I'm currently trying to build a personal website to create a presence on the web for myself. My plan is to include content such as my resume, any projects that I have done on my own and links to open source projects that I have contributed to, and so on. However, I'm not sure which approach would be better from a perspective of "advertising" myself, since that what this site does, especially since I am a software developer.
Should I use an out-of-the-box system and extend it as needed, with available modules and custom modules where needed or should I custom build a site and all of its features as I need them? Does a custom site look better in the eyes of a potential employer who might visit my site?
If you are a web-specific developer I would go with a custom site, but if you focus more on desktop applications or backend technologies, I think an out of the box system would be fine.
Putting your resume up online somewhere helps, I get a lot of recruitment emails from people who happened on my resume via googling. However I agree with ColinYounger in that you'll probably get more bang for your buck from LinkedIn.
My advice is this - if you want to take the time out to LEARN a CMS or something, to better yourself, then why not make your first project in one be your homepage?
Maybe enlighten us as to the "features" you want to have on a personal homepage? Outside of a link to an HTML resume and perhaps some links to things you like, not sure exactly what the features of a homepage would be...
It really depends on:
a) what services you provide
b) what your skill level is when it comes to web design/development
If you are primarily a web applications developer then running an off the shelf product or using blatantly using DreamWeaver to develop it may not be so smart -- or maybe your clients aren't adept enough to notice?
Likewise if you're primarily a web designer then it is probably a good idea to design your own website.
I've toyed with this idea in the past but I don't think it's really a good idea for a number of reasons. Firstly, there are a number of places that can take care of most of this without you needing to do the work or maintenance. Just signing up for a linkedIn account for example will allow you to get most of your needs catered for in this regard. You can create your resume there and bio information etc and make it publicly viewable. The other issue with your "own site" is that if you don't update it often, the information gets stale, and worse yet, people have no reason to go back because "nothing has changed" - and that's not much of an advert for you is it?
Now that I've said all that, I'll make another recommendation. Why not start a blog instead?! If you've got decent experience, why not share that. I'd be willing to bet that this will be the best advert for your skills because:
Best of all - you can run your blog from your chosen domain and also point to your resume that is stored in linkedIn. Just an idea...
That's my two pennys worth on that - hope it helps you come to a decision!
I don't think it matters if your site is blatantly using a framework or other "generic" solution. The real question is "is it done well, with taste?" If you are using an out of the box solution, you should take the time and pay attention to details when customizing it as if you were creating it from scratch.
Alternatively, if you're looking for a great learning experience and something to spend a lot of your free time on -- write it yourself. But know that you are re-inventing the wheel, and embrace it.
A recent post from 37Signals, Gearheads don't get it, really sums up a good point about not focusing on the technical details, but "content and community".
Just as a side question and following up on my 'ego trip' comment: why would you take anything on the web to be 'true'? IME printed submissions, while not necessarily accurate, tend to be slightly less, erm... exaggerated than web submissions.
Do those responding\viewing ever hire? I wouldn't google for a candidate. I might ego surf for a respondent, but would ignore CVs.
Rounding back to the OP, I would suggest that you need to SHOW what you're good at - participate in Open Source projects and POST on their forums, link to projects you can post details of and generally try to show what a Good Employee you could be. Just telling me that you're good at [insert latest trend here] means diddly.
Here's what I did (or am currently doing). First, use an out of the box solution to begin with. In my case, I used BlogEngine.NET, which was open source and easy to set up. This allows me to put content on my site as fast as possible. Now, I can continue to use BlogEngine.NET, and skin my site to give it more personality or I can start rolling out my own solution. However, I haven't found a requirement yet that would give me a reason to waste time building my own solution. Odds are you probably won't either.
I have come to see that the best way to advertise yourself is to put quality content out there. If you write about the technology that you have experience in, maybe create a few tutorials, and if you do all that often enough, that shows some authority in your chosen field of work.
This alone is one of the best advertisements. However, you also want to show passion. And online, that can be shown through how meticulously your site is done (it doesn't have to be a super great UI or something), but it should be neat, clean, and professional. It doesn't matter if its out of the box, or custom designed.
Either way, you will have to work hard to make it look good.
For a simpler portfolio site, Wordpress might meet your needs.
You can set up 'static' Wordpress pages for contact information, various portfolios, a resume, etc. This would also give you a blog if you want to do this.
Wordpress does give you the flexibility to "hide" the blogging part of it and use it basically as a simpler CMS. For example, your root URL of example.com could point to a WP static page, while example.com/blog would be the actual blog pages.
If you self-host Wordpress on your own domain (which I really would recommend instead of going through wordpress.com), it should be trivial to set up a few subdomains for extra content. For example, downloads.example.com could host the actual downloads for projects you've developed linked from the Wordpress portfolio pages. Similarly, if you're doing a lot of web work, a subdomain like lab.example.com or samples.example.com could then host various static (or dynamic) pages where you show off sandboxed pages that are not under the control of Wordpress.
Keep in mind though that you'll want to make your page look good. A sloppy looking site can scare away potential clients, even if you are not looking to do any web work for them.
A nice looking, default, off the shelf, complete website could be more impressive than a poorly done, broken, tacked together, incomplete website. Perhaps start with something "off the shelf" but nice looking, keep it simple, professional, and then eventually add more custom functionality, style and content. Potential employers may like to see that you are capable of reusing tried and trued solutions instead of trying to create everything from scratch without a good reason. Or you could spend time combining great components into something even better than the sum of the parts, as Jeff Atwood talks about extensively in the Stack Overflow podcasts. Stack Overflow is a good example of writing lots of custom code, but combining that with some of the best Web 2.0 technologies/widgets/etc. into something coherent, instead of trying to prove that they could implement x/y/z from scratch.
(On the other hand, it's really fun to build your own login system, blog, or photo gallery. If you really enjoy it and you want to learn a lot or create something new and different, then go for it!)
Reinventing the wheel is not such a great idea when you are building a personal site. Building your own CMS is fun, and to some degree is something to brag about, but not so much features you won't have the time to build and all the security holes that you won't have the time to fix.
It's much better to pick a good, well-established engine, build a custom theme, and contribute a module or two to it: you'll be writing code that you can show off as a code sample and at the same time creating something useful.
Knowing your way around an open source CMS is a good skill in just about any job: when your boss says - hey, we need a three pager site for client/product/person X in 10 hours, you can say - no problem.