How to make a developer / designer portfolio

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Finding your way into an entry level position in the Computer Science field can often be daunting. With many job descriptions ‘requiring’ a Computer Science degree + 5 years experience, it is understandable that a lot of people find themselves in the catch 22 of having too little experience to get an experience-building job. While this post is not intended to help you with how to get a job offer, it will help with how you can be discovered, and shine come interview day.

So before I start, why should you value any opinion I give here? Well I was once in the same position you are. (I am assuming since you’ve come across this post you are new to programming/design and looking for a job). If you would like to read more into my story about how I learned to code, you can find some additional encouraging words and tips on how to stand out in the crowd.

Google your name. If you don’t come up on the first page with content you control, you need to fix that.

Logo_2013_Google
One of the first things I do before conducting an interview at work is google the candidates name. In particular I am looking for links to real-world work that they have done, so I can snoop the code and get a better picture of where their skill level is at. This is the age of the internet: if you are looking to get a job in tech and do not have an online presence, that raises a red flag. This is the first and most important step of creating an online AND offline portfolio. While I have an online portfolio, my real portfolio is this entire website. Especially when it comes to the tech industry, it is a good idea to have a personal website where you can control the information about yourself.

Your site should be the showcase if your awesomeness. So make it Awesome!

awesomeYour personal website shouldn’t just be a basic ‘about me’ information resource. You have an opportunity to craft the experience of the visitor in any direction you choose. I would suggest you spend time on making something unique and creative where a potential employer can learn more about your skills, and frame of mind. I, for example, use my website as a place where I can write about cool programming tricks I come across, or open source projects I work on. The power of blogging about cool things you do/find is three fold.

  1. Employers like to see someone that is actively involved in the tech world.
  2. Every once in a while Google will rank your article and you will start getting some great organic SEO visits, some of those visits could certainly be employers or recruiters.
  3. Blogging allows for your ideas to be spread socially via places like Twitter, Linked In, and Facebook. This is great from the standpoint of spreading awesome information about you, but will also start building some authenticity with your own personal network of friends and colleagues online. Keep your networks up-to-date with your latest projects, and build the brand of ‘you’.

Your actual portfolio should be easy to find, and easy to consume.

waldoWhile the hidden trick here is that your entire personal website is your portfolio, your actual portfolio on your site should have all the projects you are proud of in an easily scannable format with outbound links to the projects you are showcasing. I choose to use small image thumbnail previews to get the gist of what the project was, with an external link to the actual project. This is a great way for an employer to get a quick idea of your awesomeness. Adding brief contextual descriptions help a user navigate the projects, so make sure to add brief descriptions. A well crafted portfolio can be one of you largest assets in landing an interview, and doing well in an interview by bringing up your portfolio page and walking through your projects quickly.

Gain inspiration from others.

There are many great examples of outstanding and unique online portfolios, and there have been many ‘Top 10′ articles written that are a great place to start when looking for design and layout choices. Writing an article on my personal favorite examples of online portfolios is currently on my ‘to-do list’, but in the mean time here are a couple of articles I have found useful for looking for design inspiration. creativebloq.com | designm.ag

A good Portfolio is accompanied by a good Resume.

A portfolio is essential to quickly showcase your projects, but a well formatted online resume is great for showing your experience. My resume is also one of the larger SEO hits I get from search engines. This also allows you to always have your resume on-hand. If you make a good connection at a networking event, it’s super easy to just tell them to checkout your website, which should include everything they may need to know about your skills and experience.

Building a great personal portfolio website takes time.

This site you are on has been a constant work-in-progress for the past year. The fact is: to stay ahead of modern design, tech trends, social media, and everything else fast-paced about the tech world, your personal website should always be in continual ‘beta’ mode. That is: you should never be ‘finished’ with building your website. I try to make a point to add something new, or improve the site at least twice a month. This will ensure that the site will (hopefully) never begin to appear stale, or out-of-date. There are many things that can help with constructing your website. This site, as an example, is using the WordPress blogging framework as my Content Management System. I purchased the Rudermann HTML5 theme, and built it into my own wordpress theme. Rudermann comes as just a HTML5 scaffold, so if you want to use it for WordPress you are going to have to convert by hand it to be a theme yourself. Integrating your own WordPress theme is actually pretty good practice, because it forces you to learn how WordPress works behind the scenes.

I hope this may help if you are looking for where to start with building your own online portfolio. I was once in the position of looking for answers such as those which this article seeks to answer, and I have made it my priority to try and help others that are following the same path I have. If you have any questions or comments, you can leave them in the comment area below and I will get back to you as soon as I can.

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Riley scribbled this article down on: December 24, 2013
  • Puran

    Great article! I’m a couple months into Treehouse myself and am exactly the type of person this article is relevant to. Thank you – and the site feels rich and engaging.

  • http://eliasfares.com Eli Fares

    Great article! I’m looking into making a portfolio website for myself and this is an awesome starting place. Thanks!