9 Tips for Creating a Web-Developer Portfolio Site

By Kathleen Taylor, Bud E. Smith

A portfolio site is the complement to a resume or LinkedIn profile for web development professionals. Here are some tips on creating a winning portfolio site:

  • Keep it simple: Your portfolio site can do the job with just some background information about you and five to seven pieces of work you’re proud of. No need to overwhelm people.

  • Add to your site over time: Every time you finish a project, add it to your site right away. When visitors to your portfolio site can see your professional growth and development over a period of years, they can consider you for senior positions on large projects and other desirable postings.

  • Never apologize: Explanation is fine — “We were on a tight deadline, so this was done in one hour.” But don’t add, “So that’s why it’s lousy,” or “This isn’t my best work.” Put up only the work that makes you proud, even if part of the reason you’re proud of it is that you beat a tight deadline or other constraints.

  • Use a “real” domain name: Register a “real” domain name, such as www.firstnamelastname.com. If your name is taken already, include your middle name, add “sf” or similar letters indicating your city to the end of your domain name, and so on. You wouldn’t do less for a client, so make the extra effort for yourself.

  • Use fake work for confidential projects: If you work on a confidential project, such as an intranet site that’s not explicitly exposed to the public, resist the temptation to put up a screen grab anyway. Instead, create a quick-and-dirty anonymized version, with all identifying information removed.

  • Include paid work, unpaid work, and fun projects: A portfolio site is perfect for getting some mileage from unpaid work and fun projects. Get hands-on time with new or different tools than you use in your day job and show off the results. This might be all you have at the start of your career, but these “extras” should always be part of the mix.

  • Link to finished websites: Include links to websites that are up and running, or a screen grab if the site is defunct or has been redesigned since you were an active contributor. Explain your role in the look and feel of the site.

  • Add a page of influencers: Include a page listing some of your major influences, including the portfolio sites of friends whose work you admire, plus gurus, mentors, and schools. This kind of generosity toward others reflects well on you, and it gives the curious something to do without your having to add a ton of content.

  • User-test your site on friends: Watch a friend click through your site and capture their comments as they use it. Then fix any problems and showcase the good stuff.