7 Best Tips for Creating an Online Design Portfolio
“So, tell me about yourself,” said the blank screen to the designer embarking on their portfolio website. Indeed, creating an online design portfolio comes with its share of big life questions. It’s your chance to tell the world who you are as a creative, delving into your projects, passions, experiences, and expertise - so the stakes are high for getting it right. Not to mention, it’s what gets you hired (or commissioned).
To help you make the right calls when crafting your shiny new online presence, we compiled a list of the 7 most important things to keep in mind for flaunting your work professionally - and in style:
A portfolio is just like any other design project
It’s all about the presentation
Quality over quantity
Build a website that’s easy to maintain
Don’t overlook written copy
Give credit where credit is due
Get found on Google search results
01. A portfolio is just like any other design project
A common mistake in portfolio building is to “let the work speak for itself.” But a good portfolio is more than just a showcase of your past work. Your portfolio as a whole should culminate in an experience that tells a story, just like any other of your design projects.
Try to put that story into words by deciding on the mood that you want to convey, or the feeling you wish to evoke. Search for website design inspiration, browse websites by graphic designers and other creatives whose work you like and look into top design portfolio templates, taking note of interesting ideas or web design trends that can make your portfolio stand out.
When designing your online portfolio, remember that your website is often your visitors’ first impression of you and your work. Go for an engaging and sophisticated website that speaks volumes about your design skills by applying your web design capabilities and personal sense of style.
And while it goes without saying these days, just a friendly reminder to take equal care of the mobile version of your site. Many people will view your portfolio website from their mobile phones, so make sure you've devoted time to perfecting their user experience, too.
02. It’s all about the presentation
Rather than uploading a few exported files, bring your work to life with visuals that show the bigger picture. Take the time to set up a photoshoot of your projects. This is especially relevant for industrial design portfolios, but is also good practice for illustrations and other graphic design works. Think of your color palette, props, and settings by creating interesting pictures that capture the essence of your work.
Extend the same sense of style created in the work into the surrounding environment. You can casually position your stationary design next to a steaming latte with green ferns in the background, or catch the last rays of golden-hour sun gently falling on your hand lettering pieces.
In cases when photoshoots are out of the question, mockups can also achieve satisfactory results. But don’t take mockups as a given - make sure to customize them in accordance with the rest of your project’s look-and-feel. Remember that you’re not the only designer who has access to downloadable mockups, so shake things up by adding your personal aesthetics, making them your own.
03. Quality over quantity
Cramming everything you’ve ever done into your personal portfolio may be tempting, but most employers would advise you against it. Pick only your absolute best pieces to show, trusting them to shine bright and impress site visitors. We recommend no more than a total of six to ten projects.
Showcasing a limited amount of projects allows you to present each one thoroughly, including all the relevant details and clearly explaining their backstory. Go beyond finished pieces alone by creating case studies, walking visitors through your design process - from the initial objective to the final results. While this is especially common in UX designer's portfolios, it could also be beneficial in other areas of design. You can include work-in-progress pics, preliminary drafts or anything else that can contextualize the work and add to your visitors’ understanding of the project.
Showing too many projects can make your portfolio inconsistent in its level of work. It can also deter potential employers by including too much work from too many unrelated fields. Tailor your portfolio to the job you want, keeping in mind that the work you show is most likely the kind of work that you’ll be hired to do more of in the future.
04. Build a website that’s easy to maintain
Your portfolio website is meant to stay with you for the long run, and you don’t want to start it from scratch every couple of years. On the other hand, you also need to keep it fresh with new content and styles every once in a while, to best reflect your creative development.
Build an online portfolio that’ll be easy to get back to for updates and revisions down the line. Make your portfolio website easy to maintain by saving your font and color themes, your page layouts and other presets.
If you’re building your website on Wix, we recommend saving your themes on the Editor as you go. You might also want to check out the Wix Pro Gallery for easily customizable and modifiable image display.
05. Don’t overlook written copy
Text is just as much a part of your portfolio as are your visuals. Expertly craft the written copy on your portfolio in order to amplify your message, keeping your writing style in tune with the general vibe of your site. Don’t forget to double check for spelling mistakes and typos, ensuring a professional and presentable website.
As for the text itself, be sure to add your name and specialty straight on the top fold of your homepage. This way, visitors will know who you are and what you do immediately upon entering the site. For each of your project pages, add a title and a short textual description that explains the reasoning behind your design and puts it into context.
In your ‘About’ page, keep the same writing style as in the rest of the site to convey important information about yourself. This information can include your field of work, your education, any exhibitions you’ve taken part in, impressive clients (which can also be shown in a client list) and your contact details. In addition, you can also add your design resume to your site, either directly on the page or as a downloadable file.
06. Give credit where credit is due
Acknowledging the hard work of everyone involved in your projects by giving them their well-deserved credit is a common courtesy you shouldn’t neglect. And from a less altruistic standpoint, it highlights the fact that you’re a great team player.
Make sure to mention by name those who helped make your work possible in collaborative projects, and add photo credits for pictures that you didn’t take. Additionally, explain what your part was in projects where your contribution was more limited. Remember that it doesn’t detract from your role in the project - it simply explains it better.
07. Get found on Google search results
Your beautiful work deserves to be seen online - and the best way to go about it is by upping your SEO game (or ‘Search Engine Optimization’). By following a set of simple rules, you can work towards improving your design portfolio’s ranking on Google search results.
Some of the best practices for improving your portfolio’s SEO are filling in metadata for your images and pages, choosing a good domain name, and making sure you use strategic keywords that Google will associate with your site. We recommend consulting with the Wix SEO Wiz for a free personalized SEO plan.
Text Eden Spivak