I recently had the opportunity to answer a question posed by a young lady which read, “what are some do’s and don’ts for my design portfolio?” While a question like this can easily be searched via Google, there’s power in being a part of a community of people that can help.
I can recall starting out on my own after graduating design school many years ago and really having no one to turn this question to… or I just didn’t want to ask. My answer to the designer was as short and sweet as I hope this post will remain.
Do sketch your design first
I actually still make this mistake. I like to dive right into how a site will work but I can assure you that sketching and planning your design will save you a lot of time in the end.
Do highlight the best of your portfolio on your homepage
A guest post by Alia Haley touched on this a bit more. It’s simple: shining a light on your best work keeps people interested.
Do create a portfolio page for displaying more work
Once I’m hooked, show me more and make it easy to find.
Do update regularly
This is one of the most annoying issues with artists and designers that manage their own sites… bloggers too. If you’re not going to post new work, you’re hurting yourself.
Do consider making the site mobile-friendly
Mobile visitors can make up a nice percentage of your site’s traffic, so make it easier for them to see your work.
Do make sure that your contact info is easy to find
If I have to look all over the place for something as simple as your Twitter URL or email, why am I contacting you again?
Do add an About page or Bio page to display more info about you
Who are you? If you can’t tell me then I don’t care.
Do check grammar over and over
I fully own up to being a typo-queen. It’s always interesting to see which words I’ve completely disrespected even though I know how to spell them correctly. Mistakes are natural and you won’t see them the first, second, or twentieth time you look at them.
Step away, grab something to eat, come back and spot your mistakes before someone else can.
Do have friends and family review the site before broadcasting to everyone else
This has been extremely valuable for me even if I don’t take every shred of advice from friends and family, their input helps me see things differently. We easily get stuck in our stubborn design modes and forget how it feels to be the confused person on a website that should “work better.”
Do test all links before launching
Broken links suck… especially when Google indexes the broken page and it becomes the only page anyone sees when they search for you! Grr.
Do promote the site on social networks when you launch and when you add new projects
Use social networks to your advantage, without overwhelming people with spam of course.
Do follow resourceful sites
Keep your design skills fresh and get inspiration, design examples, and freebies by following various sites through RSS, Twitter and Facebook.
Do not use Flash unless absolutely necessary
Apple devices do not render Flash animation and Flash-based video… one of many reasons I’ve come to hate the iPad. However, even before these devices, sites based completely in Flash have been notorious for difficult navigation and poor scaling.
Also keep in mind that tracking clicks through services like Google Analytics is damned near impossible in a Flash-based site. If you desire animation on your site, try using jQuery.
Do not use a “Enter Here” as your landing page
Don’t give me 100 tasks to do just to see your portfolio because I probably won’t do them. Intro pages are no longer necessary although they have yet to completely die off properly.
Do not have music or video playing automatically
“If it doesn’t help, it hurts.” Remember that. Auto-playing media is yet another annoying tactic that is used as if we never graduated from Myspace. Try your best to view your portfolio as a visitor and avoid adding distractions.
If you’re seeking some helpful book resources, read 10 Web Design Books for Beginners and Professional.