Portfolio - showcase or accessibility?

I am in the process of completing my portfolio for web design and development. Keeping in mind the purpose of the portfolio is to showcase what I can offer a potential client, I have been struggling with the format my portfolio gallery will take.

I have the option of making the gallery using xhtml/css, jquery or flash and can’t decide which one, partially because of restrictions with javascript and flash.

I was thinking of letting the user decide which gallery to choose (or to check out all three) via links or a form element. Would that be a case of overkill and I should just choose the one I like the best and not worry about accessibility? or would it be an effective way of showing the potential client the variety of things I can offer him/her?

Thanks for your advice, AlexDawson. I really liked the look and functionality of the flash gallery, but your post gave me the idea that I probably could duplicate the same effect with javascript, and it will solve my other problem of how to include a short description off to the side of the gallery for each example.

Your comment “You’re always better off leaving the show pieces in your portfolio rather than being your portfolio itself” really hit the nail on the head.

I agree with what’s already been stated. Unless you’re someone who works explicitly in Flash I would probably avoid the Flash unless you’re working with stuff like multimedia simply on the basis that compatibility is going to be a pain for potential visitors. The great thing about JavaScript is that you can make it degrade pretty gracefully and just because your site has all the fancy jQuery effects doesn’t mean that they have to have scripting enabled to browse your site (well at least that’s what you should aim for). Portfolio’s are generally intended not to push boundaries but to sell yourself and your services, offering something that’s only partially accessible may have pretty critical consequences in that less able bodied clients may not be able to contact you in regards to making their experience. You’re always better off leaving the show pieces in your portfolio rather than being your portfolio itself - which is hopefully intended for real people. :slight_smile:

I suppose it really depends how important your portfolio is in respect to communicating your services. Using a flash based gallery means you basically restrict your portfolio content to one page, and that’s only one search engine listing.

Apart from looking at screenshots potential customers do look for other information, such as the type of work you did on a site, eg design, build, use of PHP/mySQL, using a CMS, copywriting etc, and all that text content is good search engine fodder as well.

For Flash accessibility there are a few methods for providing alternative content that can be read by screenreaders, or for when Flash is not available in the users browser.

If you’re talking about stucture for a portfolio I’d always recommend thinking about categorising them, eg Ecommerce sites, Blog sites, Charity sites etc, then having a “detailed” page where you can post larger screenshots and descriptions.

Thanks for your reply. I agree that fancy features should be used only if needed. My problem is deciding the structure for my portfolio gallery. The rest of my website is very straightforward … no bells and whistles.

The main reason I asked is that I was going through some actionscript 3.0 tutorials on the weekend, and came across a really effective flash gallery. It is not too fancy, but the transition from thumbnail to full-size image is kind of neat.

I notice that a lot of web portfolios use javascript libraries for their gallery … would it be too much more of an accessibility issue to use flash just for that part?

Just because you can use fancy effects using Javscript/Flash it doesn’t mean you have to use them. Of course a bit of javascript enhancement can add some fancy effects without compromising accessibility, but in my experience clients are rarely impressed.

Look through some of the worlds top designers/agencies and you’ll usually see plain old HTML based portfolio pages, eg http://happycog.com/create/ - people like that could make the snazziest portfolio with the most amazing javascript you’ve ever seen, but they choose not to. There must be a reason why not!

You’re probably right … I’ll stick to a gallery using jQuery, I guess. That will make it easier to include information about each of the websites I want to showcase. This is only one of seven pages in my portfolio site. The others are pretty straightforward in terms of features.

At the end of the day there’s no right or wrong way, but at least you’ve given it some thought. Let us know how you get on!