The situation:

I worked freelance from high school as a "web designer" (I'd label myself a front end developer now) for a bad client. Not good, not a client from hell, but overall, it was a bad time. I spent 9 years embedded in this site only to have a situation arise where I needed to move away from the place I lived to the place I live now and pretty much lost all proof that I did work on this website. Add insult to injury, the site is now GONE except for traces of it existing on the Wayback Machine.

I'm trying to find work now and I've created a small portfolio site to recover and rebuild, but the question is what do I do about this experience with the client? Do I use it? Do I drop it? Am I lugging around 9 years of dead weight or can I salvage the situation somehow?

Edit: I forgot to mention that when I lost all proof, I meant the package briefs regarding the work. I have some emailed briefs, but they might not be enough.

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    Surely you can talk at length about that project to demonstrate your competency and prove that it was a legitimate project? What kind of proof do you need? Do you have no screenshots at all that show your work, even from an archive? – Lilienthal Feb 24 '16 at 0:05
  • The screenshot would more than likely consist of the opening splash pages from the archive. The rest is broken links from the archive - they were running the e107 content management system for the whole while before the site went under, and the archive didn't even manage to capture a snapshot of the CMS index page. – C. Charette Feb 24 '16 at 0:40

Don't leave a 9 year gap in your resume for any reason. Do you want people to assume you were unemployable? In prison? In a coma?

As a front-end developer, the portfolio is only part of your resume. You'll also be expected to show proficiency with front-end tools, best practices, and workflows. For the portfolio, there's no reason to emphasize that the relationship went sour. All that matters is that the work is no longer available to you. It's fairly common for businesses to go under, so a missing website doesn't raise any red flags. If you can talk to the talk about functionality, and show your design skills in another way, you don't need to worry. If the issue is raised in an interview, volunteer the archive links to show what has been salvaged--and then steer the conversation back to your front-end skills.

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    +1 for a very detailed and professional answer that fully addresses the OP's concerns. – Old_Lamplighter Feb 24 '16 at 15:36

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