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10 tips for building a killer portfolio website

A portfolio website is the quickest and easiest way of showcasing your work as a designer. Even if you have a physical portfolio, a website is still an expected extra – and it's vital that it makes your work sing.

Not everyone has the web design skills to be comfortable creating a website with a stunning, easy-to-use layout. These tips will help to fill those knowledge gaps and have your website online in no time. 

For more portfolio inspiration, check out these stunning portfolio examples. And our pick of the best free graphic design portfolio themes, and paid-for Wordpress portfolio themes will make yours look super professional.

Click on the icon at the top-right to enlarge it (Image credit: Simon Middleweek)

Illustration by Simon Middleweek

01. Be yourself

Don’t copy someone else’s site design just because you think it looks good. It’s vitally important that your portfolio website shows off who you are and what you do: by creating an original website you’ll help ensure that it comes to mind when people are searching for your services.

02. Make yourself available

Portfolio website: Jo Mor

This cheeky contact page is part of designer Jo Mor's personality-filled website (Image credit: Jo Mor)

If your site doesn’t make it clear how visitors can get in touch with you, they won’t try very hard to find out. Devote space on your homepage to telling people how they can reach you. Different people prefer different methods of contact, so supply a couple of ways that they can do so – make it easy for them.

03. Show some personality

Portfolio website: &Walsh

Jessica Walsh put herself front and centre for her &Walsh website (Image credit: & Walsh)

When visitors are looking at your website, they want to know who you are. Add a bit of personality, perhaps with a good headshot of yourself, to 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, corporate websites.

04. Keep it quick

The average person waits less than three seconds for a page to load before abandoning the website altogether. Choosing a suitable hosting package that allows for fast page-load speeds is crucial to the success of your website. Not every web host is the same so choose carefully to avoid a slow site.

05. Create fresh content

Google loves fresh content, so a great way to improve the search ranking of your site is to keep it up-to-date through a blog. Always keep your posts relevant and linked to what it is you do, as that’s why people are looking at your site to begin with. Google also loves video, as do visitors – a short, engaging video could help keep people on your site for longer.

06. Show off

Portfolio website: Tangent

Tangent's project page is sleek and engaging (Image credit: Tangent)

Your portfolio website is like a living CV: the content on it should be up-to-date and make it clear to people what you can do. It’s a vehicle for demonstrating your professionalism and talents, so make sure that you show off new projects and skills as soon as they’re ready for the world to see.

07. Shout about your clients

Portfolio website: Julie Bonnemoy

Designer Julie Bonnemoy has a parallax background showcasing her big-name clients (Image credit: Julie Bonnemoy)

Another way of proving your pedigree is to show off your previous clientele. This tells potential new clients that you have been trusted to do important work before and shows you have a track record. If you have worked with a well-known company or brand, it’ll add more weight to your skills.

Why should anyone just take your word for how great you are? Direct quotes from your clients act as reviews of your services and can be published on your site. These testimonials add a level of trust, reassurance and authenticity, further proving your experience and ability to produce top quality work.

09. Live examples

Linking to existing pieces of work that your previous clients are currently using further demonstrates your prowess as a professional. Showing that other people are invested in your skills and trust your work can help to reassure new clients or employers that you really are as good as you say you are.

10. Target language

Portfolio website: David McGillivray

David McGillivray's site delivers a clear message about the process of hiring a designer (Image credit: David McGillivray)

Who is your target audience and what is the overall aim of your website? Your portfolio site should showcase your skills and personality, so invest time in thinking about exactly what your message is – and who it’s aimed at – before considering how to best communicate it. You want the message that your site sends out to be consistent with the work you do.

This article first appeared in The Portfolio Handbook, created by Computer Arts magazine.

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