Quick, easy, FREE online portfolios with Google Pages

Let's look at this scenario: A job/internship opportunity pops up at the last moment, and as you rush to e-mail a resume to your employer, you realize that you still haven't gotten around to making that online portfolio. But did you know that anyone with a Google account can use Google Page Creator to create a web site: quickly, easily and for free?  If you've never done web design before, you're going to need a little guidance. 

First of all, is Google Pages the right option for you

  • You have no idea how to make your own web page
  • You have little time to teach yourself how to make your own web page
  • You lack money to buy a domain or hosting
  • You don't know what a domain or hosting is
If you answered "yes" to any of the questions above, then Google Pages might be a good (but temporary) solution for your woes. I say temporary because Google Pages will not create an ideal portfolio -- an employer will generally prefer a reporter who can make his/her own online portfolio with custom design because it shows HTML/web knowledge.

Plus, there are many restrictions:

  • Can't do much customization of the design, colors or modules
  • Can't do simple things like link photos to an external link (photos will only link to the original photo)
  • Can't resize photos
  • Can't embed HTML (meaning you'll have to link externally to multimedia work)
The great part, however, is the free part. Usually, free sites are drowning in advertisements, yet, somehow, Google Page Creator doesn't place any ads on your site. Another thing to note is that although this tutorial is directed specifically at journalism majors, the concept can be applied to anyone. And really, everyone should have an online portfolio.

What you'll need:

  • A Google account (you should really have one anyway for great features like Gmail, Google Docs, Google Checkout, Google Reader... oh, don't get me started on why you need Google to live)
  • A gameplan: What pages are you going to have on your site? Do you have content for each of those pages?

Step one: Choose your layout and your look

The great thing about Google Pages is, while you can't do a custom design, they give you more than 40 great pre-made templates to choose from. Go with something professional. Remember that you can always change the template later, but I suggest choosing one you'll stick with. Otherwise, you'll have to go through and change the template on each individual page -- which can be a pain in the butt.
Although you can't really customize the layout of your page, you get three basic options, which is more than enough for now. In the sample portfolio I created, I used the first option.

Step two: Create your pages

The following are the pages I used in my sample portfolio, although you'll probably do your own thing:
  • Home (everyone must have this)
  • Writing
  • Multimedia
  • Photography
  • Resume (It's probably smart for everyone to have this page too, regardless of your major/profession. But be careful! Think about whether you really want to include your home address and phone number on the web! I say stick with e-mail address)
  • Contact

Step three: Create your navigation

If you're not a web designer, this part can sometimes be easy to forget. You'll want to do this immediately after you make your pages so you can design around the navigation. Because Google Pages doesn't allow you to insert custom modules, it can be hard to find a spot for the nav later. 
Depending on which layout you chose, your navigation will either go horizontally across the top (under your page title) or down the left column. 
  1. Type the name of each page into your nav area
  2. Link each text item to one of your pages
After you've linked each menu item to the right page, copy and paste your menu into every page so you don't have to recreate it over and over again.

Step four: add your content

  • Adding text: Pretty self-explanatory. Simply type where you want text to exist. Make sure to use the same font to keep your site looking clean and consistent.
  • Linking to external articles: I suggest you link to wherever your writing is posted on the Web instead of having to make a new Google Page for each piece.
  • Inserting images: You can add images from a remote place on the web or from your computer. The downside is that you can't control the size of your image or where it links. You can align an image to the left or right by simply dragging it to the corner of a module.
  • Publishing your pages: Click "Publish" at the top of the page when you're ready, or go to your site manager and publish all your pages at the same time

Other tips and tricks:

  • Keep it visually engaging. Try to have one visual element on each page. Break up your text with white space and by making certain words bold or different colors (make sure you stick to the same palette as your theme though)
  • Link to social networks. On the contact page, include external links to your Linked In, Facebook, Twitter, blog, Flickr, e-mail address and any other social network you feel comfortable showing to an employer. Promote yourself! (And on the flip side, include a link to your Google Page on your resume and business card)
  • Change it later. Remember that Google Pages should be your temporary solution. You should really buy your own domain and learn HTML so you can create something less generic. 

Good luck! If you have any other questions, post them in the comments. After you finish the final product, please post a link to it in the comments too.