I’ve recently spoken to several people who
- Have decided to create a portfolio of their data science projects
- Are new to online publishing
They frequently have questions about the actual mechanics of publishing their portfolio online. A common email I get is this:
I want to create a portfolio to highlight my data science projects. What’s the best software to do this? What are the actual mechanics of creating and publishing a portfolio online?
Take a Step Back
Before giving a specific recommendation, I’d like to put it in context.
Software that helps you create and publish websites is called a Content Management System (CMS). There are a lot of options in this space. Some are free and some cost money. You can easily spend an afternoon looking at different CMS options.
While I do have a specific recommendation, I don’t think that there are any wrong choices, especially for beginners. The biggest hurdle for beginners is simply pulling the trigger: publishing that first post with your name on it. Don’t let choosing a tool prevent you from making your first post!
Your Actual Needs
As someone looking to create a portfolio, your CMS needs are fairly light. You will probably be working by yourself on this project, and will probably be creating only two types of content:
- Static Pages. These are pages that don’t change very often and have a fixed URL. An example is a “Contact” page that lives at YourName.com/contact.
- A blog. Blogs have a fixed URL (e.g. YourName.com/blog), but the content frequently changes. Each time you write a new post, it appears at the top of your blog.
Not every website needs a blog. But I think that they work really well for data science portfolios. The reason is that data scientists are often in the process of exploring a field of interest. The threshold for publishing a new blog post is pretty low – you can write about intermediate results you have, a conference you’re planning to attend, or a new graphics library you just started experimenting with.
I Recommend WordPress
I recommend using WordPress to create your portfolio. I’ve been using it for two years, and my opinion of the software has only increased over time. Here are three reasons I recommend it:
#1: WordPress is Free and Open Source
In my last two jobs I used open source tools, and it felt natural to continue the trend when I started publishing online. You can download the code for WordPress at WordPress.org.
Of course, running a CMS on your personal computer isn’t particularly useful: People build websites to make them available 24/7 to people all over the world. The makers of WordPress have you covered there as well: you can go to WordPress.com right now and, for free, create a website that uses WordPress.
#2 WordPress is the most popular CMS
In addition to being free, WordPress is also the most popular CMS on the market. Recent estimates are that over 26% of all websites in the world use it. This statistic is even more incredible when you realize that many websites aren’t using a CMS at all!
Among websites that are using a CMS, the number is even higher: over 59% of those websites use WordPress.
#3 The Plugin Ecosystem
When I started publishing online a few years ago, choosing a free, popular tool was enough to me. These days I love WordPress because of the rich plugin ecosystem it has. You can think of WordPress plugins as being similar to R packages: someone thinks of new way to do a particular task, and releases it as an add-on to the main software package.
WordPress currently has over 48,000 plugins. Going into detail about my favorite plugins is beyond the scope of this post. But if you simply google for “popular wordpress plugins” you’ll get a feel for the options available. I think that plugins are more useful after you get a feel for the basics of publishing online, and are looking to do more advanced things like build an email list.
How to Learn More
This post is enough to get you started with the basics of choosing a CMS. If you decided to use WordPress, note that my membership site has two additional resources for you:
- Building Data Science Portfolios with WordPress. This is a live training that I ran for members. I explain why I chose WordPress, why I eventually left WordPress.com (and where I went), some of my favorite plugins.
- WordPress 101. A 23-part course on using WordPress. This course was licensed from WP101.com, a company that specializes in WordPress training.
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