How do You Create a Great Portfolio?

Every day I pass my time browsing the depths of Forrst. No matter the date, time or occasion, there is no lack of website designs, logos, posters and visual candies for me to drool over. However, what I’ve come to find is that portfolio designs and re-designs dominate the snap and link section of the site.

Most of the portfolio snaps and links look and function great, others not as much so. This really got my curious brain thinking, what makes a truly brilliant portfolio?

Portfolios can be useful for a number of reasons. For Web Based Freelancers a portfolio can be used to present potential clients and employers with the opportunity to view their design or development skills put into practice. For others, a portfolio can just be a means of showing off the amazing work they’ve completed in past. For some a portfolio is simply there because they feel the obligation to have one, everyone else has some kind of portfolio after all.

In this article I will be concentrating on how to create a brilliant portfolio to attract, entice and seduce potential clients and/or fulltime employers.

Building the Perfect Homepage

Home PageJay La Chance tells you exactly who he is in two sentences and provides some thumbnail portfolio pictures.

Generally, your homepage is going to be the first page your user will see, so make sure your content is put first. Your homepage has a duty to sum up the contents of your website. Therefore, you should display a couple of sentences about whom you are, present couple of portfolio images, blog posts and a means of contact.

Call to Action buttons are especially handy on the homepage. You must be commanding yet caring! Communicate to your user what to do and where to go. Don’t let them have to navigate around your site like a lost child in a supermarket! Buttons such as ‘Check out my portfolio’ or ‘Get in touch’ are very useful for directing the user where to go next. A lot of potential clients/employers won’t be very “internet savvy”, so make sure your website is built with these individuals in mind.

Optimizing Your About Me Bio

About MeMeagan Fisher has written an About Me bio containing all the information a client could need/want.

What a lot of people take for granted if how useful the About Me page of a website can be for selling yourself to clients and/or future employers. An About Me page is much more than a little place to speak to world and tell them a little about who you are – it’s the perfect location for you to sell yourself to your users and therefore convert supplementary guests into clients/employers.

Largely, the About Me page of your website will either be the first or final page the typical client/employer will view. The user who reads the About Me page first (‘userone’) will be looking to swiftly find out who you are, what you do and what you have to offer. Analysing the contents of the page will assist them make up their mind whether to keep browsing your website or not. The other average user (‘user two’) will have already browsed your website and seen your work. They will be reading your ‘About Me’ page to discover additional information about you such as your qualifications and past experience.

Therefore to optimize your About Me page for ‘user’s one and two’, it is essential to answer the following questions in descending order.

  • Who am I?
  • What do I do?
  • What do I have to offer?
  • What qualifications do I possess?
  • What experience do I have?

The way people read web pages is a great deal different to the way folks read books. Most users will “skim read” your mini biography, and the average ‘user one’ will make a split second decision whether to delve deeper into your website or not. Therefore it is vital to make the About Me text short, snappy and most importantly stimulating. On the other hand, this is the perfect opportunity to directly sell yourself to the reader, so don’t hold back!

Keeping Yourself in Contact

ContactYou Know Who delivers a vintage contact form designed which however still keeps usability in mind.

As soon as the user makes up their mind whether or not they want to get in touch with you, it is a basic requirement that the must to be given the means to do so quickly. Every portfolio based website is duty-bound to have a contact page which delivers a straightforward contact form. Simply giving a potential client/employer your email address or mobile phone number is not enough! Most clients want to be able to effortlessly contact you without any added hassle, and the use of a contact form is the paramount way of doing so. The fewer steps it takes for a user to connect with you, the higher the likelihood that they will.

The contact page itself should revolve around a contact form. Every contact form should work in essence similar to sending an email in the browser. Name, email, subject line and, of course, a message should be provided with a good old search button which ought to familiarize the user with their surroundings. It’s also worth providing social links to your Twitter, Skype and Facebook accounts (if you have them) so users who want to contact you about non-business subjects can do so without sending an email.

It’s also worth constructing and including a couple of “Call to Action” buttons about your website which link directly to your contact page. This will give the user quick access to contacting you at any given time. The two most common places a user will decide whether to contact you or not are on your portfolio page and about me page, hence having a button on both is a necessity. A good deal of people also choose to have a link on their homepage too; however this is more down to personal choice than a compulsory design strategy.

Creating a Killer Portfolio

PortfolioKyee provides a range portfolio images set out in a grid design which expand when clicked upon.

Evidently your actual portfolio page is the most significant part of your website. If you have a truly great portfolio, you’ll gain a major advantage over your competitors and will also attract more/better clients.

No matter whether you’re a developer or designer, it’s by and large it’s a best practice to base your portfolio around pictures. The majority of clients/employers don’t want to instantaneously see the code you composed or the wireframes you fashioned, they want to see the end product. One of the main reasons why clients view your portfolio is to analyse if you have the ability to deliver the end product that they require. Providing them with pictures of your finished work is a great way of assisting them to do so.

However; saying all that, creating a portfolio merely consisting of images is not the way forward. Employers in particular will also want to become acquainted with the projects you’ve worked on in the past, and will be furthermore be concerned with the processes you went through to get to the final stage. Case studies are a great way of selling yourself to both potential clients and employers. Let the user get to know all the comprehensive phases you go through in your work, this is yet another way for a client/employer to judge whether you are virtuous enough to work for them or their company.

Statistics and facts are another brilliant way of seducing potential clients. If your graphical portfolio isn’t enough, telling the user that the last site you re-designed had an email subscription surge, after your re-design, of 150% will! Tell the client/employer they want to hear! Money, success and conversions typically do the trick!

There are likewise other worthwhile elements which you can choose include within your portfolio website. If you’re a designer, links to the websites/interfaces you’ve created can be very beneficial to the user as it allows them to thoroughly judge your work in depth. Testimonials are also a fantastic way of selling yourself to the user for reasons I’m sure you’ll already know.

Reaping the Benefits With a Blog

BlogElliot Jay Stocks runs a popular blog focusing mainly on Web Design and Typography.

Having a blog on (or linked to) your portfolio website can be a lot more beneficial and useful than just merely sharing your thoughts and opinions with your peers within the Web Design/Development community.

First of all a blog can be a great way of bringing traffic to your website and building a positive standing within your industry. Truly amazing blog posts will generally get reposted/linked to on Facebook and Twitter, which will bring yet more traffic to your site. The individuals (normally fellow designers/developers) who arrive may not be the correct sort of users you would like to draw, however they will aid you in boosting your Google ranking (aka – your website will appear higher up the page when searched on Google) and help make your blog more popular which comes in hand with many other added benefits.

Having a widespread blog is a great way to establish yourself as an expert of a certain subject or within a certain industry. After all, the author of an enormously popular blog can’t be a complete novice; otherwise their blog wouldn’t be so popular. A blog can furthermore create new avenues which you can have the opportunity to explore. A great deal of popular blog authors (bloggers) have gone on in their lives to write successful books which have not only helped increase their expert status, reputation and publicity, but have also generated a larger income for themselves through book sales and the ability to raise their freelance prices because they’ve simply written a widely read (within their industry) book.

Designing the User Interface

User InterfaceJason Santa Maria has designed his website with the user in mind, creating a functional user interface.

If you’re a designer take into account that whilst your portfolio is a splendid way to show off your design skills, usability should take preference over design. Make certain your website is idiot proof. Devising a simple navigation bar is an obligation and employing plenty of “Call to Action” buttons within your website is a great way of guiding your user around your interface.

Another critical point to bear in mind is that most clients will only be interested in your content, and your actual website design will probably pass their minds by as long as it’s usable, “clean” and minimalistic. Make sure you design with your content in mind, make it the focus of your website. Again, if you’re a Web Designer you’ll be familiar with the term ‘Content First’. This is exactly the time and place to use the strategy/concept to fashion a more effective website.

It’s also beneficial to integrate a couple of design marketing techniques on your site. Make your logo big and bold; you want to drill your name/company name down the throats of potential clients/employers to ensure they don’t forget who you are. Linking to some of your social network accounts (if you have any) is also an extremely handy way of increasing your business network through your site and giving your consumers yet another way to contact you. Don’t give a link to your Facebook account (or other social profiles) though if it is not professional as it could seriously put off potential employers!

Finally, here’s a basic tip which goes a long way. Keep your website visually appealing; you need to make certain your users to have a pleasurable experience when browsing your site. Ensure the user experience you’ve created is nothing short of awesome by creating a responsive, usable yet simple design which also looks good on the eye. Like I cited before, your content should be put first, however this doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice your whole stunning design because of it. In particular, ensure your portfolio page is easy to navigate. Potential clients/employers shouldn’t become frustrated whilst browsing your work and the hub of your website. Including a slider within the portfolio page of your site is for the most part useful if you have plenty of gorgeous visual designs to show off.

Conclusion

Many people build their portfolio site without taking into consideration design strategy. Thinking through the elements which should make up your site before you design it is a fantastic way to create a more satisfying, effective website which will be more beneficial to you.

Remember, your portfolio should be your ultimate website, a place not only to show off your work, but yourself. Don’t be sloppy, don’t accept second best and don’t leave your content behind. Your portfolio can be the difference between success and failure in your work.

Joe

Joe is a Web Designer who loves building truly awesome websites! When he's not dabbling with design and code he loves to share and write design related content.

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2 Comments
  1. Rachael Dec 2, 12:22 pm

    I think there’s some important points made here, but of course they don’t solely apply to portfolio websites, I think what you have written about contact pages can be applied to a large majority of websites. Even if the page hasn’t got a form, I think it’s important to keep reminding people how to contact you through your site whether that’s through a contact page or not.

    I also think it’s important to consider they style of the website when you are designing a portfolio site for yourself. Whilst it’s important to show off your personality, I think it’s also important that you don’t scare people off by having something too crazy or too plain. Potential clients may consider that you don’t do the kind of work that you are looking for.

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    • Joe Dec 3, 2:56 pm

      I completely agree, many of the points I cited in the article can be applied to other websites, however a lot of them are particularly relevant when talking about portfolio design strategy.

      Furthermore, I also agree with your second point. As I wrote in my article, portfolio designs need to be based on the content first strategy, however they still need to have a visually pleasing design which provides a great user experience, even to “tech dummies”.

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