I’m right behind you, Brittany, as that is the direction I’m pursuing, too.

My first major effort is going to be my own portfolio site that promotes me and my “brand.” I started with my FCC portfolio CodePen by trying to make it more attractive than my limited coding skills might imply, and will go up from there. (

I don’t think there can be any better example of your work than the one that shows off your own design talent in describing yourself. It should be more beautiful, simple, and usable than anything you do for others, which means you’ll constantly improve it as you get wiser and more skilled and add more samples.

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Hi there,

You’ll only need to learn the back end if you’re doing server side processing. It’s possible, of course, to host your own gallery of web design projects, but there are now a number of places for artists such as yourself to post their work without having to do any of the server stuff. beHance is Adobe’s service, and it integrates directly with most of their tools. CodePen is what freeCodeCamp encourages beginners to use for development, but it’s just as easy to put some design work up. If you’re into Wordpress, you can upload directly to their repository of themes.

But where to start? If you need ideas, draw it out on paper. Photoshop and Balsamiq are popular tools for designers. Regardless of where you start or where you end up, the trick is going to be learning how to convert your ideas into the code that ends up on the site.

Thanks! Yeah I will definitely be improving on my portfolio, that’s a great place to start I guess!

Thanks! I guess my biggest hangup with just jumping into things is say for example I’d like to design an e-commerce shop - I can’t exactly do that all on my own. I guess there are API’s to use for things like that?? I’m probably just getting ahead of myself… baby steps first!

I agree with chuckiebluestar. Why not start with creating your own portfolio site? Many people have gotten jobs with just the projects they did in the front-end portion of the FCC curriculum, so you don’t need a lot of beautiful websites before you start looking.

However, even if you’re not interested in taking a job right away, making your own portfolio using your FCC projects is a great place to start and it’s all good practice for “making a website” as well.

You could use Codepen, but I believe having your own domain shows professionalism, is a lot nicer to viewers and teaches you how to host your own site. You’ll learn how to buy a domain, set it up, use SFTP, etc.

Good luck!

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If you just want a design to show off, you don’t need a fully working site. You can make a mock storefront that doesn’t actually do anything.

Thanks, that’s really encouraging! I guess I am getting a little over-ambitious, and overestimating what’s required to get a job. I appreciate the perspective. :wink:

Thanks… I suppose I may be being a little too much of a perfectionist, in wanting to show off that I can do it all! It probably would take entirely too long to make a fully working site, considering I only need it for portfolio purposes at this point.

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I keep feeling the same thing! I have to remind myself that the bar to entry is much lower than what I have convinced myself it is. I keep reading that job requirements is just a wish list, not really requirements. If you can do 1/2 of what’s in the ad, you have a good chance at the job. And when they say “expert in JavaScript”, that means they’re actually looking for someone that is more intermediate - or at least probably willing to take one on. They really overdo the job ads if what I keep hearing is correct.

Read the stories on the forum here of people getting their first jobs. It will motivate you and remind you not to be too much of a perfectionist because if you continue down that path, you’ll always feel inadequate and never apply for anything.

I’m going to try out this free portfolio course from Laurence Bradford at “Learn to Code With Me”.

great comments Brittany. If you want to do an eCommerce you should look at Wordpress at least in the first instance, as its extremely customizable with plugins and you can really do as much or little coding as you like. So maybe coding the hell out of the parts you are good at and relying more on leveraging Wordpress powerful capabilities for the parts you don’t.

You could even get something up and running really quickly and then later on if you wanted to do everything on your own for a completely unique site experience, you could work on version two in the background as you refine your skills.

Anyway good luck :slight_smile:

Cool. Thanks. I’ll check it out.
Have you started doing it? How does it look so far?

Just signed up today and it starts tomorrow as one of those “email-lesson-a-day” things. Her site has a lot of useful info, so I think it should be worthwhile.

If you’re building a website for yourself, you can do anything that interests you. If you are going to build websites for other people, it really depends on what they need the website to do and what they already have (if any). For example I have a relative who wants to change the look of her business site using a nice template she downloaded off somewhere. So I have to customize the template but I don’t have to come up with a design from scratch.

You don’t need to code backend if your website does not have to process data such as uploading files, getting data from a database and displaying it, etc. Something like a small portfolio site with just text and some images, or a simple interactive JavaScript game that doesn’t permanently store any data wouldn’t need a backend. But you would qualify for more jobs if you knew at least 1 backend language and maybe SQL.