In the tech world, before you even have a chance to speak with a hiring manager in person, they will look at your portfolio. This rings true for software developers and software engineers. Creating an online space to promote your personal brand and serve as a home for your past projects is absolutely vital for maintaining success in the industry. Showcasing your skills off the page of a resume is something you need to do to land a role at major tech organizations, small startups, or even for freelance opportunities.
In this article we’ll be breaking down all the elements that go into creating your very own software developer portfolio including step-by-step instructions on where to host it, what to include and more. Plus, we’ve compiled some of our favorite free online resources and templates from around the web, as well as our favorite portfolio examples to get you inspired!
What is a Software Developer Portfolio?
As a job on the more technical side of the industry, you might not see a need for developing a portfolio, but it’s quite common throughout the industry. First, let’s briefly break down the role: software developers or engineers are responsible for using coding skills to develop web applications across all types of desktop, mobile and AI-powered platforms and devices. Similar to a web developer role, the work might include front-end design responsibilities, or be more geared towards ensuring the functionality of back-end code and databases.
Regardless of role specialization, in the tech world, your portfolio will serve the purpose of allowing your mastery of job-critical skills to be seen in action. It’s all about showing, not telling, and giving recruiters a sense of your problem-solving process. In addition to a well-rounded sample of your work, the average portfolio also includes an “about” section, links to relevant social channels and contact information. This personal website reflects your personal professional journey and is arguably even more important than a resume, as it gives recruiters a glimpse into what sets you apart.
Why is Creating a Portfolio Important for Software Developers?
Think of a software developer portfolio as a website in which the product being advertised is YOU. Not just anyone can take on a software job. For example, if a job requires deep knowledge of Java, your portfolio can demonstrate if your experience aligns with what the role requires. This kind of proof is vital for applying to competitive roles with thousands of applicants. In addition, a portfolio site will demonstrate your aesthetics and coding philosophy, which might help a hiring manager determine cultural fit, in some cases. Your portfolio can easily be shared out by stakeholders within a hiring team or client to determine fit.
Outside the immediate job search, building a portfolio is a valuable exercise in self-reflection and self-branding. Keeping a running list of your top projects can help identify professional areas of strength and weakness, or highlight “bonus” skills you possess outside of development that wouldn’t necessarily make it on to a CV. Linking out to a portfolio on your social profiles can be great for networking purposes, and ultimately building a strong online presence for your professional work. Even if you’re not actively looking for freelance work, you never know what opportunities might come your way if someone stumbles across your excellent past projects!
What is Included in a Software Developers Portfolio?
The Software Developer portfolio answers the classic interview question, “Why should we hire you?” by building on your resume with illustrative examples of achievements and work. At the same time, elements like your bio, photos and visual flairs provide a glimpse into your personality and personal style.
Because your site is almost going to serve as an introduction to a hiring manager before you meet, you’ll want to take time to develop an “about me” page, including all past jobs and educational experiences, including bootcamp and certifications. Include professional social media profiles, like LinkedIn or Twitter. If you’re active in tech spaces online like Github, Bitbucket, Stack Overflow or Reddit, include those as well to demonstrate your passion! (as long as they’re work-appropriate, of course). We’ll talk more in detail about what projects to include below.
So, ready to get started? Here are step-by-step instructions of the major elements you’ll want to tackle in building your first Software Developer or Software Engineer portfolio! Keep reading for our list of templates and free resources, as well as some of the top portfolio examples from the web.
How to Build a Software Developer Portfolio
1. Pick a Platform
The platform where you host your professional portfolio will depend on your professional speciality. If you have a design background or are interested in front-end, it’s a good idea to write the code for your site yourself, or at least include responsive elements. That way, your portfolio can also serve as an example of what you’re capable of. If your speciality lies in the back-end or database world, it might be easier to work from an online template or turn to a popular website builder like Squarespace or Weebly. Regardless of level of personalization, you can turn to sites like Behance and Dribble for templates and visual inspiration or look for templates for popular frameworks like Bootstrap or HTML/CSS.
Another choice for developers is to host their portfolio through Github pages, allowing them to easily connect their existing Github projects. A pro here is the convenience factor, as it links directly to your Github repository, however, we recommend sticking with your own domain. This allows for a greater degree of flexibility and shows off your site-building capabilities.
2. Tailor Your Examples
One of the trickiest aspects of building a portfolio is deciding how many projects to include. There’s no magic number we can provide as an answer. The golden rule to keep in mind is to ensure that each project shows off a different one of your skill sets with minimal overlap. This might include a mix of personal and professional projects depending on your level of experience, which is totally OK! As you take inventory, ask yourself which projects you are most proud of and demonstrate your problem solving skills.
An important aspect not to forget here is to describe the context upon which you developed the projects in question. Tell a story with your examples, so that a reviewer knows the challenges you were faced with and how you overcame them. Remember to keep your target audience in mind; if that happens to be a recruiter then you’ll want to include experiences that align with the role you’re applying for. Ultimately, approximately 3-8 examples should provide enough detail into your expertise without becoming an overwhelming endless scroll.
3. Don’t Forget Source Code tech stack
For a tech-centric role, it’s vital you include samples of your code so hiring managers know what you’re capable of. There are several ways to do this; linking to a code editor with live previews or a Github repo, providing animated GIFs or even uploading a screencast video are all examples we’ve seen. For each project definitely include which tech stack you worked in and if you’re a whiz in C#, Python and R include an example of all three! Recruiters want to see that your code follows folder structure and naming conventions and get a sense of your coding style and abilities.
4. Focus on Design Elements
For the more technically-inclined, it’s easy to overlook the front-end and user experience elements of the site, but these are just as important as the content itself. Using a template is a great way to keep your design visually appealing without having to make too many customizations. Nevertheless, ask peers and mentors to review your site for any usability and interface issues. Review all elements that make up your page like checkboxes, icons, forms, texts and buttons- those need to be in working order to expect a second look. Finally, more than half of all internet traffic is now funneled through phones, so an A+ mobile-responsive experience is an absolutely critical part of building your portfolio.
5. What to Include, What to Avoid
You always need to balance the design elements and content pieces within your portfolio, ensuring they work in harmony and neither detracts from the other. Your portfolio appearing bare with too few examples or completely overstuffed with projects is also to be avoided. Here are top tips for areas you should focus on that might get overlooked.
- Social proof – Testimonials from happy clients or quotes from recommendation letters
- Site Accessibility Measures (color contrast, alt image descriptions, etc.) – reviewers will look for these to be implemented
- Examples or links to your code
- Mobile responsive features – It’s vital your site looks and works great on any device!
- A picture of yourself – Helps viewers put a face to a name and remember you
- Up to date contact information
- Personal projects that demonstrate your passions
- An attention grabbing homepage and introductory sentences
- Overcomplicating your design with too many features or links. Keep it simple and clean for reviewers who likely have to look through several sites
- Unprofessional images or links to social profiles containing non-work-friendly content
- Work from early in your education that doesn’t reflect your current abilities
- Work far outside the scope of the type of roles that interest you
- Outdated contact information
6. Stand Out!
When it comes down to it, your portfolio is your best shot to mirror your online presence with your IRL personality! Don’t be afraid to pepper in mentions to your outside interests and what makes you unique. This might take the form of highlighting outside projects you’ve done for friends or your community or discussing ways you display your passion for tech outside the workplace, like participating in hack-a-thons or competitions. Helping a recruiter put a face to a name and get a sense of you as a person for purposes of culture fit is more valuable than you might think!
Software Developer Portfolio Templates and Free Resources
So far, we’ve discussed a number of popular tools widely used across the industry that go into building a website.As you can see, it’s a multi-step process, so we’ve broken out some of our favorites by category!
Visual Design – Perfect for Prototyping your site before it goes live
Website Hosting and Building – Popular providers that require minimal code knowledge for a beautiful and clean site.
Website Templates – Seek inspiration for stunning designs
Coding Repositories – Popular places to host your top projects
Web Application Frameworks – Master any of these and open yourself up to a world of high-quality libraries and templates
Technical Site Elements – Keep your site up and running and accessible to all visitors
Software Developer Portfolio Examples to Inspire!
We’ve scoured the web to compile some of our absolute favorite Software Developer, Web Developer and Software engineer portfolios. From the aesthetic choices to the unique projects they’ve displayed within, you’re sure to find inspiration among these top-tier examples!
- Jonny MacEachern, jonny.me
- Rafel Caferati, caferati.me
- Jordy Ruiter, kaiwa-projects.com
- Josue, Espinosa, ejosue.com
- Jack Tomaszewski, jtom.me
- Emily Ridge, emilyridge.ie
Becoming a Software Developer: Next Steps
Kicking off your UX/UI career and building your first portfolio is an incredibly exciting experience, that can also be overwhelming at times. Luckily, we’re here to help! Check out a sampling of the resources for UX or UI designers available on codingbootcamps.io:
- Which coding language should you learn first? Explore our detailed guides to C, C#, C++, HTML/CSS, Java, Python, R, React, Ruby or SQL
- Don’t forget about libraries and frameworks- we didn’t! Here’s what you need to know about AJAX, Bootstrap, Express.js, jQuery and Handlebars
- Learn about the career path of a software engineer, web developer, back-end web developer or front-end web developer. Or explore the difference between front-end and back-end web development
- Check out our portfolio guides for other tech specialties like web developer, front-end web developer or UX/UI designer.
- Enhance your knowledge with a bootcamp! Learn more about what these programs offer and check out our comprehensive listings and program comparisons in areas like coding, data analytics and more.
- Read about the top front-end and back-end programming languages you need to know and check out which tech jobs are in high demand for 2022 and command the highest salaries.
- Prepare for all elements of your career in tech with our top tips for deciding between a bootcamp or college, and our best practice guides for acing your technical resume and technical interview