Every creative artist needs a portfolio. Whether you are a graphic designer, illustrator, photographer or video editor, a great online portfolio enables you to connect with more people to expand your network and find work. But, creating an online portfolio can often seem like a jawbreaker of a task: it’s long, it’s big and it’s technical. We’ve compiled some of our favourite online portfolio-building hints to try and ease the process into something a lot more bitesize.
Where to build and host your new online portfolio
First things first, you need a domain name for your website. Potential clients need to be able to find you easily, so go for the obvious and choose your brand name. First check that no one else is using it already by exploring the various deals on different sites.
These are some of the most common hosting sites (but there are many more options to choose from):
This is one of the biggest domain registrars on the market! With over 75 million domains sold, their plans are simple and the platform intuitive.
Another big name for purchasing your big name, this option has the quality you need with good bundle values for if you plan to actually build your website with them.
Simple and trustworthy with great quality and prices.
Another option is to purchase your domain with a site-building platform, such as:
With over 110 million websites built, Wix is the it-girl of web builders. It boasts a ton of tools and capabilities so you can customize your website from scratch without being a pro-coder. Alternatively, you can choose from their huge catalog of templates. It’s easy-to-use, super intuitive and offers a free version (with ads) in case you want to try it out before committing fully.
With tons of perfectly crafted customizable templates to choose from and an unparalleled attention to detail, Squarespace offers contemporary and unique aesthetics for web building. It has simple and fairly-priced hosting plans with unlimited storage and bandwidth. Be aware that your creative freedom would be slightly more limited with this one in comparison to Wix, incase you’re planning to go really out there in your porftolio design.
The easiest one to use on the market: Weebly is heaven-sent for beginners. Delivering professional looking websites with clean designs with similar pricing to the aforementioned options, it’s definitely worth looking into if you’re new to this.
Technically “free” if you’re already paying for an active Creative Cloud subscription, it offers a great service within your softwares plan. Take note that this one offers less freedom in terms of customization than the actual website builders. Its UI is also not as intuitive but, saying that, it provides a varied selection of templates for you to start experimenting with.
One last logical solution is to source and host your website domain in the same place. GoDaddy and Bluehost, for example, offer web-building plans when you purchase a domain but these are not as intuitive or slick as the specific web builders we’ve mentioned. Likewise, Wix and Squarespace offer domains with their site-building services, which is a more practical option for combining . And if money is tight, check out our round up of the best free web builders on offer.
Online portfolio structure and organization
Structure is key for web-building, whether you’re using a template or coding from scratch. You know that feeling when you click on a new link and the website looks so outdated that you just can’t even and have to close the tab right away? That’s what we don’t want. We want to keep users enticed throughout the journey, so your online portfolio has to be well organised.
1. Landing page
Having an impactful header or landing page for your online portfolio is a necessity. This is the first thing that your visitors, old or new, will be greeted by so you want to make it memorable, distinctive and have it show off your personality. Must include your logo and a navigational menu!
2. Work section
This is where you will display your work so your goal here is to be presentable and direct—visitors should understand right away the type of projects you are able to do and the quality you can achieve. Attention to detail, quality, consistency and a logical organization should be your main focus for this page.
3. About section
Who are you, what do you do and why. This is the part where you add contextual information, invite your site’s visitors to connect emotionally with your brand and show them who you are. Keep it short but imaginative and don’t be afraid to experiment with imagery and video.
You don’t go and create a whole new website to promote your work just for fun right? You want people to contact you, you want more clients and you want to expand your professional network.
The contact function of your portfolio can be as simple as an email add-on (that you include straight from your website builder) where visitors can send you emails directly from your website. Or, you could state your work email, phone number and social media links. However you present it, make sure your contact info is easily accessible and visible for visitors.
Let your work speak for itself
One important thing to consider is the amount of work you choose to display. Many people upload their entire back catalogue onto their online portfolios and this is no good, unless perhaps if you’re just getting started.
When it comes to portfolios, it’s all about your best bits! Give your potential clients what they want to see: a versatile, skilful and unique individual! Choose quality over quantity and make sure everything in your online portfolio is relevant and consistent; having a unified theme screams professionalism.
Explain your role
When your images are opened in a preview window, even if it’s a new page or a light-box, you want your visitors to have context. Include a brief explanation of each project to indicate your role. Apart from looking at images of the final product, your potential clients/collaborators will want to know how you contributed to achieving that result, especially if you usually work in a team.
If relevant for your line of work, you could even present your project like a case study: with numbers, metrics, clients testimonials and awards, establishing the project goals and discussing how they were met; this creates transparency and depth.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and thinking for web
So, you’ve finished the design. What now? Search Engine Optimization (SEO) enables your site to be seen by as many wandering eyes as possible. When it comes to SEO, knowing the basics will get you a long way and even though we are not exploring this universe in depth, we’ll scratch just enough of the surface to get you ready to launch your online portfolio at full speed.
The first thing to consider for SEO is your “keywords”. Dive deep into an online search for those offering the same services as you and use these findings to inform your decision. For example, if you are a wedding photographer creating a professional portfolio, you’ll want to know what words people usually use to search for such services. Favorites could include “affordable wedding photographer in Los Angeles” or “best wedding photographer in the US”, for instance, so it’s these words you need to be using! Be sure to squeeze a little personality into your wording as well—you don’t want to sound like a robot.
As we’re talking about creating an online portfolio here, we need to be considering all the different internet speeds that visitors will be accessing it with. When it comes to websites you need to optimize the images for faster load speeds, so make sure that when you upload your work, you have the smallest file size possible without compromising on the quality of the image or video; save any images at 72dpi and try not to exceed 3MB (aiming high) in file sizes… no one likes to wait for loading content when accessing a website.
The structure of your website is also very important for Search Engines, so take your time in working that out. Use short and descriptive URL names (youronlineportfolio.com/work for example), pay attention to metadata for your images, pages and descriptions and make use of headers and sub headers so search engines know what’s important and relevant. This categorizes your content efficiently and puts you out there, in a better position, to entice those potential clients or collaborators to check out your site. If you want to go deeper and learn more about SEO, Google has a great Starter Guide for beginners.
Make it mobile-friendly
Still focusing on optimizations, a huge factor today is the smartphone version of your online portfolio. Back in 2016, according to StatCounter, internet usage by mobile and tablet devices exceeded desktop access worldwide for the first time, which is a trend that shows no signs of slowing down.
On all of the aforementioned website builders, you’re able to customize displays for desktop and smartphone devices, which is a super important feature that you must not ignore! Consider how your images will look on mobile screen sizes, remembering that the connections on mobiles are usually slower, so you need even smaller image file sizes.
Google actually favors mobile-friendly websites when people are searching on mobile, which is another pointer as to why it’s vital to be thinking about this from the start of your design!
You finished your portfolio, what next?
Promote, promote, promote! Finishing an online portfolio is one thing, being happy with how it looks and navigates is another; if you’ve succeeded in both of these tasks then you’ve nailed it my friend. You may feel prone to screaming your news from the top of the highest mountain you can locate—and why not—this is a big accomplishment.
This is about the time when you tune into your real-life connections and social media accounts to begin your self-promotion. However you choose to dive in, think about your brand holistically. Every time you invite someone to interact with your portfolio (and therefore your brand), ensure you do it in a consistent style and tone to your brand identity; again potential clients need to know who you are and what you stand for, so make it easy for them!
Joining a digital design community is also a brilliant way to spread your message. Dribbble, Behance or DeviantArt are all great options; signing up to one enables you to reach an enormous number of people regardless of location and get feedback and it’s a great way to network with other creatives from all around the globe.
A lasting vision
A new online portfolio is something to be proud of. You dedicated a considerable amount of time on all the projects there, and so your presentation must be spot on. Now that you have people visiting and admiring your work, keep them coming back for more by updating your portfolio at least once a year with new projects and by showing everyone that you are active and your game is strong. This is not your old bedroom in your parents house, so let’s keep it fresh people.
As for a whole website update, I’m guessing you won’t need that for a little while, but you will know when you do and when that time comes. Your website is a constant work-in-progress so keep your finger on the pulse with new waves of design and keep coming back to it like you simply, cannot get enough.