A Weekend with Cargo Collective

Posted by Alex

Cargo is a terrific web publishing platform built with creatives in mind. Like many content management systems (Squarespace, Indexhibit, Joomla etc), Cargo provides a backend that allows you to quickly publish and maintain a website without ever opening Dreamweaver. What distinguishes Cargo is a focus on simple and effective design. Consistent in all Cargo templates is a layout that is clear and simple; allowing the work to speak for itself without a complicated interface getting in the way.

Cargo evolved out of the system that runs the SpaceCollective community. We found it remarkably successful and efficient in creating visual content on the web, placing a strong emphasis on design, layout, image quality and typography. Our goal is to dramatically increase the accessibility and exposure of creative individuals on the Internet, while aspiring to build a networked context that will contribute to the culture as a whole.Cargo Collective.

Noteworthy Features
– Free hosting with the ability to set up a custom URL. This is awesome. I have also played around with Squarespace, but their hosting costs are a little frightening — especially if you are also paying URL registration on top of that.

– Multiple template designs to build off. Each one starts with a great layout and it’s really easy to apply your own brand. Simple manipulations of color, font, and header images etc quickly distinguish your site from the skeleton template.

– Follow feature, similar to Tumblr or Twitter — allows you to keep tabs on your favorite Cargo pages.

– Developer forum. I had a small issue which I posted to the forum — received a response within 3 hours. Not bad!

– Slideshow and Fullscreen features for viewing images. This is exceptionally easy to incorporate (just a matter of clicking the buttons) and is a really great feature. Works flawlessly and adds an extra touch of unique functionality.

My Experience

I spent the last few days migrating my portfolio to the Cargo system. I had done a lot of the preparation work a while ago, when I put a portfolio up on Behance, so I didn’t have to spend too long sourcing my images and writing description paragraphs. I was thrilled to be moving to a more personalized portfolio space — as much as I love Behance, sometimes it can feel a little too much like a design Myspace.

The set up process was quick, easy, and remarkably enjoyable. All in all I would say it took about 6-8 hours from start to finish. Most of this time was spent designing the look and feel after the content was uploaded. Once I got familiar with the CSS at work, it was just a matter of figuring out exactly how I wanted to look — altering fonts sizes, small layout tweaks, and making sure everything worked properly. I only hit one or two speed bumps, all easily solved by a quick Google search.

I think it’s important to note that I am not a “web guy” by any stretch of the imagination — if I can handle it, this is a good sign for anyone intimidated by the words “CSS” or “target blank”. Having a basic understanding of CSS/HTML helps, especially if you are planning on tweaking the template significantly, but it is not completely necessary. Even with my limited knowledge, I was able to make the adjustments necessary to create a site I am happy with. As mentioned, the important part of a site like this is the work, and I didn’t really feel like I needed to brand the site too extensively.

As of now, Cargo is in the pre-release stage. I am really excited to see how this system evolves as more and more people get involved. I would highly recommend it to anyone debating which CMS to choose. If you would like to apply for an account, use the contact address on the website.

Favorite Cargo Sites
but does it float
superfamous studios (aka Folkert Gorter)
The Office of Feltron
Jory Dayne

31 Comments Leave A Comment


Panos says:

August 31, 2009 at 3:08 am

Hey Alex, great to see you on Cargo. I agree it is a fantastic platform that really took away all the difficulties of keeping a web space alive and put a great focus on our work. I have been using it for some time now and I can recommend it to everyone!

Your work is ultra inspiring so please keep us updated!

See you around!


Dave Eunson says:

August 31, 2009 at 5:22 am

Cargo is indeed a great platform, but I find one of its biggest flaws is the incompatibility with older versions of internet explorer. I know, I know, who cares less about people who are using these browsers anyway, but it’s quite frustrating if you work for a company that refuses to update theirs. If they could provide some kind of style sheet that would at least provide a simplified version of the site for old versions of IE, I think that would put Cargo one above the other platforms such as Indexhibit.

Really liking your work Alex, cheers,



greg says:

August 31, 2009 at 7:59 am

I’m also using Cargo for my portfolio site at the moment. Very happy with it, super-easy to set up and update. They deserve a medal.


Lydia says:

August 31, 2009 at 9:00 am

I think you may have touched on this in another post, but what’s the main difference between Cargo and Indexhibit (if any)? I played around with Indexhibit a while back and liked it, but not quite enough to take me away from a completey custom coded portfolio. Both of the templates and navigation seem similar, so is one of them more reliable/efficient/pretty? :)

I also see that you have to “apply” for an account with Cargo. What’s up with that? Indexhibit is a free download.

ps- your portfolio is filled with awesome work. congrats!


Brian says:

August 31, 2009 at 9:05 am

I’m on cargo, and so far I would have to agree that I love it. It varies from the basic Indexhibit and adds much more style, with great scripting as well. For those of us who are not web designers, it is a great choice for more of a ‘custom’ looking site.


effixx says:

August 31, 2009 at 10:59 am

Lydia –

The main difference is the social aspect of it. Part of the functionality is that you’re able to “follow” (subscribe) to other Cargo users’ folios and so there’s kind of a community vibe built right into it. If you’re familiar with Space Collective it’ll make more sense, there’s sort of an exclusivity happening there that they’ve fostered and carried into the Cargo user base. I’m pretty sure there are logistical reasons why they’ve limited accounts to request only (to control the number of users they’re hosting on the network while it’s in beta) but I think that having to request an account attracts folks that are genuinely interested in the community aspect.

Indexhibit is distributed sofware that you have to install on your own (though the forums are helpful) – so you may have to have some technical prowess to get it running on your host.


Mbithi says:

August 31, 2009 at 3:04 pm

Not to speak on the merits of Cargo, but I’m currently building my portfolio on Core which isn’t bad either.

Any comments on Core?


Lydia says:

August 31, 2009 at 3:42 pm

That’s neat about the social aspect, effixx. Didn’t realize you could follow others, etc.

I can see how Cargo lends itself to print portfolios and photography, since a portfolio containing websites might be more customized in some cases. Cargo definitely has a slick look, and it’s nice to hear from Brian how easy it is to install. Might have to give it a go at some point.


Mbithi says:

August 31, 2009 at 3:48 pm

@effixx –

Well Core is another CMS developed by a single man named Simon J(don’t actually know his second name). It’s still a young cms(only on version 1.2) and a personal project of his which he has designed alone – developing, bug-testing, marketing everything by himself and because of that alone I personally think he deserves an insane amount of credit for what he as been able to achieve.

I highly recommend using it for whatever your reasons may have; be they developing a new website, looking for an alternative or just curiosity. Check it out for yourself though. Feel free to check out some of the users before though,

Oh, and you host it on your own server.

I’d love to know what you think in comparison with Cargo.


philip says:

August 31, 2009 at 5:04 pm

I used indexhibit until I forgot to renew my host and was left without anything. The beauty of Cargo is that it takes care of that for you. No more hosting or bandwidth costs and it integrates nicely with the rest of the Cargo community.

The great news is that they have quite a list of features planned for the next update, especially in terms of customisation.


LUIS says:

August 31, 2009 at 5:32 pm

Fantastic tip about cargo, your portfolio is great man!!
and your cover songs too, im a singer too!
good luck and soon i think i will have my cargo account too

and i must say that it is my favorite blog, great desings, and scott designs are really trully WONDERFUL.. sorry by my english cos im from peru in the other side of America.




NAVIS says:

August 31, 2009 at 9:04 pm

I’m going to check out this Cargo site out you speak so highly of.

I’d be completely happy with never opening up Dreamweaver ever again. I hate my site right now and is a pain in the ass to update. Which it’s in dire need of. So if this Cargo suits my needs better – I’ll be on bored.


effixx says:

August 31, 2009 at 9:22 pm

Tim –

Out of all the things mentioned above, Cargo is the only hosted solution that you don’t actually have to ever install on your own host/server space yet you can point your URL to it so you can still use or whatnot and it’ll display your cargo site.

It does all the hard work for you, you just populate it with projects and pages. It has a few options for the presentation of work (ie, inline slideshows or lists) and like philip said… they’ve got even more customization options coming up in the next version.

Design-wise I’m not 100% comfortable with the whole homogenized experience of looking at everybody’s work in the same framework but shit… if I could customize the look and layout even more than is currently an option I would start using mine a little bit more.

At any rate, highly recommended if you don’t wanna have to fuck with manual updates to some shitty CMS or if a blog doesn’t lend itself to what you’re trying to do.


NAVIS says:

September 1, 2009 at 2:16 am

I guess one huuuuuge problem for me is that I’m insatiable when it comes to my own websites. When I get back to the states this week, I’m going to see what Cargo has to offer. If it’s not what I’m looking for, I have one last idea for my portfolio before I just say fuck it and have someone else make one for me.

If I could have everyone look at my work on a 10′ by 20′ wall, that’s how I would present my work. But, sadly, I can’t do that (yet). My biggest problem is that so much is changing so fast that I can’t keep up with it all. It becomes daunting/tiring after awhile and I lose focus on what’s important for my site. Anyone interested in helping me rebuild my portfolio into something respectable looking? Email me if you are!

timnavis at gmail.

PS: McLovin the new site Alex!


philip says:

September 1, 2009 at 7:06 am

Actually, I find the design of a Cargo website very customisable. Using css you can basically make it look like no other site on the Cargo network. Of course you need to know your way around css but it’s a fairly easy process.


effixx says:

September 1, 2009 at 8:24 am


that’s rad, admittedly I haven’t dug into the css for the cargo templates yet but will soon because I’m going to be putting together a photo/video/motion site for myself in the fall.

– ant


alex says:

September 1, 2009 at 9:37 am

I agree, you can definitely customize Cargo to the point of no recognition if you want to using the CSS. Honestly I think the reason most people don’t end up changing things around too much is because the templates provided are just so good. From a purely objective perspective, evaluating just the layout and ease of use, the Cargo templates are pretty darn good.

Navis – I hear you that things are changing so fast. That was actually one of the reasons I decided to try out Cargo. As I mentioned, the whole process took less than a day to complete, approx 6-8 hours total. This is insane. And a welcome contrast to spending months in the depths of Dreamweaver or Flash. Of course the latter has obvious benefits too, but if speed is a priority (as the nature of today’s changing landscape makes it) than Cargo has you covered there.

effixx – I am also a little concerned about having a site that looks and works a lot like many other users. The site I ended up building is not too far removed from the template version, and thus clearly runs the risk of looking like many other Cargo peoples. In the end, I was OK with this because A) it beat the hell out of my old website B) I will tweak it over time to be more and more personalized.

Mbithi – I have seen Core before but have never used it personally. Amazing that it’s developed by one person! Insane! Scares me a little from a technical support standpoint though..


Brian says:

September 1, 2009 at 9:56 am

I think everyone has made good points. But I think a lot of the reason most people have not ventured too far from the templates, is because of time. I fooled around with building my own site for well over a year. I tweaked things here and there, didn’t like it and started over. I finally came to terms with the fact that I just need to have something up with content. So I joined Cargo.

The thing I think most of us designers forget about is, the people who look at our work to hire us, probably don’t ultimately care about the site design, as long as it is clear, simple, and easy. They are looking for content. Unless of course you are a web designer. Cargo is for those of us whom do not have the time to fool around with building a site.

I’ve looked at Core, but did not install it on my server. It seemed to lack some of the fantastic scripting that Cargo has. Plus, they are obviously trying to copy Cargo, which annoys me. The features that grabbed me with Cargo, are the slides hows (which are ridiculously easy to set up) and the full screen feature for the images. You can go to my site if you want to see an example of both.


alex says:

September 1, 2009 at 10:20 am

Brian – Excellent points. I updated the post to include the Slideshow and Fullscreen features in the “noteworthy” section above. It really is amazing how easy it is to set up either feature.

As cool as the Slideshow feature is, I held off implementing it on my site because I was worried that, on a project with more than say 20+ images, people wouldn’t get to the end of the slideshow and the last images would rarely get viewed. Keeping them all on one page seemed like a way to increase the chances that people would view the whole project (under the assumption that a quick downward scroll is easier and faster than clicking 20+ times).

That said, I love how clean incorporating the slideshow feature keeps each individual page. Definitely something to be said for having each project take up the same amount of screen space. I go back and forth on whether or not to implement it. Right now, I’ve left it out, but it’s a great feature regardless.


Garvin says:

September 1, 2009 at 1:39 pm

Very cool site. I e-mailed them for a try out and pretty much got an instantaneous e-mail with instructions. So far I have just been playing around with stuff and formating it so that it’s conducive to the template’s settings, but this is a pretty site for an illustrator that struggles with code. Thanks for the suggestion


David Boni says:

September 1, 2009 at 9:15 pm

Nice post, Alex, and an impressive Cargo site you’ve got there.

One thing that should be clarified: Cargo will not be free (as far as I know), but it will be extremely affordable. It’s currently in beta and pricing hasn’t been nailed down yet. I am thinking that it will not be more than Flickr Pro (which is like $25~$30 per year, yes?). That’s insane. Currently, all I am paying for is my domain name hooked up with Google Apps ($10 a year). Think about it: $40 a year—give or take—for a very functional and absolutely professional web portfolio/blog/site is amazing.

Cargo will not be released as a stand-alone CMS like WordPress. But why should it be? Servers are ultimately way more expensive and I haven’t seen Cargo go down once. I could only justify having personal web hosting if I was very dependent on Flash or complex scripts. But I’m not.

I’m an administrator on the Cargo Development Forum and I mainly help out with troubleshooting and support there. I can tell you how nice it is to have such a solid platform to work off of, and everyday I see new and different “hacks” people have made to their Cargo sites to add more functionality.

Though I agree with Brian—I could endlessly tweak my site’s layout and aesthetics, but what Cargo’s so good at is enabling one to pump out content in a clear and concise manner without fussing about the picture’s frame too much, so to speak.


Rent says:

September 1, 2009 at 10:09 pm

also got myself an account and have been messing around with it for the past couple of days. its usability and simplicity in customizing is really great and not too hard to understand, as Alex stated. thanks for the post though Alex. I’m excited to get more projects up and progress things a bit more.


wivs says:

September 25, 2009 at 6:15 am

The cargo site looks really interesting, the ability to play around with the templates is also an added bonus. Does anyone know how long it takes to receive a reply and do you need to send them work samples or links?


Ilene says:

March 4, 2010 at 8:31 am

I am new to cargo collective. I have a cargo account, but am lost when it comes to where you find these easy to use templates that you mentioned about. I have a design background and have built my own site from scratch (but hard to upload and change work) so am looking for something that is easy and simple. How do I get started with finding these templates and creating my site?

What am I missing?

Any help would be GREATLY appreciated!


QLStephen says:

September 16, 2010 at 9:39 pm

Статьи мне понравились, буду постоянным читателем
с нетерпением жду новых публикаций!


Andreas says:

November 5, 2010 at 4:55 am

I’ve got a cargo account for a while now. btw i’ve just found a nice WordPress theme that does almost all the tricks cargo does:

check it out here: htttp://