4 Reasons Designers Should Hand Code Their Portfolio Websites

By Raymond Stone on January 7, 2019

This article is also on Medium.

But first: an intro to portfolios.

In 2019 designers need online portfolios to house their work. Portfolios provide aspiring designers ways to prove they possess the skill worthy of entering the professional world. Portfolios provide professional designers ways to prove they possess the skill and experience worthy of advancing through the field. Digital versions of these enable both designers and their potential employers to access this collection of work via URLs. Designers have numerous options to build their online portfolios including: creating personal websites using content management systems (CMS), WYSIWYG (pronounced “wiz-ee-wig”) editors, hand coded pages in text editors, or simply uploading work to portfolio platforms such as Behance or Dribbble. This article focuses on the benefits of hand coding a custom portfolio website.

1. You won't have to hire anyone to develop it.

Developers cost money. A lot of it. I'm not trying to take away work from our developer friends who make up the other side of the product coin, but they probably have better ways to spend their time than working on things non-developers can learn in a few short online tutorials. This segues to the next reason.

2. It will force you to learn HTML and CSS.

Many ads for open design roles require knowledge of HTML, CSS, and even sometimes JavaScript and jQuery. Though admittedly I've never needed to hand code anything in any design role, some companies expect their designers to have enough working front-end web development knowledge to effectively prototype an early version of a product at a high enough fidelity to conduct a usability test. Not unlike other creative skills, these markup languages equip designers with tools they can use on both client projects and personal projects.

3. Creative control.

Unless you excel at PHP (I'm crawling there), wrapping your head around the back-end of CMS templates can feel like it requires a computer science degree to make even the simplest design changes. As for WYSIWYG editors, I cannot speak about them since I have not tried them all. I'm sure each have their pros and cons, with simplicity as an obvious pro and design limitations as an obvious con. However, I can speak about the fact that whenever a UI design pops into my head, somewhere out there exists front-end code that will execute that vision, whether I can hand code it myself or I need to leverage a resource like W3Schools or Stack Overflow.

4. No WYSIWYG subscription fees.

Most professional creatives have access to Adobe Creative Cloud (or Suite if you still use the older version). Of course, Adobe CC does require a subscription, but most designers have accepted this as an industry standard cost of doing business by the time they've decided to seriously pursue careers in design. And since the vast majority of professional designers have access to Adobe CC, they can take advantage of its web developer platform, Dreamweaver. Dreamweaver's template page feature can help designers and developers build large websites quickly. And no, Adobe did not sponsor this article, but if you work for Adobe and that idea interests you…*winks*.


All the different ways of building online portfolios have their pros and cons, including hand coding websites. An employer depends on the work showcased within an online portfolio to judge the skill and expertise of a potential design hire. Yet, some employers also pay special attention to the UI and UX of the portfolio itself to better judge the designer's taste, attention to detail, and ability to craft unique design solutions.


Raymond Stone
BA in Art Practice, UC Berkeley
User Experience Designer

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