As we’ve already discussed, WordPress is a great platform for delivering mobile-optimised and easy-to-manage sites — be they personal or business sites. Regardless of its purpose, a digital portfolio is an incredibly useful and easy way of displaying your work. Particularly if you’re a designer like me, or if you’re involved in any other sort of creative work, a well-designed digital portfolio is critical to promoting what you do.
Using our own portfolio as an example, here’s a few tips. This post is going to pertain to the basics, such as how to organise and layout your digital portfolio and how to get the most out of it. In the follow-up post, we’ll go into more detail about the importance of visual design elements, including: photography, graphics and WordPress themes.
Give visitors some clear options
Even if your work is only in one medium or area, it’s vital to provide visitors with some easy-to-view categories or options that break up your body of work into smaller components. This is particularly true if your portfolio is big (like ours!).
This can be done in a number of ways. Firstly, adding a ‘featured’ section allows you to promote the best of your work. People tend to switch off after the first four or five options, so make sure those options count! Featuring certain projects can help to prevent information overload.
We use a drop-down menu (see below), but you can also work in some text-based categories if it suits your design better. It doesn’t really matter how you format it too much, just so long as it’s clear and concise — which brings me onto my next point.
The most important factor in categorising your work is keeping it simple. You’ll notice we have 10 categories on our page. That’s quite a lot, but we’re unique in that we work in a lot of different areas. Any more would probably be pushing it, and tags would most likely be more appropriate in that instance.
If you’re, say, a writer, you might have three main areas of work: blogging, copywriting and editing. Potential clients are most likely only going to be looking for one of those services when they visit your site, in which case it’s important to draw up distinctions between the three different services you offer. The same goes for photography (e.g. portraits, weddings and landscape) or graphic/web design. Throwing lots of individual pieces of work onto the same page without any distinctions is confusing and time wasting. Categorise in a way that is useful and guides the user towards certain services or work. The polymaths amongst you can use subcategories if necessary, but simplicity is key here.
It’s all well and good displaying your actual work, but without testimonials, you are not giving potential clients a balanced representation of what it is like to work with you. If you don’t have any, contact some old clients and ask for some. Ideally, you want to use them to accompany each relevant piece of work. The work you did for them should be self-explanatory on your portfolio. What you’re looking for in a testimonial is something that tells visitors how you completed this or that piece of work, rather than what it is.
It’s difficult to control the responses you get from former clients — they are, of course, doing you a favour by sending you a testimonial at all. One way you could guide their testimonials, though, is by sending out a set list of questions or a feedback form when you complete a job. This will give you greater freedom in crafting a certain kind of narrative about your brand.
Blog your experiences
This is a bit of a cheat way to strengthen your portfolio, but talk about your past work on your blog! This not only gives you an easy way of directing extra traffic from Google towards your portfolio, but it also gives potential clients the confidence that you are engaged with your work.
Experiential pieces are fine, but they don’t make for very interesting content for a lot of readers. A better solution is to use the lessons of your past work as examples in blog posts. Demonstrate how you responded to a certain problem, and how others can do the same. For example, many novice designers might be looking for a way to incorporate widget features into their sites without sacrificing performance. You could discuss the ways you’ve worked around this problem in the past. This has the added bonus of helping those less experienced than you and bringing a lot more traffic in as a result!
In our next post in the series, we’ll be exploring how you can incorporate specific visual design elements into your site to really boost your portfolio’s look and feel.