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Lets say you're a web developer/programmer and you want to set up a personal portfolio site.

Unfortunately, like most people with a full time job and a family, your time is hard to come by. You make the choice to, instead of building your own site from scratch, implement something like WordPress or Drupal.

What effect (if any) might this have on people's (potential employers/fellow developers) perception of you as a developer?

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closed as primarily opinion-based by gnat, GlenH7, Bart van Ingen Schenau, Kilian Foth, MichaelT Dec 3 '13 at 16:19

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

Are you a web developer or a programmer? –  Sparr Dec 16 '10 at 22:47
@Sparr, to a lot of people web developer === programmer. Sad, but true. –  Graviton Dec 17 '10 at 1:26
@Zach Programmer has the connotation that all you do is write code (although it does make it sound general and more than just web based technologies), while developer has the connotation that you apply engineering principles to gather the requirements, design the solution, implement it, etc. Additionally a web developer sounds like he/she would make web applications while a web programmer would make web sites (there is a difference) –  Jonathan Dec 17 '10 at 2:54
@Zach Developer and programmer are the same thing. Some people think developer sounds nicer, or better describes the profession. As for the difference between "web developer" and "programmer", a web developer is specialized and may have limited or no knowledge in other areas. Or web developer can be a role filled by a general developer. –  dwc Dec 17 '10 at 3:49
I'm with Jonathan. A developer is involved in a lot more steps of the process, such as requirement gathering and usability research, than a programmer. A programmer takes a list of requirements and turns them into code. –  Sparr Dec 17 '10 at 4:36

20 Answers 20

up vote 64 down vote accepted

Personally my view would be that it's a sensible thing to do, so long as the tool you choose is appropriate for the job and well implemented (that is stable and functional).

If they want someone who is going to reinvent the wheel every time then perhaps they should look for someone who has hand coded something but generally this should be seen as a developer identifying a quick, easy and cheap solution to a problem and that is, surely, a good thing.

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This. I don't expect developers to write their own operating systems or word processors. Why would I expect them to write their own blog engine or CMS? –  RationalGeek Dec 16 '10 at 17:37
The cobbler's children had no shoes, and all that, right? –  seanmonstar Dec 16 '10 at 19:21
In addition, I myself would look for: are they running up-to-date versions, is the site professional-looking, does it appear to be maintained? Education can be provided: character traits, however, cannot. –  Michael Trausch Dec 16 '10 at 19:57
I do a lot of work in C#/ASP.NET MVC on IIS, but I also do a lot in PHP/WordPress on LAMP. I honestly like both stacks. People on both sides of the aisle think I'm crazy, but it's true: best tool for the job. And yeah, for a personal site, I definitely wouldn't reinvent the wheel. –  Rei Miyasaka Dec 17 '10 at 1:49

In my mind, a reasonable employer would look at it and say "hey, this person is not reinventing the wheel and is familiar with available options". Or they would not think anything at all and just focus on the content of your site.

If you're a developer applying for Drupal jobs, it makes perfect sense to use Drupal for your personal site. If you're applying for jobs that have you build a CMS from scratch, writing your own may be a good option or not, depending on how much relevant experience you already have.

I really wouldn't worry about it either way. Getting a site up with good content is more important than setting up the perfect framework, be it your own or someone else's.

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Lazy is the first thing that comes to my mind when I see a stock WordPress install.


Second thing. If you have good content that plays to the strength that you're focused more on that then wasting time perfecting your own version.


If you're using a stock engine it's one of two things. You're stupid or you're busy. Which of those you are can be told by what you are writing.

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+1, because all of these things are virtues in a developer. –  JSBձոգչ Dec 16 '10 at 19:58
Some people may think lazy is bad. But every agile developer shoul be lazy in terms of only developing what a user story requires and no more. No code over-engineering. +1 –  Robert Koritnik Dec 17 '10 at 7:52

There should be absolutely no negative perception -- its should be solely about the quality of the information you're putting up. As a matter of fact, I would question whether the time / investment in creating your own site is worth it unless you are a design firm or are building a site/blogging framework for others to use.

Granted, if you are trying to look for web site design work, then it is probably a good idea that your site should be a reflection of your skillset and not someone else's.

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If your site's content is intelligent and useful, no one's going to care if it's canned. I'm a professional Drupal consultant, and my personal blog is a mostly-neglected Drupal 6 install (current stable, though my work site is already going up on Drupal 7's release candidate in the next few days) with a canned theme. Nobody cares -- they know that I don't spend time on eyecandy for my blog -- I spend time on content. Even some Drupal designers I know have tremendously ugly or obviously canned-looking blogs. It's all about the content.

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shrug Look at it how you like. I'm not a graphic designer, and my blog is a fun hobby. Substance over style. (I'll admit to having none of the latter.) –  HedgeMage Dec 16 '10 at 21:33

I don't think using an off the shelf solution will count and a negative, but I think it would change my focus when reading the site.

If I came across a C++ dev's website that he had built himself using php, I would give him extra 'credit' for going out and taking the time to learning a technology. I would take the time to look at what features he had implemented and the choices he had made. It stands as an example of his work.

On the other hand, if he had just used a pre-packaged solution I would pretty much ignore it and focus on his content.

Personally my website is 95% custom code using MVC2. (My only 3rd party dependency is sharpziplib to build some zip files). That isn't because it's anything that couldn't have been done with off the shelf packages, but it's because I wanted to learn MVC and it seemed the most sensible project to undertake to help me learn it. I can honestly say my knowledge of the web and MVC has increased drastically because I made this choice.

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I think it very much depends what you are applying for.

I have to hire for HTML/CSS web developers or designers sometimes. If they have their own site, I look at the source almost straight away. Generally it would be better if they did not tell me about a personal site unless it was self-built and they were proud of it. Examples of work are what I would be there for, I might be interested in their political views or outside activities, but not in that form.

Non-web positions, well, it depends how well they have used the off-the-shelf package, and if it is any good. Choosing to use poor quality products does not bode well.

The main point in my opinion is why have a personal site? If you are self-employed, maybe, or looking for work there is a view for a portfolio to be useful. But I would rather get such information sent to me with an application than going off to a website for some presentation.

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Job references are more important!

Job references shows both your technical and personal skills.

A good employer seeks both qualities.

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I'm generally a proponent of 're-inventing the wheel', but I cant imagine anyone would care one way or the other if a developer's site used a canned system. A CMS is such a mundane system when used just for things like basic blogging that I dont see what a custom built system would really tell you about a developer. This would be especially true if the developer has other more interesting projects they can show off.

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It is a very good idea to show what you can do. If you do web frameworks, then it would be a good idea to show off those skills.

If you do anything ELSE than web frameworks then demonstrate your ability to select the best building blocks to achieve your goal! Most modern development consists of being able to do exactly this, combined with being able to write the glue, and the frosting.

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The Cobbler's Children Have No Shoes

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building your own web site from scratch for no good reason and then letting it look bad would be two strikes...if you're applying for a web-dev job

using WordPress et al is just common sense

EDIT: [thanks @Ben] a good-looking web site is more a function of graphic design and layout skills than programming. If your hand-crafted web site looks good that's certainly better than having it look bad, but it doesn't tell me anything about your programming skills. And a fancy-pants web site full of impressive gizmos may demonstrate amazing programming skill, but would likely illustrate utter cluelessness about user experience design (except for games, of course).

So while it may be fun to write your own CMS for your personal blog, it's probably not going to impress anybody.

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I think it as a more productive use of skills rather than reinventing the website, unless it is your objective to. People will not have any negative perception as long as you are providing good content and easy navigation. One can be very innovative in using standard implementations too.

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There may be an implication of endorsement or proficiency within that technology for the first effect. If I set up a WordPress or Drupal site as my personal site, there are a few implications to my mind:

  1. It is good enough to use as I'm using it. rim shot, please
  2. It is within my skill set which may or may not quite be right but there would be entries to clarify this as I may be trying to learn some new framework and using this as a grand experiment.

I would think the content may trump what is used though so that if your content is awesome, it won't matter that much what was used but it could make for a talking point in an interview to say, "I learned about WordPress by setting up my own site which I used to..." kind of thing.

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It also depends on what type of job you are applying or. I don't mean web dev vs. c++ programmer I mean the difference between Google or Facebook and a code monkey position a Bank of Uncreative. If you are applying for that top notch position the more tools you know how to use well out of your big-box-o-tools the better you are in the mind of someone that's looking for the best. It shows that you know only know how to use them you are motivated to learn them and you have the drive to do it.

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It doesn't matter how skilled the programmer is when you're only seeing the surface level. The website is simply your interface with whatever the developer chose to implement. A developer's website is meant for communication, and if it serves that purpose, then it has met the sole goal of a developer's personal site.

You're not going to know the skill of a developer based on the presentation of the data, unless the person is a JavaScript developer and left all of his logic and code client side.

A canned implementation with a default theme, doesn't mean the developer hasn't tweaked something on the back end to make it easier for him deliver content. Nor does it mean the person wouldn't make your ideal employee.

Web development on a personal site level doesn't indicate anything about knowledge, skill, or abilities, especially since any real developer will be using a server side language for the bulk of their logic. Development for a personal site is still just barely above scripting, and any technical person can do that with any number of the frameworks and languages in use today.

Whether the person rolled their own, or used someone else's doesn't indicate one way or another that they are capable of solving real problems or have any real knowledge of development work. Therefore, as everyone else has indicated, their content is much more valuable in the evaluation then the platform on which it is communicated.

The same goes with designers, check out their work and portfolio, not the platform or theme of their site.

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It depends. If I was looking to see how you build something from scratch, your use of Drupal or Wordpress would not tell me anything good or bad about you. However, it does tell me that you know how to leverage the great work done by the folks who develop Drupal and Wordpress.

Your ability to use leverage is always a good thing to show.

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It would say to me that you don't reinvent the wheel, that you work smarter rather than harder, and that you accept an existing excellent free content management system to show off your other work.

One of my colleagues (who shall remain nameless) didn't get this. It wasn't a website, but he wrote a Matlab script to check the math on his income taxes. And you know what? He did it wrong, and had to pay penalties/interest when the IRS caught the error. (Why, why, why?)

Sometimes the benefits to using someone else's solution as opposed to rolling your own far outweigh the disadvantages.

The exception to this would be if part of the portfolio you wanted to show off was a CMS. Then you might want to actually use it to implement your site.

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What you are asking is this:

Would a painter hang another artist's painting in his home?

Depends on how the personality of the painter is wished to be presented. Im not a good programmer, but I try to develop my own website, cause its so cool and i can make them really personal in a way that nothing resembles it by far far away. For me this personality thing is important, while i do appreciate other solutions, too. So the question is: would you want to express your style as a programmer with your personal website?

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This is as far from analogy as it can get. I guess that a painter would be thrilled to hang a Rembrandt in his home. GLADLY. I know I would. Your sentence actually means that pharmacists would only use their own drugs. Even if it takes them years to produce when there's something effective on the market for a buck. Same thing goes for developers. Why reinvent the wheel and go through all the bugs yourself when others have done it already. Note: Of course nobody is preventing you from personalizing your site's visuals. –  Robert Koritnik Dec 17 '10 at 7:57

From everything I've read, everyone is speaking from the view of programmers and none seem to be from actual employers.

That being said...

  • I think most employers needing your services would not care (or more importantly even notice) if you used a stock WordPress install to run your site.

  • Other developers may look at it and say, "he's lazy," but then they will realize that they don't have the time to devote to their own projects either.

I think that it's probably best to get a decent site up and running quickly with a professional looking theme and then when you get that rare off-week where you have a ton of free time, then do a complete redesign of the entire site.

That's just my 2¢

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