Starting with this simple question “why” should help you arrive at a very clear purpose for your portfolio. Are you:
- trying to land a full time design job?
- wanting to get contracted for more work?
- working to get into school?
- sharing your passions as a website designer?
The theory “If it aint broken don’t fix it” is a horrible way to look at design in general, but especially a bad attitude towards your web design portfolio. Remember if you are in the beginning stages of your design portfolio or an old pro, like Back40 Design Group planning our web portfolio redesign, be assured you can always make it better.
Who00o are you?
If you have asked yourself “why” you may want or need a web design portfolio chances are you have begun to evaluate who you are. Knowing yourself, your brand, and what makes you–you as a company will help you find clear direction to accurately communicate this through your portfolio. As a freelance web designer you will often rely solely on your portfolio to draw potential clients in through sharing a sense of who you are, the type of work you do, and the quality of your work.
Know thyself! Every brand has a personality, image, and presence. It’s important to do research on your brand from an outsider’s perspective like Back40 Design did because often times others do not see you as you see yourself. Considering who you are can help you set goals, establish the right identity, and make sure your portfolio is perceived as you wish.
Function before form.
Now that you are thinking it is time to start planning. Fail to plan, plan to fail. Like any full website design you need to plan for function. Make a list of things that need to happen:
- view body of work
- find project facts, links, and details
- flow and advance to next
- action step to contact you
It is important for your web design portfolio to be as user friendly as possible. You have seen your work a million times, but your portfolio is not for you! Be strategic with the way you arrange your designs, how you link from one piece to the next, and what’s next for the visitor? View. Find. Flow. Action!
Meat and potatoes!
So think about the body of work you are going to present. Show your best of the best. Quality over quantity. Stop trying to look like a web design company or a freelance designer on steroids! You don’t need to show every single design you have done dating back to web 1.0. Be deliberate with the work you show by only using pieces that relate to the reason you are creating your portfolio in the first place. If you currently have a web design portfolio go through your body of work and cut the following:
- old skill level
- low quality
- unnecessary bulk
Good designers and even great design companies do bad work. Your designs can start out as portfolio quality, but by the time the final web design is done you may not be 100% proud of the work. Maybe your client has forced you to make bad design decisions or you lost control of the project due to “design by committee”. Make your client happy, let go, and simply do not place the less than desirable work on your portfolio after completion. It is better to show few web designs than tons of mediocre work. Showing quality work will attract quality clients, impress your peers, and communicate who you really are.
Having a skinnier body of amazing work will also give you the opportunity to share valuable details with visitors who wish to find out more about each project. Sharing details and additional views of your projects on your web design portfolio will:
- give you opportunities for SEO focused writing
- add credibility through links and project specifications
- help you communicate what problems you solved for your client
- how you have made the client successful
If you have all the meat and potatoes without the gravy you are doing your portfolio a disservice.
Personality and passion present?
After selecting the very best web designs for your portfolio start to narrow them down by considering your passions and personality. If you want to design for websites in a specific market you need to show various web designs that relate to that market.
Don’t be afraid to show off personal work in your web design portfolio. Most people appreciate a designer who loves their craft so much they do work outside of their paying gigs. Showing personal or internal work can also give you opportunities to share your passions as a web designer and business.
Be consistent and direct with the personality in your web design portfolio. After you slim down to your best work and shape the personality of your portfolio through your passions I would advise only showing 6-12 web designs.
Are you valid?
I don’t code, but I do know the importance of valid code. As a web designer you are expected to work on a clean grid, use web safe fonts or color, build a clean design file, double check your work, and more so that your final design is professional. You should develop or expect your web developer to work as neat and tidy as you, but in code!
Most people will never know if your code is sloppy or not, but those who do will care. Valid code is a sign of professionalism, makes maintenance easier, and should be common consistent practice even in your web portfolio.
Fuel the fire.
Now that you have your web portfolio planned, refined, and assembled it’s time to get visitors. There are lots of ways to get traffic moving on your web design portfolio, but here is a basic list of ideas:
- interact with other designers and comment on blogs
- get out in the community so people want to research your work
- volunteer to write for a blog for an online publication or design organization for exposure
- get with your peers and start collaborations for bigger projects in new circles
- submit your work to web design galleries
Study to reposition.
I consider all websites to be living. You always want them to be growing and improving. Don’t forget to look at the website analytics on your web design portfolio. See what is working and what is not. See what visitors are looking at the most and find out who they are. There is nothing wrong with surveying your portfolio and then repositioning. Be as alive as your work. Always try to improve.