August 26, 2018

Why designers need a personal website?


TLDR: I'm summing up the reasons why a designer should build a custom site using Gatsby.JS.

One of my year resolution for 2018 is to learn front-end coding. I feel that being a designer, learning how to code is the way how I could step up the game in web design, by understanding how every bit and piece fall into places.

Framev2

I had two personal websites, one is my Tumblr and another is my portfolio site, separately hosted and running Cargo Collective. But I was thinking, "Wouldn't it be great if both of my portfolio and blog are together?"

Why do you need a personal website?

It's 2018. Online presence is becoming the norm, even in the professional field. Your previous work, your side projects, even your work in progress matter.

A personal site also means more control over your message and story, whether you're looking for new clients, landing a dream job or establishing a personal brand. For sure it takes more time and effort, but I think it is quite a good practice to sharpen your skill and catching up. Needless to say, making a personal site is much easier than a decade ago.

While platforms like Medium, Facebook Pages are building homogeneous style for coherent browsing / reading experience. Your website should pursue personality instead. I'm not saying you shouldn't post to Medium publications or run a Facebook Page, but just not as the destination but a way to reach your very own website where you deliver your message.

What're my options?

Speaking of the BIG question, which platform should you choose? Wordpress is great for beginners since all settings are visible without dealing with code. But it was developed as a blogging platform, so it requires specific template in order to create a decent looking personal page.

Website builder like Webflow and Squarespace is also an elegant option, but they adopt subscription model so the cost would be definitely higher.

After taking the Design+Code's React course instructed by Meng To, I was introduced to Gatsby.JS. After trying it out for few weeks, I genuinely rooting it as the up-and-coming personal website & blog option. Because:

  1. A custom personal website allows maximum creativity, a great advantage for designers.
  2. It's blaze-fast. Because all files are generated already. It also adopts modern web technology like React, Webpack and GraphQL. I compared the Lighthouse audit ran on beta site and current site. Performance has insanely improved.
  3. Gatsby is a static site generator, but dynamic data source is widely supported. Wordpress, Contentful or even Airtable can be used as a database.
  4. Deploying is as easy as drag-and-drop. Netlify provides free hosting for static site, and Gatsby is free, meaning the project could be free as long as you have your own domain.
  5. Personal reason but a good one. I admit the process of making your own site is empowering. It's nice to not rely on anybody and build a website designed and developed all by yourself. I've been taking some screenshots logging daily progress, will share it later.

Last word

As Gatsby is quite new since it was first released a year ago. I wouldn't say current resources available is sufficient, but it is a strong and growing community. Most users are frontend web developer right now, but I'm optimistic to see more designers onboard.

I admit there is indeed a learning curve to React, Gatsby and also GraphQL since I know fundamental HTML and CSS only. There were long nights that I was figuring out causes of errors, which turned out to be some stupid mistakes.

I'm writing this also for my own future reference:

A personal website should not only showcase your work, but also speak who you are and how you work.

That's why I'm eager to share my work in progress, hoping to launch the site as soon as possible.

Reading List:
Things I (honestly) don’t want to see in your portfolio