Preparing your portfolio is exciting, but it can also be agonising. What should you include? Which layout should you choose? How do you keep it fresh? For help with these questions and more, check out our top 10 portfolio tips. Coming soon: 10 more tips for your UX design portfolio!
1. Do: Present only your best work
Don’t: Try to be comprehensive
It can be tempting to include everything you’ve ever done. But people looking at your portfolio are more interested in quality than quantity. If you only display 3 or 4 projects, your audience can be confident that what they’re looking at is your best.
2. Do: Keep the design of your portfolio simple
Don’t: Use gimmicks
Sticking to a simple design lets the quality of your work speak for itself. Unless executed perfectly, videos, animation, and scrolljacking tricks are less likely to add than detract from your work.
3. Do: Tell a story about each project you include
Don’t: Use buzzwords or too much jargon
Because you’re including only a few examples of your very best work, you need to tell a compelling story about each project. That can mean having a separate page to fully document the design problem, the process you followed, and the solution you delivered. Try to address this story to an intelligent general reader, avoiding buzzwords or jargon. (Nobody actually hires “pixel wizards”.)
4. Do: Use photography of your designs in use
Don’t: Make everything flat
A common mistake with online portfolios is to display export images straight from Illustrator or Sketch. Not only does this make your site look flat and monotonous — it also gives your potential client no information about the context of the project, nor a sense of how it’s been used in the wild. To add visual variety, produce some high-finish device mockups, and take nice photos of your designs in use (or better, get a professional photographer).
5. Do: Keep it up-to-date
Don’t: Be afraid to remove work that is no longer your best
Portfolios should be living documents. For your audience to take you seriously, they need to see that you are active, enthusiastic, and offering them up-to-date information. A good way of keeping your site fresh is to rotate or reorder your work, to maintain a blog, or include a client list complete with dates.
6. Do: Include a resume
Don’t: Forget to provide your contact details
Having a resume on your site is an opportunity to give extra detail to employers or potential clients who are looking for further information. You can also list off your past employment, training, competencies, and interests. Don’t forget to include an email address and phone number — but make these easily accessible in multiple places around the site, not just on your resume.
7. Do: Make it memorable
Don’t: Use an identikit portfolio template
An excellent portfolio can stick in someone’s mind. Sometimes this can be because it’s particularly inventive, and other times it’s just because the work is beautifully presented. Make yours memorable, and at all costs avoid stock photography and anything that looks like an off-the-shelf template. If you have to use a template, choose a very minimal layout.
8. Do: Present your work across multiple platforms
Don’t: Overlook the power of social media
Your website is important, but there are all kinds of other places where you should place your portfolio’s content and keep it just as up-to-date. Set up Behance, LinkedIn, and Google+ profiles, where people can discover your work and navigate to your site to find out more. And don’t forget that Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram can help you to reach different audiences and networks. If you take decent photos, get set up on Flickr and 500px and use those profiles to drive people to your site.
9. Do: Present the kind of work you want to be hired for
Don’t: Sell yourself short
If you’re trying to build a freelance career around branding and logo design, make sure that this is the focus of your portfolio. What’s more, don’t sell yourself short — communicate the effort and attention to detail that you put into your work, and fully explain the value that you have delivered for clients.
10. Do: Tell your audience about yourself
Don’t: Include (too many) personal projects
As well as adding a photo to establish virtual eye contact in your online portfolio, tell something of your own personal story, and set out your values and beliefs as a designer. Including a flavor of your design side-projects is fine, but make sure that these don’t distract from the work your portfolio is there to showcase.
Main illustration: Andrew Wilshere
Want to learn more about design?
Enrollment for June's short courses closes this Thursday at 6pm PDT. In just 4 weeks you could add design fundamentals, branding, or UX skills to your resume. Don't delay – upskill today! Find out more