Establishing an online presence is absolutely essential in this digital day and age, more so if your profession lies within a creative industry.
However, we've all heard of how well-shod cobblers children are; it can be hard to focus on your own site when you're getting stuck into client work. All too often creating a personal site ends up in the 'some day' folder of your to-do app.
Thankfully, there are several web-based tools that can help you set up a site in under 5 minutes, meaning you can concentrate on more pressing issues. Despite their minimal setup time, they are aesthetically pleasing, with an air of professionalism, and are the perfect stop-gap solution for freelancers who need more than an 'under construction' page.
There are three main contenders in the personal site field, Zerply; Flavors.me and About.me, here's how they stack up:
The obscurely named Zerply is a one page site that ‘goes beyond the resume’, cleanly displaying concise information such as work experience, educational background, social media profiles and contact information. Both Twitter and Facebook accounts can be used to quickly sign up, automatically pulling in your profile picture and certain information about your professional background. Unfortunately this data can be quite inaccurate and more often than not will require tweaking.
After signing up you’re prompted to flesh out your profile with basic information such as location, work experience and ‘tags’ (web design, photography etc.) Again, this can be pulled in from your Facebook or LinkedIn profile, with the latter being the more accurate choice. Side projects, non-profit work and other resume worthy information can also be manually added to your profile.
You can then choose one of the five free themes available to display your profile, all of which are well designed and professional. They do feature Zerply images and links in the footer, as well as a link to the designer, but this is acceptable due to the service being completely free.
Although your Zerply public profile is essentially just a one page site, the backend is intuitive and well thought out. You can network with like-minded individuals and follow their latest updates, and endorse people for certain aspects of their work. Likewise, people can endorse your skills and you can connect your GitHub, Behance, Vimeo, and Flickr to show off your latest creations.
Zerply operates on a Freemium payment model. Current premium features include two additional themes for $19 each, and support for a custom domain (instead of zerply.com/johnsmith) for $15 a year.
Best for: freelancers looking for an easy to launch personal site with basic but effective networking features.
Flavors.me is a self-described ‘unified web presence’, allowing you to launch a simple personal portal that aggregates content from your social media updates, photos, videos and more. Flavors adopts a different approach to Zerply, opting for customisable designs, full page images and displaying core information in clean and compact boxes.
The signup process is similar to Zerply, with the ability to register via Facebook, Google and Yahoo. You are then prompted to enter very basic personal information in the form of a short bio and tagline, before deciding which services you want to connect and display on your page. This is the primary purpose of Flavors, with over 30 different services being supported such as Twitter, Youtube, Tumblr, Soundcloud, Facebook and WordPress. Essentially all this does is add links to your various profiles, with some services like Twitter automatically pulling in your latest tweets and displaying them on your Flavors page when they are clicked by the user.
Flavors has more of an emphasis on design when compared to Zerply, with 222 fonts and 17 layouts available for you to play around with, as well as basic HTML support. However, additional layouts are only available when you opt for a premium account costing $20 per year. Other premium features include a mobile site, real time stats, contact form and a custom domain name. Design tweaks to your page are done through a simple drop down menu, with changes instantly carried out right in front of you. It can take some time to settle on a layout that suits you, so being able to preview changes on the fly greatly speeds up the process.
Flavors.me lacks the professional feel that Zerply successfully achieves, coupled with the fact that some basic features such as a contact form are frustratingly unavailable to non-premium accounts.
Best for: freelancers looking for a central hub to aggregate social media profiles.
About.me is a completely free alternative to Zerply and Flavors.me, with all features available right off the bat. Unfortunately this means that a custom domain name can’t be used with it, which may put people off slightly. Aesthetically, About.me appears to be very similar to Flavors, utilising full page images and displaying content in a similar way, but their core functionality differs.
Unlike its competitors, About.me doesn’t support sign up through social media profiles such as Twitter or Facebook, instead opting for the more traditional method of signing up through email. Again, the initial steps involve filling in as much personal information as you’re comfortable revealing, such as location, work background, education and contact information. You can then add ‘Apps’ to your page which are essentially links to your social media profiles, and like Flavors, Tweets and status updates can be pulled in.
The design process is similar to Flavors with the option to change fonts, colour schemes and background images on the fly. You can also click and drag the content area and background images to position them exactly where you want, which is effective at preventing About.me pages looking overly similar.
About.me successfully achieves equilibrium between simplicity and style, with a small arsenal of basic yet effective features. Visitors to your page are able to send you emails without your address being publicly revealed; a function which is only available to paying members of Flavors.me. The dashboard also has impressive statistical information, such as visits, clicks on your links and referring search engine terms.
The only real downside to About.me is the lack of custom domain support, which is a nice touch if you wish to include your page on business cards and social media profiles. However, this is a minor drawback when you take into account that the service is completely free to use.
Best for: freelancers who don't need their own domain name.
Ultimately, the best service to use is down to you and your personal preference. Zerply is well suited to users seeking employment, but is it as effective as linkedIn? One thing's for sure, with the ever-increasing number of social media accounts we all hold, a central hub is something you're likely to need in the near future.
Do you have a personal homepage that is hosted by a service? Which service do you use? Let us know in the comments.