David Airey is an independent graphic designer working with companies of all sizes since 2005.

Comment threads on portfolio entries

Earlier on Twitter I mentioned I was debating the pros and cons of viewer comments on portfolio entries. Essentially it’s the difference between publishing new work as a blog post, or as a static page.

vintage microphone

Ian Devlin tweeted back with, “Depends on who’s doing the commenting! I guess there are more cons than pros though as portfolio pieces are subjective.”

To which I replied, “That’s what I’m thinking, Ian. I like the chat, but when the cons can affect the thoughts of potential clients…”

Ian responded, “Yep, then it’s not worth it. Some people will comment negatively just because they can. It’s not what you want.”

Ben Seven weighed in with, “I don’t like it on Behance — it’s too much ‘Oooo this is nice’, and to me, a portfolio is for prospective clients. You could blog ‘new work’?”

Matteo Pescarin said, “I tend to agree, although an external link with the ability for people to discuss the work could be nice.”

Publishing a short ‘New Work’ post (like this) seems to be a good way to go — with a brief description of the project and a link to the more comprehensive portfolio entry. There are three benefits:

  1. Subscribers are notified of portfolio updates
  2. Comments are kept off the main portfolio entries
  3. There’s still a comment thread if anyone wants it

Although I’m not keen on the extra click it means for you.

I have a question. I want to show a selection of thumbnails from my portfolio at the foot of each project page. Do you know of a WordPress plugin for the job? The thumbnails would need to link to the case studies that are highlighted.

Vintage microphone photo courtesy of Gary Quinton

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19 appreciated comments about “Comment threads on portfolio entries”

  1. I used to have comments on my portfolio pages. But then I thought it was far too messy so I got rid of the comments from all WordPress pages and left them just on my blog posts. I really think it’s better because some clients just don’t “get” comments at all and don’t really understand blogging. Not sure about the thumbnail plug-in, you may have to build a custom solution to your theme using WordPress’s Featured Image.

  2. Good points raised here David. Initially, I couldn’t work out where your issue lay, but then I realised it was the difference between pages and posts. I was actually a little surprised to hear that some people accept comments on pages.

    I believe that pages are not up for debate. These are for showcasing or writing points which aren’t up for debate (regardless of what the opinion stated is). Blog posts are there for the reason, to allow debate and encourage feedback. I don’t think comments on pages should exist.

    If you imagine, before the web, if we applied for a job with our portfolio’s, we didn’t have a page with the opinions of people we knew or admired tacked on to the end of it. The work stood on it’s own and our work got us the jobs we did. This should be no different online.

    That’s my tuppence worth!

  3. Yeah, good points. I agree. I’d reserve comments to my blog, where a discussion actually means something.

    One idea I had recently, though, is kind of a hybrid. I’m about to redesign my site and I’m thinking of just doing my portfolio through Dribbble and feeding the images into my site with their official WordPress plugin. The drawback is that it means extra clicks for users. But, I think it’ll be easier to update and maintain. And this will help allow me to post work that for whatever reason (no client sign-off, NDA, etc.) I can’t really show in full. What do you guys think of this approach?

  4. Cheers Rob. You caught-on sooner than I did. If I find anything that works (for the thumbnails) I’ll share in another comment.

    Thanks Tady. You’re right, it boils down to portfolio entries as either a post or a page. I’ve seen quite a few WordPress blogs with comments allowed on pages, but I definitely prefer them without.

    Ryan, previous chats beneath portfolio posts have been helpful for me and for others, so they do mean something. Do you mean that portfolio work is complete rather than ‘in progress’ like your Dribbble idea?

    My opinion is that it’s not ideal if you’re relying on a third party tool (the Dribbble plugin you mentioned) to update your portfolio. Best to limit the friction.

  5. It’s not just in the eyes of the client but in the eyes of the public – that’s the reason why they hire design experts like you. The owner himself can make a logo and make it look good for himself and a few others (like the owner’s family or something) but may look bad for others. Keeping the discussion on your portfolio entries and having them read the comments should give them an idea of how your work appeals to the public – their clients.

    It all traces back to the general public and their subjective comments on the product.

    A probable con, I think, would be the prospective client’s initial impression on your work if he or she uses those negative comments (if any) as a basis on hiring you – but that would be their big mistake for not hiring you. You seem to be doing very good with your work and very professional. Still, those comments from the clients whom you have worked with should outweigh the discussion’s context (specially if towards negative).

  6. I’ve never thought letting people comment on your work via a blog is a great idea. I can take criticism as well as the next guy, but it needs to be from people who’s opinions I can respect.

  7. I would have to agree as well. I feel that comments on portfolio pieces really have no place on website that are meant for potential clients. Potential clients will make their own decision on whether or not they like your work. They shouldn’t need to read people’s comments (especially people they don’t know) about the work. I feel that a level of control is needed on a site where your clients and potential clients are visiting, and comments on portfolio pieces is not needed.

    As for setting it up in WordPress, on my redesign, I will simply do a custom post type for my portfolio entries, and leaving out the WP tag for comments and turning comments off on those posts. They will still be considered “posts” but will behave much differently then a blog “post” that is suppose to elicit a response.

  8. Hi David,

    A lot of websites present the portfolio as a standard website and then have a separate tab/page that directs visitors to their blog. Have you thought about going that route? I’ve been giving that method some consideration but haven’t decided on if I’d like to make the switch.

    Did you use a plug-in to convert your former portfolio posts to pages? Are you worried about broken links as a result of changing the link structure of those former posts?

  9. Jesse, most feedback is posted by other designers, who probably make up the majority of my subscriber base. It shouldn’t be assumed that commentators here are those targetted by my clients. In many cases they won’t be. And if you were to give the same design brief to other designers, it’s likely they’d produce a different result.

    Abbas, excellent point. I found that most negative comments (not all) during the past few years were posted by people who never left a web address, or who used an obviously fake email account when completing the comment fields.

    Amber, I had thought about disabling comments on portfolio ‘posts’, but if I did, using this WordPress theme, each project would still have the ‘leave your thoughts’ link at the top alongside the publish date. So in my case it’s more straightforward creating a new ‘page’ for case studies.

    Natasha, when I started this site, the portfolio was the homepage, and my blog was located in a /blog directory. I decided that as most of my traffic came through my blog, it made sense to shift it to the front, and place my work in a /portfolio directory. This switching was one of a few blog mistakes I advise against (mistake #4).

    I didn’t use a plugin to convert posts to pages. I copied the post content into a newly created page, then edited the post so it only showed a snippet, linking to the relevant page for more detail.

    Thanks the for comments everyone.

  10. Hi David,

    I’m a long time reader, first time commenter. I’ve recently completed a site that uses Word Press and have customised it to show thumbnails which link through to other pages. I used a mix of ‘tagging’ the pages (in your case perhaps ‘portfolio’) and then used some custom php code to display only these tags on the page. The thumbnails were created by utilising the excerpt (and a plugin called ‘Excerpt Editor’).

    I’d be happy to send through some code I used if you like.

    Keep up the great work.

  11. I read a few books that seemed to advocate for separating the portfolio and blog content. However, your explanation makes a lot more sense. Thanks for the link to your other article; bookmarked and tweeted!

  12. Hi Rowan, thanks for the description. I’ll have a look at that plugin shortly. Good of you to offer your code, too.

    Natasha, much obliged.

  13. Hello David,

    Thanks for visiting my website and your comments! (It’s like having a celeb stop by your house to say hi.)

    I’d never heard about The High Line but I’m definitely going to check it out and I took your advice and installed the “subscribe to comments” plugin. Thanks again!

  14. That’s nice of you to say, Natasha. I hope the plugin works as well for you as it has for me. Comment subscriptions can help keep conversation flowing.

  15. Well, David, the audience that your blog has attracted definitely seems to be more critical and opinionated regarding design works than is the norm, from what I see of your “work” posts.

    So I’d say the best option is to have it as two displays. On one side, a purely portfolio-centric entry for clients and potential clients. On the other side, a post with comments enabled, to engage with your audience. After all, you KNOW how we love to sound smart.

  16. I wouldn’t use a plugin for the thumbails.
    It is a small bit of code and a plugin will just add more weight and bloat to the site.

    I coded in a selection of my work in the footer of my site. Each thumbnail links to portfolio item. Have a look at http://www.hiddendepth.ie to see it.

    Feel free to email me and I’ll send on the snippet of code to do the same.

  17. Cheers, Ash.

    That’s very close to what I was thinking, Dave. Code for a small table of rectangular images that I can either paste at the foot of each page or insert into the WP “page” template.

  18. David how does your portfolio work?
    Is it via regular categories or a custom post type?

    If you prefer you can email me dave@hiddendepth.ie

  19. It’s a WordPress ‘page’, like my ‘contact’ or ‘about’ page. I’ll send you a quick email now. Thanks.

Anything to add?

Comments may be edited or deleted if I don't like the cut of your jib, but that's quite unlikely.