How to Create an Online Design Portfolio: The Ultimate Guide
This post was last updated on May 20, 2020.
Having a sharp online portfolio is a must for every designer. Here are seven steps to creating a website that truly expresses your unique style.
These days, a professional online presence is an absolute must for designers and creatives. An online portfolio with spot-on website design is the modern day version of a business card, a resume and a project showcase all in one. After all, it’s the go-to place for all potential clients and employers looking to hire you. And with this much at stake, a simple slideshow of past projects will hardly do the trick.
An online portfolio is no different than any other creative project. Creating a portfolio website is an opportunity to develop an amazing piece of work that shows off your skills and conveys your unique voice, while looking just as crisp and professional as any of your other pieces. With the right set of tools, you can go beyond technological constraints and artistic compromises, and build a powerful online presence.
To get you started, here’s a guide on how to create an online portfolio you’ll be proud of:
How to create an online portfolio
Gather design inspiration
Include the right content
Work on your UX
Incorporate professional features
Do your SEO homework
Optimize your design portfolio for mobile
Ask for honest feedback
01. Gather design inspiration
Just like with any creative project, the journey begins with some visual research. Whichever field of design you’re in, looking at graphic designer websites will provide you with inspiration and clue you in on the current web design trends. Generate some initial ideas for your portfolio by browsing through this collection of best portfolio websites. It’s also recommended to take a look at websites by other people in your specific creative niche or industry.
When looking through these resources, think of the vibe you want your site to convey. You can take notes or even make a mood board to accompany you in your creative process. Consider essential details like color palette, typography and site structure. Ask yourself how you imagine the flow of your portfolio, and what experience you aim to create.
How do you want visitors to move from one page to the next – by opening a menu or scrolling down for further information? Do you want your site to be a one-page website, or a gallery of fullscreen images that open up into individual pages?
When you’re ready to go, have a look at these portfolio templates for creatives. You might find something similar to the result you envision, in which case you’ll be able to customize it and make it your own. If you’d rather start from a blank canvas, you can always build your website from scratch and enjoy complete freedom to express yourself online.
02. Include the right content
Once you have a good base from which you can set off, it’s time to identify which content you want to include in your online portfolio, and how to allocate it strategically. This includes text, images and other media. Whether you're creating an industrial design portfolio, fashion portfolio or any other type of design portfolio, here are the most crucial pages and sections to include:
The entrance to the virtual home that you call your portfolio should grab your visitors’ attention with an eye-catching design.
On top of the visual aspect, your homepage is also your chance to stir the curiosity of potential clients and employers with a powerful introductory sentence. Make it short and sweet, clearly expressing who you are and what you do. There’s no need to go into your biographical details here (that’s what your ‘About’ page is for), but your name and main area of expertise are an absolute must.
Moreover, this piece of written website content can positively impact your website’s SEO (search engine optimization), helping it rank higher on Google and other search engines. While this may sound complex, you needn’t worry, as we’ve included more actionable tips below.
Your actual work is the core of your online portfolio, so make sure to showcase it in the best way possible. It should stand out and be easily reachable through the homepage and/or website menu.
Expose clients to your creativity and skill by sharing only your best work. This way, you’ll bring their attention to your strengths, and maintain a consistent level of quality throughout your portfolio.
As well as only presenting your best work, make sure to update your website every once in a while, so that you’re always sharing your most up-to-date creations. This will also show visitors that you’re active and working. When first creating an online portfolio, consider how you can build a design portfolio that is easy to update, letting you comfortably add new projects as you go.
To ensure that your work looks as impressive online as it does in real life, invest time and effort into your print and product photography. In cases when a professional photoshoot is not feasible, work with mockups to bring your visuals to life. When showcasing your images, the Wix Pro Gallery will offer you a professional look with customizable layouts and effects.
Finally, it’s helpful to add a concise written description for each project, so that visitors can get a sense for the context of your work. In certain areas of design (UX and web design), you’ll be more likely to include a full case study. In this case, take a look at other UX designer's portfolios for inspiration. Otherwise, make sure to give a short description of the project and mention your role, as well as any collaborators you worked with - an often overlooked design portfolio tip.
Highlight your professionalism with a list of respected clientele who have chosen to work with you. If any of your projects have been featured elsewhere or have received press coverage, mention that too.
You might also want to drop in a testimonial or two by satisfied clients. As long as the feedback feels genuine and not over-the-top, testimonials can add a lot of credibility to your online portfolio. Don’t miss out on this chance for some free and authentic PR.
After you’ve stunned visitors with your site, make sure they can easily contact you. Commissions won’t pop up in your inbox by some miracle, so add any of the following elements to ensure you’re reachable: a contact form, your email, phone numbers and links to your social networks.
These can be featured as part of your menu, in a dedicated contact page or as a pinned element on the side of the screen. It’s also highly recommended to repeat your contact details in your website footer, offering visitors a final invitation to get in touch.
The ‘About’ page is where you present your background and short bio, provide essential information about your activities and summarize your unique identity and values. Include any distinctive elements, such as your achievements and skills. It can also be a good idea to clarify your current employment status. Your ‘About’ page is also the place to include your design resume. You can either add it directly onto the page or as a downloadable file.
You can show off your personality with puns, smart microcopy, illustrations or anything else that feels true to you. Check out how designer and Wix user Jikun Tao added a personal touch to her online portfolio by including a googly-eyed gif and a play on typography.
Extras (but highly recommended):
When creating an online portfolio, consider whether you’d also like to utilize this space to sell your art online via an online store. Share your creations with your fans in the form of a quality art print or even a cushion cover, while making some money along the way. Create an enticing shop window with the Wix Art Store and manage your sales from your site, commission-free.
Starting a blog can be a great way to share fresh content and demonstrate your expertise, positioning you as a professional in your field. It’s also one of the best SEO tips to boost your website and help improve your ranking.
03. Work on your UX
Now that you have your content, it’s time to make all the pieces come together. There are a number of factors to take into account for creating a good user experience on your website.
Start by listing all the web pages you’ve decided to create. Then, identify which elements will need to be included on each page. For example, a project page might include a hero image, header, description, plus a few images or other media features. Listing the items on each page will let you prioritize, decide on their hierarchy and come up with a fitting website layout.
You can either sketch out your ideas on paper as wireframes, or start creating your website straight away, gradually putting elements into place.
Once you know which pages will make up your online portfolio, you’ll be able to decide on the navigation. How do you want your visitors to flow from one page to another? Will you include a hamburger menu that opens up into a fullscreen list, or a fixed menu at the top of each page? How will you indicate what page people are on? This guide shares website navigation tips and covers everything you need to take into account for a smooth browsing experience.
For more ideas, check out this collection of websites with good UX design.
04. Incorporate professional features
To craft a professional look and an engaging experience on your portfolio, see how you can seamlessly incorporate design features. From hover effects and parallax scrolling to animation and lightboxes, these finishing touches can help make your website feel alive. They can also serve as functional tools, drawing your visitors’ attention in a certain direction or generating interaction.
Another great way to make your site more dynamic and tailor it to your specific needs is using Corvid by Wix. This comprehensive web development platform lets you insert code elements into your website with various custom interactions, for richer and more professional applications. It’s an advanced yet intuitive tool that allows you to bring your most intricate visions to life.
Corvid by Wix will help make your website interactive, and simultaneously promote your service. The best part? It works perfectly with the Wix Editor, and is fully SEO compatible.
05. Do your SEO homework
What good is an online portfolio if no one gets to see it? In order for your clients to find you and book your services easily, work towards bringing your website higher up on Google search results.
Search engine optimization (SEO) is an ongoing task, concerning various elements of your site. These SEO tips are here to help, whether you’ve just started creating an online portfolio, or are working on improving your existing one. These pointers will help you get started:
Create unique, fresh and valuable written content. A good way of doing this is by writing blog posts, as they’ll give you the chance to share ideas that other designers and creatives will enjoy reading. This will also show Google (and site visitors) that you’re actively working.
Do keyword research to find the right keywords for your site. Keywords are the most commonly searched phrases on Google when people are looking for creatives such as yourself. A keyword example could be ‘silk printing artist’ or ‘Toronto web designer.’ Once you’ve done some keyword research, use these phrases in strategic places throughout your website.
Write alt text for your images. Short for alternative text, alt text is a brief description of your site’s images and photos (for example, ‘postcards and business cards for a branding project’). Writing SEO-friendly alt text can also help improve your website’s accessibility. You’re likely to have many visual elements on your online portfolio, so use this opportunity to integrate your keywords into your alt text.
Write titles and descriptions (known as metadata) for each of your design portfolio’s pages. This guide explains how to write good SEO titles that will help you rank and attract more visitors to click on your site.
Get found by people in your area using local SEO. If you’re a freelance designer with a permanent location, use local SEO to ensure that your portfolio is found by anyone searching in your particular area. Make sure to claim your business on Google My Business, register your website on relevant directors and add your location on your website’s pages.
Extra tip: If you have a Wix website, try the Wix SEO Guide. It’s a free, step-by-step plan designed to help improve your site’s SEO with a tailored checklist and helpful tips.
06. Optimize your design portfolio for mobile
People often forget about the huge amount of users who are likely to be viewing their site from a smartphone. In fact, mobile devices account for 52% of web page views worldwide. That’s why the best website designs should look just as good on mobile as they do on desktop.
One of the major challenges designers face when it comes to their online presence is ensuring that it will be mobile compatible. And since your mobile website is more than just web design made smaller, there are a few rules to keep in mind when designing for mobile.
For the small screen, you’ll want to declutter the mobile version of your site, keeping only the most crucial elements visible. Furthermore, pay attention to the fonts and colors you use and make sure they’re legible. Reduce the amount of typing required and consider adding a search bar to ease navigation.
If you’re creating your design portfolio with Wix, your site will automatically generate a mobile-friendly version, with an adaptive gallery for your images.
For full design control with custom breakpoints, Editor X is an advanced creation platform from Wix, made exclusively for designers and agencies. It will allow you to rearrange your layouts, choose what to show or hide, and tailor your design at every viewport size.
07. Ask for honest feedback
We all know the feeling of getting lost in a project until we lose sight of what it really looks like. That’s why it’s always best to run your website by a second set of eyes for some insight and fresh ideas. Hear what trusted friends have to say about your content and visuals.
Once you’ve published your design portfolio, don’t forget to share it on all of your social channels, from Pinterest to Dribbble and more. This straightforward social media marketing strategy will help you reach more potential customers, improve your SEO ranking and hear honest feedback.
Another Instagram tip for designers is to add social buttons to your site, helping visitors reach your social media profiles easily.
After you’ve got the word out, remember that your design portfolio should keep scaling to reflect your growth. There’s always another tweak to be made to make it a little better. Keep updating your site with new content and projects, implementing different features, improving the user experience and staying up-to-date with current design trends.
Text Eden Spivak and Dana Meir