For several months I’ve been working on a web and graphic design portfolio, and as of last night I made just enough revisions and updates to make my portfolio … LIVE-worthy.
But it still needs work.
A web portfolio—just like any other website—will require maintenance, optimization, and constant revising as technology continues to advance for years to come. Mobile screens will shrink, desktop monitors will grow fifty times larger—not that I anticipate having to prepare my portfolio for that kind of advancement. Just imagine the screen resolution.
I’ve come a long way from where I started over a year ago, when I couldn’t code an un-styled HTML web page without the Adobe Dreamweaver CC textbook propped open in my lap. Now I can build web pages faster than I can write blog posts (true story), textbook not included. Despite how far I’ve come since my amateurish beginnings, working on my professional web portfolio has taught me many things about who I am as a designer and what I want to get out of presenting my work to the public.
You only want to show your BEST work
When you’re just starting out in anything creative, you’re going to have more duds than gems to showcase to people. In other words, you shouldn’t be uploading every single thing you ever designed, illustrated, or Photoshopped to your website for the whole world to see. Your portfolio is a visual representation of your skills at their finest, and if you present only your best work, you’ll be confident enough to discuss project details with potential employers and clients.
Know what kind of content you want in your portfolio
You didn’t think you were going to upload all of your best work, did you? Obviously you’re going to add new and exciting content later on in your design career, but in the beginning you should know exactly what’s going to be front and center once visitors land on the home page of your portfolio. Don’t overload your portfolio with so many “unlike” pieces that there isn’t a semblance of a common theme involved. Narrow your choices and categorize them based on the industries you’re seeking job opportunities in (graphic design, web design, a combination of both). Right now my portfolio has six pieces of content, and that’s mainly because they’re my strongest pieces to date. However, I only had three pieces of content for several weeks before yesterday. I blame lack of planning on my part, so trust me, figure out what you’re going to feature on your website before you start coding. It’ll save you time and hardship in the long-run.
Navigation is EVERYTHING
Nothing turns away an online user faster than poor site navigation. Perhaps nothing frustrates a fledging designer more than navigation that won’t cooperate, but it’s imperative that your web portfolio is smooth and functional with every click and toggle. If navigation isn’t your strong suit, then you’re going to need to practice. When in doubt, keep things simple. Fancy animations and flashy web graphics not required.
People LOVE images
This seems like a given, right? How else are you going to present your designs but with images? Well, speaking from very recent personal experience, the screenshot images I’m using as previews for my website designs look considerably weaker compared to my graphic design pieces, which didn’t require screenshots because they’re the designs themselves. I assume I’ll need to create different images in Photoshop or Illustrator, but I mention this situation because online users love to look at images, and if you think bad site navigation turns users off, imagine what poorly optimized photos will do.
Add a little personality (or A LOT)
Did you know the ‘p’ in portfolio actually stands for “personality” ? Out of the dozens of designer portfolios I’ve seen and been inspired by, every single one of them has the exact same element in common: the designer’s personality. It’s in the language used throughout the portfolio. It’s embedded in the website’s layout. Even the “About Me” section is unique to every designer. To stand out among the hundreds of thousands of designers on the Web, allow your personality to become part of your brand. Find a way to work your qualities and interests into the look, feel, and tone of your portfolio.
Hopefully what I learned from working on my portfolio will help you prepare for your own, whether you’re just getting started or wrapping things up. Until next time, good luck, and don’t forget to check out the website I’ll be updating every other day for as long as I live.