what does your ideal portfolio website look like?

paulclaytonsmith's picture


I'm a student putting together my website and I'm interested in hearing opinions about what makes a great online portfolio. I'm especially interested in the following:

1)Quantity of content - Should one show everything s/he's ever done? Or merely a small selection of excellent work? Or a range of pieces showing growth over time?

2)Specialization - In a student site, would you rather see a variety of work (ie some print, some identity, some web design), or a focus on only the area that applies to the job.

3)Process - Should one attempt to show the process of creating the piece with thumbnails, sketches, descriptions, etc? Or just show the final product?

And any other input you have would be greatly appreciated. Thanks so much for your time.


pattyfab's picture

1. Focus on your strongest work. You can always show more at an interview.

2. I'd show the range, organized by type of work. Again, you can tailor your portfolio to the client when you meet with them, or send them pdfs or links of specific jobs that might be especiallly pertinent.

3. My preference - just the final project. I also don't like superfluous descriptive text. I think the work should speak for itself. You can elaborate on your process at the interview.

I'd also try to emphasize work that's practical. I've seen so many student portfolios that are very showy but completely unrealistic.

j_polo9's picture

Might want to check this out:

A great one that has been all over the web is:

Other than that I would get some books and read up on it... or better yet brainstorm what you want and go for origional. It's your portfolio it should reflect what you want.

Duckworth's picture

I agree with PattyFab, show your strongest pieces of work; split the work into categories and make sure you include some (not a huge amount, a couple of lines' worth) of description for each piece.

Regarding the question of what to show, I would show a wide range of work, but obviously play to your strengths.

The one main comment that I would say, and many design companies fall into the trap, is to make an over-designed interface and layout, rather than designing a site that is friendly, clear to use and navigable - think of who you're aiming the site at - agencies and/or clients. If the site is awkward, people tend not to hang around on a page, figuring out how something works in order to get to see some work, rather move on to a different site.

Showing workings isn't a bad thing, but I would make a distinct separation from finished projects. Maybe create a section within the website as a 'sketchbook' area. I wouldn't take this work to interview, but an interviewer will want to know why you designed something the way you did - it might be a good idea to have a good look through your workings before your interview to jog your memory about the concept and how you arrived at the design of a finished piece.

Again, I can't stress PattyFab's comment of 'emphasising work that is practical' enough - it's really important.

j_polo9's picture

I agree simple is better. This is one of my favorites:

thierry blancpain's picture

either very simple, focusing on the work and with good usability (!) or special (and well-executed) like okaydave. this website landed him so many great job opportunities its unreal, he now works at a well-respected firm in NYC.

his portfolio especially succeeds at your third point, the videos show the process in an entertaining and refreshing way. otherwhise bland, small projects get great depth through it.

pattyfab's picture

My brother - who's a web wiz - also advised me years ago that web users in general prefer the "thumbnail" approach to the "slide show" approach. They like to control their navigation of the site rather than being locked in.

Both these sites do that I particularly like the way okaydave has the thumbnails on the left with the larger image on the right (in the logos section).

Also - unless you are specifically trying to showcase your flash skills, keep it simple. I almost always click on "skip intro".

http://www.louisefili.com/flash.html is a particularly egregious offender on this score. Otherwise it's a gorgeous site. It would be even better if the large image appeared in the rollover rather than requiring a click.

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