I was contacted today by a fellow front-end developer who is new to the field and is looking for advice. He was hoping to put together a portfolio, but was having trouble getting started. He wanted to know how he should make it. Backbone, Bootstrap, how should it be built? And what’s a portfolio site without any work to show? He hasn’t done any client work, so should he just find other sites and redo them? So after I gave him my response, I decided to do a little write-up for some tips and advice for those people looking to break into the field.
Designs get stale and tastes vary from person to person, so don’t worry so much about the portfolio, focus on yourself. If you don’t have any work to show, or the work that you have isn’t very good, think about what separates your from the pack and work on that. Don’t just throw some jokes together about being a ninja, or guru, or wizard… talk about your strengths and what drives you. It’s easy to be playful, be sincere and get taken seriously.
Limit the Tech
Flashy websites are about as dated as Flash websites. Stick to HTML5 and CSS3 as much as possible. Save the hardcore techie stuff for a “side projects” or “personal projects” portion of your site where you experiment and demo your chops. Checkout Jessica Hishe or Paul Lewis for examples on well executed projects that feel complete and emphasize your interests. If tech is your thing, provide links to your projects, contributions, forks, etc on GitHub.
Keep the design simple. Focus on typography, color, and negative space. Take the time to make the site responsive with a mobile first approach. The how doesn’t matter so much, but if you’re going to make a portfolio site, make one that will last for a long time and that is easy to update and maintain.
Engage the Community
Add a blog to your site and begin to write about your interests, share tips and tutorials, or give your opinion on the happenings of the community. Start a Twitter account, keep update-to-date on what’s going on, and find fuel for your blog entries. Listen to podcasts and learn about the latest “Hot Drama” from shows like ShopTalkShow or Frip Frap.
Ultimately, you’re selling yourself, not just a set of skills or a list of work. Skills can be taught and good work will come with time, but showing employers that you’re dedicated and passionate will be your most valuable asset.