Creating a Portfolio Site for Software Developers

By Kathleen Taylor, Bud E. Smith

Part of Getting a Web Development Job For Dummies Cheat Sheet

Whether you’re a front-end developer expert in HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, or a more traditional software developer using Ruby or Python to contribute to web projects, your use of a portfolio site will be somewhat different than for designers and user experience people. The primary purpose for them is to bring the look and feel of their projects to life and to show their own style in action. For developers, it’s also valuable to show off working projects, but it’s also extra-important to show the range of tools you’ve used, as well as emphasizing where your skills are strongest. Here are some tips for creating a portfolio site for a front-end or software developer:

  • Get help picking pieces: It’s hard for you, as the person who’s done the work, to know what will impress outsiders most. Describe your projects to friends, technical, and not-so-technical, and ask them which ones they thing are portfolio-worthy.

  • Give context to the nth degree: Most people can’t get much out of reading source code, and much of your work may be proprietary anyway. Give a lot of context for your project work, including what other kinds of professionals were on your team, what the assignment was, what the deadlines and results were, and what you learned.

  • Emphasize the tools you use: Give the whole range of tools you’ve used. Show which ones you’re deepest in. This way, people who contact you about a job are much more likely to not be wasting your time.

  • Make a few interesting comments: Show that you’re passionate about your work by sharing your opinions on things like the state of a given technology or why one tool is better than another for specific purposes.

  • Give credit where credit is due: Web page and software development for the web is always collaborative, so point this out clearly in your portfolio. (Get permission before including names though.) Being generous to others will reflect well on you and your ability to plug into a new team quickly.