How to Create a Killer Portfolio: 10 Best Practices
The web design community is formed of very talented and helpful people, but at the same time, designers always fight for clients. The competition is harsh, but the positive aspect is that everyone that does quality work and respects the clients will have enough projects on his plateau. It’s true, there is no World Design Cup but, as everywhere in human society, the necessity of evaluation and classification determined the existence of expressions as “he is a better designer”, “she is the best designer from our town” and so on. In conclusion, the designers are evaluated and judged by people (designers and not- designers). A normal question rises in the minds of designers: “what should I do to be the best designer or at least a very good one?” By identifying the evaluation criteria, it will be an easy job to structure a plan to follow in order to turn into a famous designer. Now, here is the worst news for today: it’s impossible to identify the criteria! Why? It’s simple: because design is a very subjective matter, while the appreciation of people is even a more subjective thing. What something in Australia may be considered a wonderful project, in Europe may be a decent realization. Also, it’s no wonder that twin brothers may have completely different opinions about a website.
Under these circumstances, it’s normal to catalogue the design as a world of chaos! Superficially thinking, yep, it might be… but the reality is different! Superficiality isn’t chaos… in a superficial universe everyone has its own reference system and laws while chaos supposes the lack of any reference point. Superficiality is a very controversial issue from the philosophical point of view, but it’s almost obvious that superficial implies a high degree of abstraction. Well, translating this statement into web design world is equivalent with the idea that each person has an own system of appreciation and each designer is judged according to it. The judgment isn’t very in-depth and many elements are abstracted (there is nothing wrong if you replace “abstracted” with neglected); the main element that remains from the complex entity of a designer is his portfolio.
As you know, a portfolio is the sum of the best works of someone. Willing or not, a portfolio is the identity card of a designer, people judge his value by studying the projects exhibited. After a very theoretical introduction it is time to come back to the reality…therefore, how do you create a portfolio that is liked by people? The perfect recipe is just a chimera, but the Internet is full of advices from the best portfolio owners and everyone should learn from them.
No matter if you already have a website where you uploaded your best work or you are planning to launch one, the next best practices are very useful and it’s highly recommended to follow them. Of course, this Decalogue is pretty perfectible and we are waiting for your contribution via comments. It’s really important to have a feedback from you.
#1 – A portfolio shouldn’t be a website only.
It’s a very common mistake, so common that sometimes we are thinking if it’s indeed a mistake. A portfolio isn’t only a website! It’s correct to name the website where you uploaded the best personal works portfolio, but it’s not profitable to resume just to it. Nowadays, the Internet is full of galleries where the designers are invited to present their wonderful realizations. In addition to that, the potential clients and employers consult these galleries and sometimes hire designers that have the best works. Behance and Dribble are just some of the most famous galleries and any designer should have a good presence here. Of course, there are many other galleries and a good designer knows by heart their addresses.
Social media is another extended part of a portfolio. The contribution of a designer on various social networks is many times studied before hiring a designer, therefore it might be considered a new extension of a portfolio.
#2 – A portfolio must be unique and original.
Having a unique and original portfolio isn’t a rocket science tip, but its importance is vital and it was the reason of adding it to this list. A good designer won’t use a free theme downloaded on some free resource… it’s a sign that removes any idea of professionalism.
On the other hand, a “too original” portfolio will put in doubt the viewers and definitely, it isn’t the purpose of a portfolio. Uniqueness and originality are a must but nothing can replace the intrinsic quality, so do your best with the portfolio.
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#3 – The “value” of a portfolio is equal to the “value” of the most decent item exposed.
Another useful best practice is to pay attention to the items exposed. Unfortunately, a portfolio where one exhibited one hundred amazing items and just a single decent work isn’t considered as an amazing portfolio. It’s not a math formula, but usually, the mark given to the most decent item is the same with the mark given to the overall portfolio. Undoubtedly, the selection of works exposed should be done with maximum focus… it’s a common practice to consult with other designers before uploading a new project.
A good designer doesn’t need to upload tons of items… adding as many images as possible isn’t the attribute of a great expert, it’s mostly the desperate gesture of a designer lacking clients. In conclusion, add enough items to convince the viewers about the quality of works realized but don’t overdo because a bored viewer is hardly to believe that will be converted into a client.
#4 – Be honest with yourself and your potential clients.
Another best practice to apply is a subtle but capital tip: instead of building a portfolio for heavy traffic, launch it to attract clients. In other words, many designers prefer to call themselves super experts in everything is web related and upload tons of previous works. The big issue is that many times what is praised in theory, in practice is different…the respective designers can’t realize what he previously said. In this way time is wasted, resources and the reputation are suffering and so on.
A wiser approach is to be honest and to offer services that can be realized in practice. It’s quite probable that less people will visit the portfolio, but the eventually projects awarded have a great chance of being successfully finalized.
A portfolio’s visitor that feels humiliated won’t ever ask for the services of the portfolio owner. This situation is avoided by creating an accessible website and any innovative design should be extremely careful studied, it shouldn’t put the users in doubt. Also, if you have heavy content, it’s better to avoid the technical terms or to explain them for the less experienced visitors.
#6 – Social media presence is just an “invisible” part of the portfolio.
As I previously mentioned, social media may be considered an “invisible” part the portfolio. The studies revealed that the most employers are consulting the social contribution of the recruiters and it is a factor in hiring decision. I guess that many potential clients apply the same treatment, therefore don’t neglect this aspect.
Altogether, social media presence doesn’t mean chatting on Facebook – it has no positive effect. Instead, an active Twitter account that offers insights tweets and valuable links or a complete profile on LinkedIn surely is a plus for any designer.
#7 – Testimonials are important!
I am not arrogant, but we have to accept that excepting the designers, few people have a strong feeling for website crafting. Accordingly, the judgment of common viewers is many times not similar to the designers’ judgment… Therefore, simply exposing the best works isn’t enough for some potential clients. The testimonials are the appreciation of the previous clients and sometimes these are as important as the quality of items exhibited. A testimonial from a very important client works as magic – the interested people will consider that as long as a very important company was satisfied with the services of a designer, then there is a high chance for this scenario to repeat, isn’t it?)
#8 – Don’t forget about yourself.
People prefer working with people, so don’t forget about presenting yourself. Depending on the style adopted, this presentation may be formal or informal…the majority of portfolio owners choose a more informal approach. It shouldn’t be a full resume; there is a risk to become boring. Instead, a funny text, presenting yourself as a good designer, saying about hobbies and the family cute situations create a warm relationship and it may be beneficial in the final decision of hiring.
#9 – Let people contact you.
A functional contact form is vital in the overall success of a portfolio. It’s a sin to have wonderful collections of works that attract clients but they don’t have any possibility of contacting the portfolio owner. It’s about common sense to have a simple, efficient and functional contact form but there are portfolios that suffer at this chapter. In addition to a contact form, give to the viewers the possibility of contacting via social media and is a good practice to provide the physical address, maybe some people are used to send letters – you never know!
#10 – Be serious with your portfolio.
Well, how could someone treat “seriously” a portfolio? It is maybe not the most suitable word but it implies so many valences that in the end it was the best solution. Building a portfolio website isn’t the same with having clients. Launching a website is only the beginning part of attracting and having clients. The fully process means to promote the portfolio and it is equivalent to a huge volume of work. Also, a search engine friendly website is capital. If someone really wants to have clients, then the portfolio website must be on the first pages in the searches of the users. Briefly, is highly recommended to have a portfolio website but once it‘s launched the serious endeavor begins. It’s a complex task and usually is created a plan to follow in order to promote the portfolio.
This plan is depending on each type of portfolio, needs a complete team behind and if you are interested in, then don’t forget to drop us a line via comment form and we’ll gladly start writing an article about. Also, don’t be shy and share with us your opinion about a portfolio. The more, the better!
Overall, creating a great portfolio website isn’t that difficult as it may seem first. Fortunately, there are the plenty of complete solutions for portfolio websites powered by MotoCMS. All of them have the embedded advanced control panel via which even a person with no programming skills can easily create and then manage a beautiful and highly functional online portfolio.
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