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B-san's Blog

The work and life of a Community Education Manager in Japan

Figuring Out “Portfolios”

Hi all! I’ve taken a little time off WordPress.com forum volunteering and blogging this week. But I’m still here! I sent my application in and so I have been using this interval to catch up on other non-Automattic related responsibilities I have.

But today, I decided to look into a WordPress.com feature I have been puzzled about – Portfolios. I went and played around with it in my test site to see how it works. By following the support documentation, I was able to use it. But it didn’t help me understand it. And if I’m going to be a Happiness Engineer for WordPress.com, then I want to make sure I understand it. So I went digging around a bit more for some extra information.

What Are Portfolios?

To be honest, I had never encountered the word before until I saw it on WordPress.com. So, naturally, I thought it must be WP.com lingo for something. I checked the WP.com lingo page… Nope, not there… Next, I look up the Portfolio support page. This is how the page starts off…

If you’re hoping to use your WordPress.com site to show off your portfolio separate from your blog posts and pages, the Portfolio content type will let you manage all your portfolio projects in one place. It also gives you a number of different ways to display them on your site.

Here, they talk as if portfolio is common English and everyone is supposed to know about it! So I look it up in a dictionary and, duh, there it is??

  1.  a hinged cover or flexible case for carrying loose papers, pictures, or pamphlets
  2. a set of pictures (such as drawings or photographs) usually bound in book form or loose in a folder
  3. a selection of a student’s work (such as papers and tests) compiled over a period of time and used for assessing performance or progress

From Merriam-Webster.com

Looking around, it seems definition 4 is the closest to what WP.com means when they use the word Portfolio. It is a way for people to file, manage and display their work online. By keeping their Portfolios separate to Posts and Pages, users can keep their site content organized. I guess this leads to easier editing and navigating of a site.

But Why Not Just Use Posts and Pages?

I can see there would be a large community of bloggers who would have projects to display on their site. I personally don’t have anything right now. That is why I made my dummy portfolios on my test site, not this site. I wanted to keep the content of this site meaningful.

But why should one use yet another posting format to put information on their site? Wouldn’t pages have sufficed? From a technical point of view, how are portfolios different from posts or pages? These were some questions I still had running around my mind even after reading the WP.com support documentation.

I did a Google check which eventually lead me to this page >> WordPress Custom Post Types. It’s a page in a user guide for a service called Toolset, offered by OnTheGoSystems for self-hosted WordPress sites. This explanation cleared my understanding and I am now 200% more comfortable with Portfolios! So if you are interested in the technical side of Custom Posts and Portfolios, I definitely recommend you give it a read.

While Posts and Pages are the fundamental building blocks, WordPress also offers the functionality of creating your own post type in addition to these two. Basically, Custom Posts are Posts. But you can turn on/off different components of the post, customizing the creating/editing experience of posts. For example, if you have multiple people creating articles for a site, it can be hard to maintain a consistency in post details and format. By creating Custom Post styles on your site, you can guide authors to always include some elements in your posts, while restricting other aspects, too.

Custom Posts also allows for a customized viewing experiences, too. By adding PHP code, you can make different post types appear differently to viewers. By adding hierarchy and/or taxonomy to custom post types, you can make navigating you site content easier for both editors and viewers. Overall, if your site content is extensive and diverse, then there are huge benefits in utilizing custom posts.

Portfolios are Custom Posts

The conclusion I reached was, Portfolios are a Custom Post type created by Automattic for WordPress.com users. Automattic has no doubt studied their users and seen what sort of demand there are for custom post types. Portfolios are very similar to posts because they share the same essence. They are a refined post type, designed for a specific user group and goal.

In my study, I realised Testimonials are probably a custom post type, too. So that got me wondering “Are there any other custom post types I’m missing?” That’s when I decided to do a search in the support forums for the query “Custom Post”.

And who would have guessed? There IS a support page for custom post types! Wow! It was very short, but it assured me that the conclusion I had reached on my own was correct. Take a look…


WordPress is constantly changing, and so is WordPress.com. Even in the editor right now, I see they have changed it in the last few days so that you now see and edit your post in the font you chose in your customizer. This is a nice touch, making the post I edit just a little more similar to the final product I will publish.

At the moment, WP.com only offers two types of custom posts. But no doubt this will grow as they continue to study their users and WordPress continues to gain prominence on the Internet. I am happy about my investigation today! And if you were stumped about Portfolios, too, then I hope this post has helped you.

Thanks for reading! 🙂

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