Many people overlook online portfolios, but these are the perfect way to showcase your many talents. While it is true that the immediate visual appeal may be more beneficial to those who are in the creative space, online portfolios can also be great for other professionals.
For example, think past the A-B-Cs of what goes into your portfolio and step back to see it as a whole. What does your online portfolio offer you a chance to demonstrate aside from the skills that would be written down in any old résumé?
Organization, creativity, professionalism and yes, even your skills of persuasion. Although the average employer will tell you that they are not impressed by fancy visual résumés, it is a fact that 90% of the information we process is visual.
This doesn’t mean you use cartoony graphics and fancy font, but your resume offers you a chance to present data visually and, with the right skills, even interactively. The process of creating a successful portfolio isn’t all that complex to create.
7 Tips to Building Your Portfolio Website
1. Know What to Present
Most people will have different needs for their portfolio based on their own situation. For example, a graphic designer’s portfolio will often showcase different things and most likely in a different way as compared to, perhaps, a Sales Manager.
The presentation includes not only what you want to present, but how it is done. This doesn’t just cover what you want them to know, but also how they experience it. Do you want it to be a streamlined, linear experience, or should it be dynamic and interactive?
The reason for this is that although by having your portfolio online you essentially have unlimited space, you want the person viewing it to still be able to see and experience the most critical parts of it without too much trouble.
The average attention span of most adults’ ranges between 10 to 20 minutes and professionals working under pressure often have limited time within which to process things. Your portfolio needs to convey maximum information at an optimal impact within a short time frame.
When choosing what works, you want to showcase to potential clients, try to remember that what you showcase shouldn’t just look and sound good, but at its very core, the work done must clearly be able to show the resolution of a problem.
What You Need to Do;
- Organize a list of your most successful projects
- List characteristics of your target market (potential employers)
- Choose projects or work that demonstrate results
- Select a variety of types of work to showcase
- Include customer testimonials or recommendations
If you’re newly entering the market and do not yet have many success stories under your belt, don’t worry. You can still create something! This doesn’t mean you fake experience but produce mock-ups of what you think would be a great piece of work for yourself.
2. Choosing the Right Platform
I have always been in favour of owning your own slice of something, which is why I prefer to recommend platforms rather than pure services. Therefore, I seriously recommend you either look for a reliable web hosting of yourself or if you have limited web programming skills then consider using a website building tool.
There are many website building tools available that vary in terms of complexity and capability. For example, if you were to look for a tool that was more visual oriented and simple to use, then Wix or Weebly will be great. For sites that are more heavily content based, a Content Management System (CMS) like WordPress would be good.
Caption: One of the portfolio examples by Weebly
Weebly is a pay-as-you-go website builder that is extremely easy to use. In fact, you don’t need to know anything at all about coding in order to get your Weebly site running. They even have pre-built templates and images which you can use.
WordPress, on the other hand, is a little more hands-on but has a massive user community where you can easily get help. It is open source and has many developers working on add-on tools for its ecosystem so you can easily extend the functionality of your portfolio, often for free.
Remember that no matter which tool you choose, you can always create your own graphics easily even if you don’t have any previous design experience. There are a ton of great graphic design tools that are easy to use available, even for templates!
What You Need to Do;
- Research a few good web hosts or website builders
- Choose the right one to suit your portfolio needs!
- Consider the total cost of ownership
3. Craft Your Story
Caption: Images and headlines combine to make enticing hooks, what’s yours? (Source: PunchMedia)
Your portfolio needs to be as seamless an experience to the user as possible. This means that aside from generating content for your portfolio, you need to consider when and where to present that information where it would do the most good.
One good way is to make use of what I like to call a good research format – meaning you start with a strong headline followed by impactful visual, then follow that up with information that puts the headline and image in context. The headline should serve as the hook, while the context will try to reel them in once they’re hooked.
4. Do Some Research on Existing Portfolios
I recommend looking through a few strong portfolios just to get an idea of how this is done. Different lines of work often have portfolios that express themselves differently, but there are sometimes variations within the same industry.
As far as possible, go through as many as you can to get a good sampling of ideas. Ask friends if they remember any particularly eye-catching sites and you may learn even more. Some of the good portfolio examples I’ve come across include;
5. Make It Uniquely You
Even though your portfolio should be crafted around your work or ideas, always remember that one of the most important pages on your site will be ‘About You’. This page is the singular, most defining place where the viewer can process what you’re all about.
Some ideas on what you can include;
- Create a background story – this means that you can share how you entered your line of work, the experiences you had at the beginning and what led you to make the choices you did.
- Demonstrate your journey – Link to people you’ve met or had experiences with professionally and share how their views have helped you or vice versa. Consider notable clients and what you’ve shared with them as part of your journey.
- Express your opinion – Be truthful and overcome the fear that expressing yourself may lose you’re a potential client. BUT, keep your views on professional topics where possible, although a tiny bit of your personal life can leak through if it’s particularly interesting.
6. Don’t Be Overly Flashy
Remember the days of traditional résumés where you were told not to include too many colours, funky fonts or messy graphics? Flashy images and animation are the online portfolio equivalent of that. As far as possible, keep your portfolio clean and professional.
Use images impactfully and don’t use flashing buttons or scrolling banners just to try and catch the readers’ attention. Your organization flow should be able to manage that on its own. If it doesn’t, you’re doing something wrong and need to re-think your layout.
One very popular form of layout for portfolios today is the linear style. This means that you plan your content progressively much like it was done with a traditional resume. The advantage of doing this is that there is only one way to navigate – down.
In this era of smart devices, many people are using their fingers to swipe, and it has become the de-facto means of moving around web pages. Although this method does take away a bit of dynamism from your site, it does help keep things more idiot-proof.
7. Review, Refresh, Repeat
I have seen many sites, especially portfolios, end up getting done and left to stagnate once the initial thrill is over. Your portfolio represents you and like yourself, should always be fluid and kept up to date. Remember to review your content and refresh it from time to time.
As your career progresses, there is always a high chance that you will produce some stunning work you’re particularly proud of. Share it on your portfolio site! Remember that even if you’re currently engaged, people will always be looking at your portfolio and there is always a chance that you will get much better offers.
Keeping your portfolio up to date also shows diligence, discipline and professionalism. It is also important to consider it also an opportunity to keep what your professional work and skills up-to-date. You should also always keep your website software up to date for security reasons.
Conclusion: Your Portfolio Website Represents You
Treat your online portfolio the same way you treat your working life – professional and sleek. It should be kept presentable, professional and up to date. Always ensure that you’re going in the right direction, which means reviewing your content occasionally.
We sometimes change our professional directions in some way or another without really realizing it and your portfolio should be revised to keep it on track. I once made the mistake of not doing so and found I was being contacted for things which I did in the past, not what I was currently involved it. That took some time and effort to sort out.
Your portfolio is one of the best self-marketing tools you can have in your arsenal – built and maintain it well.