Almost everyone and everything is online in 2014, and if there’s one golden rule for designer/developers looking for work it’s: Make yourself visible!
This rule is equally true for graphic designers, front-end developers, UX people or any other visual design field for that matter.
While we all know Facebook and Twitter can be invaluable for connecting within your existing network, there are some fantastic online design communities that can instantly extend your reach and raise your visibility to future clients.
Joining online communities not only allows you to showcase your talents, but can also allow you to receive feedback and possibly even find new friends and collaborators for bigger projects.
So here’s my shortlist of sites that could help you get your foot in more doors.
If you’re just looking for a simple platform to show your stuff, a little place called About.Me might be a great fit. This platform is as ‘no-frills’ as you can get, but it’s free and it works.
On the downside, About.me doesn’t allow you to you customize your domain name — but that may not be a deal-breaker for many.
I think About.Me is a great place to start if you are at all hesitant about taking the leap into managing a full-fledged website. Though it is a simple one-page format, you are still able to market and promote both your work and services. The ability to decide how much (or little) you want to reveal about yourself to visitors is also a nice touch.
Bottom Line: If you are just looking to get your name out there with a mini-resume type of way then About.Me is where you need to go.
Dribbble.com was the brain-child of renowned basketball fan, author and web designer Dan Cederholm, and is one of the first sites many think of when it comes to design communities. And with good reason.
In a way, Dribbble is like a hyper-visual version of Twitter, where instead of the 140 character limit, designers are given a 120,000 pixel limit per screenshot.
Dribbble calls itself a site in the business of creating an online space for artists to show and tell, promote, discover, and explore design.
It’s true this is quite a tight-knit community, built around an in-house reputation system, so gaining recognition will likely take some time and effort.
However, this shouldn’t keep you from joining, as there are lots of Dribbble free resources on offer including templates, custom brushes, icons and more.
Pro accounts are also available, which allow for you to add a “hire me” button to your page, scout out fellow designers for job opportunities, create member lists and other helpful functions.
Dribbble isn’t a classic folio site, but if you’re a dedicated designer who is looking to not only share, but communicate with your peers, give Dribbble a.. well… shot?
This site is by no means new, but if you’re a designer, you’ve very likely come across DeviantArt in your Google travels before.
DeviantArt is legitimately geared for both graphic designers, traditional artists, web designers and photographers alike. You will find everyone here from novices, advanced art students, all the way up to big name professional artists like popular comic book artist, Adam Hughes, who has worked on DC, Marvel and Darkhorse comics.
Similar to Flickr, there are myriad groups and communities for you to join where you can share, collaborate, promote and receive feedback on your work. DeviantArt is also a great resource for free stock like textures, fonts, 3d models and the like.
So, even if it’s just for the free resources, this is a great site to spend some time on.
It also should be mentioned that DeviantArt offers a powerful Google Chrome extension known as “DeviantArt Muro” which allows you to create and draw directly to DeviantART from within the web-app. It’s no Photoshop, but it’s amazingly powerful for a free, browser-based app.
Both DeviantArt and the extension are something you should check out if you are interested in expanding in the world of design.
No matter your design skill or area of expertise, DeviantArt has a niche for just about everyone.
If you are serious in your craft, then Behance just might be the right place for you to set up shop. The designers who use this site come from a wide range of backgrounds from self-taught to institutionally taught to fashion designers, illustrators, typographers and photographers, just to name a few.
While you do have a chance of being discovered on community-based sites like Flickr and DeviantArt,
Behance styles itself as a ‘LinkedIn for creatives’ so connecting designers with client opportunities is absolutely central to their business model.
Your work is also often in very good company at Behance, as they host galleries for many notable designers and institutions, including the Rhode Island School of Design. , Nicole Martinez and Rob Pratt.
Behance offers the opportunity to customize your galleries to cater to your style. This, as you might guess, is a premium feature, but if you’re getting results from the service, it’s likely a small price to pay.
With a huge audience and the ability to showcase your talent in front of people who love their craft — and can possibly help you in your career — there really isn’t a reason to turn down Behance.
Behance isn’t for the novice designer, but if you are looking to boost the chances of getting spotted for serious work, sign up.
Many will no doubt see Flickr as a very photography-geared site only, and while that is somewhat true, that doesn’t mean that you can’t stake out your own design territory there.
Flickr became the first successful, truly global-scale site for creatives following its 2004 launch, but seemed to lose ascendancy almost from the moment Yahoo! acquired it in 2005.
Happily, it still retains a huge userbase (87 million users at last report), and has renewed attention from Yahoo! CEO Marissa Myer — attested to by last years’ relaunch and new 1 terrabyte account limits.
Many digital artists and designers use the site to showcase all manner of creative work, from t-shirt prints to game character designs to website layouts and more. The range in talent, age, and ethnic diversity is exciting because you know that you aren’t going to get the same thing from each user.
There are many active, vibrant, welcoming groups on Flickr looking to showcase designers, so if a strong, friendly community is what attracts you, this just might be the site to join.
Flickr is a stress free environment that has a place for all types of creative minds, and great communities for support and visibility.
Of course, each of the sites we’ve talked about so far come with their own, built-in formatting, limitations, rules and restrictions. The only path to complete creative control is building your own site from scratch.
You don’t necessarily even need to have strong HTML or CSS skills. Free website builders like Site123, Wix or Webydo allow you to customize and create a rather impressive site — even if you opt out of their premium options.
It goes without saying that these are powerful, mature platforms, and a little creative flare can go a long way — not to mention the valuable ability to brand your site with a domain name if you like.
For ultimate creative and personal freedom, it’s hard to compete with having your own site.
These sites are just the tip of the iceberg of the hundreds of platform you can turn to in order to increase your web presence. Coroflot, Carbonmade and a host of others are just some other platforms you should check out. Experiment with the different options out there and find out which better suit your needs. Who knows, you might just see how beneficial being on the web can be.
Are you a part of any of the aforementioned sites?
What is your favorite platform to use?
Gabrielle is a creative type who specializes in graphic design, animation and photography.
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