The “Ticking the boxes” method for creating a design portfolio
Creating a personal design portfolio website is one of the most difficult tasks for designers, but also one of the most important ones.
The difficulty is not a technical one, although it could be challenging, the real pain is to create a website that not only presents your work, but also speaks for itself design and user experience wise.
Over the years, being an active designer and later on hiring designers, I often found myself being frustrated with candidates sending their personal design portfolio websites only for me to have to spend a (cyber) eternity just to figure out how good they are, what skills they have, how to get in touch with them or their work availability.
From the employer point of view, it became very clear to me what a good portfolio should be, and I call this method “Ticking the Boxes”, or by its longer name- answering as many questions as possible, fast!
What potential clients tool for in design portfolio?
I’ve compiled a short list of pointers and examples to help designers not only show their work but also their personality and skills, focusing on the important stuff.
Be clear, right off the bat
Potential clients have an extremely short attention span, they see a bunch of design portfolios and they don’t have the time or the energy to try and understand who you are and what you do.
Have a short, clear, visible and to the point tagline, capture attention and answer the “what?” very quickly.
For example: “I design and build beautiful, usable websites & apps”.
What did you do and how good you are?
Don’t show everything – aim for variety
You want to show off only your best work, not everything you ever did.
Try to choose the best examples of your design work, covering as many forms of your design capabilities such as websites, apps, illustration, print etc.
Keep the lesser or dated work samples off of your design portfolio.
A good rule of thumb would be roughly 10 projects, 2-3 of a kind.
And one more thing: Live projects are the holy grail. Include links to actual live projects you were part of, that shows more than anything else your ability to actually make things happen.
Who are you?
Potential clients and employers looking at your website want to know who you are, or at least get a taste of the person behind the portfolio. A good headshot of yourself will let them know you’re a real person with your own style and identity.
Creativity is all about originality and sometimes people are put off by faceless websites.
Remember, YOU are part of the product offering.
Where are you?
Please, please, please, make it easy to reach you
Keep your eyes on the ball please, the end-goal of your website is to get clients — and get paid. Don’t make it hard or impersonal to get in touch with you.
Make sure your contact info is clearly visible and includes as many ways to reach you as possible. This not only makes it easy for clients to reach you, it also shows credibility and good information design.
Design & user experience pointers for creating a good design portfolio
Make navigation a breeze
It’s tempting to create super innovative navigation, I know. Not saying it’s always a bad idea but I prefer easy to navigate websites that don’t cause orientation issues over super-innovative navigation concepts that may cause frustration.
Get some design portfolio inspiration
Before you even start, it is paramount that you see what other good designers are doing.
Take some time to browse personal design portfolios that you like or that are well known, try to figure out what works and what could be improved, what will work for you etc.
There’s nothing wrong with taking inspiration from good work done by others, actually it’s super-important, as long as you don’t copy or take credit for someone’s else’s work.
I use Muzli by InVision
Don’t overcomplicate, it’s hard enough
Your primary goal is to get your awesome work out there for others to see.
That means you should strive to make it happen without going into months of labor, both from a design perspective and from the technical side.
There are essentially 4 ways to get your design portfolio up and running:
Develop your own portfolio website
Use online page builders
There is an abundance of online services that offer WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) builders like Wix and Squarespace, it’s an easy and simple solution to get something up and running. The main downside is that you’ll be somewhat limited in the design of your portfolio given the platform’s capabilities and templates.
Full-on CMS (content management system)
This is probably the optimal choice, and I can say that there are 2 main routes out there:
- Self hosted CMS like WordPress or Drupal
- Cloud hosted CMS and builder like Webflow
Hosting your own CMS could be challenging for some and also requires some knowledge in order to create templates and customize your portfolio.
Services like Webflow give you the best of all worlds for a relatively low cost, you can build whatever you want, make your website fully customized with ease, with all the bells and whistles, powerful CMS and no maintenance worries.
Check out our curated Webflow templates for personal portfolios.
Pay someone to build your design portfolio 🙂
If you’ll take a single thing from this post, this is it:
Get your work out there so clients could get a good idea of who you are and what you can do. Choose the quickest path to do so.
You’re awesome, now show it.