One of the most important steps you can take in kickstarting your web development career is to create a portfolio. Easier said than done, right?. Your portfolio will not only become an ever-evolving resource you’ll use over and over again in your career, but it will also serve as the first impression of your work to potential employers.
As you can tell, getting all aspects of your portfolio right can put you in the best possible position to land that next role. Taking the time to craft the perfect portfolio now will ensure that you’re prepared to showcase your skills in the best light to all types of freelance clients or for future job opportunities.
In this article, we’re breaking down everything you need to know to build your web developer portfolio. What to include, what not to include, and our top tips to stand out among the crowd. Plus, we’ve compiled some of our favorite portfolios from across the web to serve as inspiration to get you started!
What is a Web Developer Portfolio?
At its core, a web developer portfolio is a way for web developers to market themselves. It’s a website that houses all your best past projects and gives employers a glimpse into your personality and talents. While this overlaps with the purpose of a resume, the portfolio gives developers a chance to “walk the walk” as opposed to listing out work experiences.
Why is a Web Developer Portfolio Important?
Your portfolio will bring together all the elements that encompass your expertise as an attractive candidate: technical skills, creativity, efficiency and professionalism. The process of creating a highly optimized portfolio site alone proves you the hands-on experience needed and showcases your skillset.
Ready to get started? Here’s a checklist of content to include, design elements not to forget, and our best overall advice for building your web dev portfolio
How to Build a Web Developer Portfolio
1. Pick a Platform
Before beginning the website build process, sketch out your layout and decide where you’d like content to live. Why? As you build and add projects, you’ll want your navigation to be logical and adaptable. If you’re visually inclined, Adobe XD and Figma can be helpful tools here. As part of this process, you’ll want to consider where you’ll host your site. A popular option is through Github Pages, which allows users to create a public repository that houses existing projects on the site. If you’re looking for your own domain or more control over your user interface, Weebly and WordPress are two of the most popular hosting platforms.
2. Showcase Diverse Work
Now we get to the content itself: When it comes to projects you’ve worked on, the golden rule is that each one should differ from the last. Take time to reflect on what aspect(s) of the project you are most proud of and decide how to highlight it. This tip is especially important if you intend to use your portfolio for freelance jobs or for applying to multiple roles (which you should!) The problem-solving skills you’ve used to design a blog is different from those used to create an ecommerce page. If you’ve got the goods, this is the place to show them off.
Additionally, you should create context around each of your projects, and include descriptions and tech stacks used. Including companies you’ve worked for, challenges you’ve overcome and even before and after screenshots can further illustrate the depth of your abilities. Depending on client permissions, many portfolios also include code samples and/or links to Github repos and animated GIFs. This allows reviewers to follow your project and thinking process easiest and they can ensure your code follows folder structure and naming conventions.
3. Be Choosy (But Only in the Right Places)
A hard truth of the portfolio development process: reviewers only spend 10-15 seconds on average reviewing your portfolio before making a judgment call, according to the University of Washington School of Human Centered Design and Engineering. Ask yourself, If you only had this brief window to boast about your accomplishment in person, which project would you include? For this reason, your portfolio should not serve as a dumping ground for every line of code you’ve had your hands in.
So, what’s the magic number of projects to include then? As long as each one portrays a different element of your knowledge and talents without significant overlap, you’re in the clear. Think of your site as a living document, and set time aside to periodically update it as your knowledge base and project repository grows. If possible, seek out a reliable mentor in the space who can provide feedback on your work and help you decide what’s best to include.
4. Focus on the Homepage
It seems simple, but it’s often forgotten! With so much focus on the projects itself, it’s easy to overlook this page that can be relatively content-free. However, let’s face it, we do judge a book by its cover. In seconds, a visitor should be able to surmise who you are and what you do. Your homepage not only needs to make a positive first impression but also sets the tone for the rest of your site. Include a photo of yourself, compelling visuals and headlines and introductory text that show off your personality. Keep your user interface smooth and straightforward and don’t forget to test and retest your navigation and technical features. On that note…
5. Sweat the Small Stuff
You read that right! Remember, you’re the client you’ve created this portfolio for, and you should be presented in the best possible light. Check the positioning of UI components like icons, checkboxes, search fields and menus. Ensure the design and font choices provide a clean and uncluttered field. Scan your written copy for any grammatical or spelling errors and check that all links and personal contact information are accurate and up to date. Crawling your portfolio regularly with this level of detail is critical to success.
6. Ensure Usability
Just like a project you’d work on for a client, your web developer portfolio should be designed with the end user experience at top of mind. Once again, there’s a checklist of items you should complete here. First and foremost, make sure your site is mobile-responsive and looks and loads great on any device. Additionally, use a tool like the Lighthouse Google Chrome extension to audit your site speed and technical performance, and make improvements where necessary. Finally, reviewers might inspect your site for accessibility. Some improvements you can make here include adding alt text to images, enabling resizable text and creating accessible forms.
7. Stand Out!
Chances are, a visitor to your site is not looking at their first portfolio of the day. Here’s your opportunity to have your online presence mirror your IRL personality! Don’t be afraid to make your portfolio pop by injecting some of what makes you unique. The copy and visuals of the “about” page are a great opportunity to showcase some of your passions outside of the coding realm and help employers put a face to a name. Linking out to your social media profiles (as long as they’re appropriate and professional) can also accomplish this goal.
Web Developer Portfolio Examples to Inspire!
To help get you started, here’s a list of some of our favorite web developer portfolio sites! Whether it’s the unique visual flair, how they’ve laid out their content or the projects embedded within, we’re sure you’ll be able to take away inspiration from these practically perfect portfolios!
1. Jhey Tompkins, jhey.dev
2. Michael Pumo, michaelpumo.com
3. Robb Owne, robbowen.digital
4. Lynn Fisher, lynnandtonic.com
5. Denise Chandler, denisechandler.com
6. Dan Spratling, danspratling.dev
7. Emily Ridge, emilyridge.ie
8. Rafael Caferati, caferati.me
9. Jonny MacEarchern, jonny.me
10. Josh Comeau, joshwcomeau.com
11. Matthew Williams, findmatthew.com
12. Mees Verberne, meesverberne.com
13. Adeola Adeoti, adeolaadeoti.netlify.app
14. Alicia Sykes, aliciasykes.com
15. Pierre Nel, pierre.io
Becoming a Web Developer: Next Steps
Creating your web development portfolio will serve as only the first step on your web development professional journey. Check out additional resources on our site to learn more about this promising career path!
- Dive into the uses cases and steps you can take to learn vital web development skills like Bootstrap, HTML/CSS, Java and many more.
- Learn about the career path of a 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 comprehensive guides to creating a front-end web developer portfolio or a technical resume
- Expand your knowledge with Our program listings and comparison pages for a variety of tech specialties, including Coding, Cybersecurity, Data Analytics, Data Science, Digital Marketing, Fintech and UX/UI.