Elements of a Successful Online Portfolio

Elements of a Successful Online Portfolio

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This is a guest article by Jennifer Moline of PsPrint.

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An online portfolio is a fast and far-reaching way to market oneself as a designer. It’s also cheaper, more versatile and more environmentally friendly than a print portfolio. But that doesn’t mean you can just whip out a website and call it a day – a designer will be judged not just for the pieces in the portfolio but also the site itself. Therefore, in order to market yourself to potential clients, be sure to consider these four elements.

1. Functional Layout

As a designer, you may be tempted to show off all your website skills on the homepage however too many flashes and flurries can result in a chaotic mess. Design isn’t always about fancy techniques. Companies looking for a web designer will be examining your homepage for easy navigation and an attractive layout – that often calls for clean lines and a good use of white space.

Thinking of using Flash? You may want to think twice. Don’t forget that the iPad is being swooped up in huge numbers, and Flash isn’t enabled on the iPad or on a surprising number of computers. Imagine a potential client trying to check out your website and being faced with the blue lego brick directing him or her to download the plug-in.

2. Simple Navigation

Your online portfolio should be just one part of your website, among a handful of categories. Your site should include a static navigation bar toward the top of the homepage that includes each section of the site. These could include:

• Home
• About Me
• CV
• Portfolio
• Testimonials (if you have them)
• Clients (get permission to include them)
• Blog

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The purpose of the static navigation bar is that no matter how deep a visitor gets into your site, he or she can always find their way back to Home. Ensure your logo links back to the Home Page as this not only helps with SEO but also with navigation.

3. A Blog

It seems everyone has a blog these days but they don’t have to be vanity projects or time-sucks. Rather, a blog provides a chance for you to stand out among your peers; it permits you an opportunity to instill personality into your website. You can blog about designs you’re working on or the new software you’re trying out. This shows potential clients that you’re a working professional.

A blog is also good for search engine optimization – if you want your website to pop up high on search engines, then using popular keywords frequently, really helps. For example, blogging that you’re exploring the new features of Adobe CS5 might attract the attention of Google, thus placing your blog among high search results for Adobe.

Finally, a blog is also a useful networking tool. You could write a post about when you popped in for some coffee at your neighborhood café and include a link. It’s a combination of utilizing SEO and networking at the same time. Plus, you get to know your neighbors, who can provide referrals.

4. Your work

The three aspects mentioned above (layout, navigation & blog) are there to market yourself as a designer, but your actual work samples are what sells your skills. An online portfolio allows you to post as many pieces as you’d like without giving up any precious – and sometimes expensive – hard copies. Be sure to showcase a variety of your work targeted to your goals, this could include: logos, websites, brochures, flyers, letterhead, CD covers, etc.

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Keep in mind there are a number of ways to create an online portfolio so it is up to you to do the research to find out what is going to work best for you and your goals.

Do you have any favourite portfolios or further tips? Please leave them in the comments below.

Further Portfolio Resources

Graffiti photo by Paul Peracchia.

30 thoughts on “Elements of a Successful Online Portfolio”

  1. Useful article as ever.

    I am a print designer it can feel overwhelming to design a website. However that’s no excuse, these days it is a must, even for print designers. There are so many tools allowing you to use your skills to create a great site. I am learning more design for web, but in the meantime I used iweb to create a site to show my work.

  2. Hi Jacob,

    Hope you are doing pretty good in carrot creative.

    Thanks for another good post.

    I got most of the points right in my portfolio. The only thing missing is my blog which is coming soon live. I was bit hurried to put portfolio that’s why the blog is delayed a bit. Looking forward to finish it asap.

    Thanks again,

  3. Although I’ve read plenty of articles like this one, it’s always good to be reminded. I agree with not using flash, especially if you have a slow connection and it takes forever to load. But alas, people are going to do what they want in terms of design.

  4. Some true points You’ve mentioned here. I agree that Flash isn’t a smart way to go, but if You check out my website, You’ll see that I couldn’t express myself in a cleen looking professional portfolio, cause I’m just not like that. But It doesn’t mean I can’t create semantical and great looking clean professional layout design, non the less whole working page. But with time we adopt new technologies and try to integrate our designs in something new and trendy! But I do know that being a freelancer is all about positioning yourself to the needs of the market, and selling trends. I personally love my Flash style, but soon I will produce a new portfolio wich will be without Flash :).

  5. Great post! I am glad I have followed most of the tips in this article as my portfolio is looking good and improving everyday..

    ThanQ J…

  6. Thanks Jacob for an “easy reader” post. I have seen a few websites fixed their navigations on the page so when we scroll down, it ‘s always visible or the whole vertical menu will run along. Do you think it ‘s a good idea, it sometime distract me to focus on other parts of the page

  7. I am a freelancer and as long as possible I am really working on my online portfolio. The tips you have above are very helpful especially to those beginners.

  8. Simple but great guest post from Jennifer

    I agree that flash is no longer the way to go but how would you do a site like this (also one of my fav portfolio sites) http://checklandkindleysides.com/ without it? Would HTML5 really be able to do this?

    I also kind of agree with having a blog, except that it’s not for everyone. I’m actually working on a redesign of my site and have decided against a blog. Instead I just have links to my twitter and facebook pages, which I’ve found is easier to maintain.

    And of course I agree that the most important part is your work and you should design the site around displaying it. 😀

  9. Hi Jennifer, good read, thank you! I agree with the aspects that you mention. It’s indeed important to have a creative, but particulary a functional approach to a portfolio site. It has to function and look well on the iPhone, iPad and Androids with so many people checking out portfolio’s on the move . These mobile devices ask for very different things from a site with the touch screen.

    I like to add one element; the importance to have a good cms that enables you to easily manage and update your portfolio’s. If you don’t have this, keeping it fresh will become very time consuming over time. I believe a good portfolio workflow is essential to present and promote yourself actively, via your site, blog, special project presentations, newsletters, Facebook, Twitter, etc… Best integrate all this smartly, to save time and keep the focus on the creation of work.

  10. Jacob it’s your another useful article. I am very happy if you write about Print Advertisement .
    Love & Regards

  11. Thanks for the article. Sometimes those in the creative business need to follow our own advice we provide to clients: k.i.s.s. (keep it simple stupid) well, maybe not the stupid part. Thanks.

  12. Thank you for your comments & patience in waiting for my replies.

    Have you looked into WordPress to showcase your portfolio?

    Yeah all is well in the Carrot burrow, thanks for asking. As for the blog, which platform are you going to use? I personally use WordPress which comes highly recommended.

    I’m not so sure about your comment about “selling trends”, one shouldn’t design for trends sake. Either way, good luck for your new portfolio.

    Personally I am not a fan of these however I guess it could be useful though not entirely necessary.

    There are always going to be different ways to showcase your work, each having their advantages and disadvantages, whether it be Flash or HTML… one should consider all their options first and then choose wisely.

    As for blogging, obviously it’s not for everyone but it does help with backlinks and giving you and your site a voice.

    Thanks for your comments and advice, some good tips there!

    I checked out your website, noticed you offer portfolio creation… may be quite handy for others reading this article so for those reading, be sure to check out http://viewbook.com.

  13. Jacob,

    I have looked into WordPress and my plan is to use that to set up my site and blog. As I am still planning this I wanted to have a place were my portfolio was visible online. iweb has it’s limits but it allowed me to set something up as I learn more. I am looking forward to taking my online portfolio to the next step.

    Thanks for the reply.

  14. @Jacob
    “welling trends” is something that is actual.fresh,hip and wanted. Like some style trend. I never said that you should design for the sake of trends, but to know what they are so you can keep up with the competition. My website is opposite of that, cause I create what I feel, but to be a freelancer with success some need to adopt to trends more often lol. Thanks for the reply btw.

  15. Hi Jacob,

    Good to hear you all doing fine. 🙂

    Yes i will be using WordPress. Working on the theme these days. Simple and unique one.

    Yeah, wordpress is more easier to use isn’t it. The admin panel and all. Looking forward to Blog as soon as possible 🙂


  16. Great article and one that really would help budding designers out there. Just some additional points:

    1. Flash is NOT SEO friendly. No matter what they say about Google now accepting flash content, the fact remains that you cannot control Flash as easily as you can control text.

    2. Too much graphics on your home page does not only equate to crassness and chaos, but also to slower loading times. Potential customers will NOT take you seriously and will leave your site if it takes more than 30 seconds to load. Goodbye clients!

    3. I still think that a good corporate blog should have a personal voice. You could hawk all your products for all you want, but nobody would read you if you don’t have something interesting to say. So the trick is to find the perfect mix between the content of the blog and the sales of your products.

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