Menu Search
Jump to the content X X
Smashing Conf New York

We use ad-blockers as well, you know. We gotta keep those servers running though. Did you know that we publish useful books and run friendly conferences — crafted for pros like yourself? E.g. upcoming SmashingConf Barcelona, dedicated to smart front-end techniques and design patterns.

10 Steps To The Perfect Portfolio Website

You may have a personal portfolio website for a number of reasons. If you’re a freelancer, then you’d need one to showcase your work and allow people to contact you. If you’re a student (or unemployed), then you’d need one to show prospective employers how good you are and what you can do, so that they might hire you. If you’re part of a studio, then you might use one to blog about your design life, show people what you’re doing and build your online presence.

A personal portfolio website is all about promoting you. You are a brand, and your name is a brand name. No one is going to know about your brand unless you get it out there; and if you’re a Web designer, developer, writer, gamer or any other type of creative, then it’s essential that you have a good portfolio website.

You may want to take a look at the following related articles:

What makes for a good personal portfolio website? Link

Your logo is usually the first thing a user sees. In the Western world, we read from left to right, top to bottom, so it makes sense to put your logo in the top left of your website so that users can immediately identify who owns the website.

It doesn’t necessarily have to be your name, but if you’re trying to promote yourself online, then it’s a good idea to go by your name. And always link your logo to your home page. It’s a common convention that users expect online.

Mohit goes by the alias of CSS Jockey.

Jason Reed uses a signature-style logo of his name.

2. Tagline Link

Once the user sees who owns the website, they’ll want to know what it is you do. This is where you explain what you do with a tagline. Your tagline should be short and snappy, summarizing what you do.

Things to ask yourself when writing your tagline:

  • What are you? A designer? A writer? A developer?
  • What do you do? Design websites? Develop games?
  • Where are you from? Country? City?
  • Are you a freelancer or do you work for a studio? Are you looking for work?
Sarah Longnecker makes it clear that she puts together videos and is good at it.

3. Portfolio Link

This is a personal portfolio website after all, so your portfolio will determine whether the website is interesting or not. People will want to see your previous work to decide whether you’re good or not and for general interest, to see what you’ve been up to in the past.

Depending on what you do, your portfolio should contain big high-quality images, clearly accessible to the user. Always include a link to the live version of the website you worked on, and link your screenshot to the live version (another common convention that people expect). Include a short description for each project, including the different skills that you needed to complete the project.

It’s never a bad idea to get a testimonial from a client. Your visitors might also be interested in the stages of development for your projects and how you arrived at the final outcome.

Leigh Taylor displays nice clear screenshots of previous work and indicates what softfigureare was used during development.

4. Services Link

Your tagline summed up what you do, but you’ll want to go into a bit more detail here about each service that you offer. You can’t expect potential clients to guess what you do based on your portfolio, and you don’t want to leave them wondering whether you offer a particular service or not.

Make it clear, and break it down: Web design, development, video, copywriting, branding, etc. You may want to be even more specific: corporate branding, church website design, Flash banner ads and so on.

Chris Spooner clearly indicates the services he offers for both print and Web.

5. About me Link

It’s all about you. Let people see the man or woman behind the mask (i.e. website). Share your background, where you came from, how many years you’ve been in the business, etc. The more details you give, the better your users can form a bond and build trust with you.

If you’re not camera-shy, show a picture of yourself. This will give potential clients peace of mind by allowing them to see who they’re dealing with, and it adds an element of trust.

Don’t be afraid to show off your awards and recognition here. You want people to know you’re good at what you do.

Chikezie Ejiasi shows us a photo of himself and even lets us know how to pronounce his figureame.

6. Contact Link

This is one of the most important elements of a portfolio website but is often hidden or even neglected. A potential client has browsed your website, is impressed with your portfolio and can see who you are. Now they want to hire you.

Your contact information should be obvious and easy to access; don’t hide it in the footer. Let people know they can contact you for a quote or a chat. Use a form to make it easier for users to contact you (so that they don’t have to take down your email address and then open up their email manager). A form also allows you to ask for specific information, such as name, email address, website URL, details of inquiry.

Stuart Johnston offers clear contact details throughout his website but also provfiguredes an easy-to-use contact form.

7. Blog Link

A blog is always a good idea. Blog about your area of expertise; show you know what you’re talking about. It will help promote you and prevent your website from lying static.

Let people follow you by subscribing to an RSS feed, and show off your most popular blog posts to new readers.

Be sure to enable comments for feedback. Don’t make users register to add a comment to your blog, and don’t use anti-spam Captcha software, which only turns people off from commenting. There are plenty of anti-spam plug-ins available that don’t require users to do extra work.

Chris Wallace uses his blog about Web design-related topics to help out other people in tfiguree industry and to engage in discussion.

8. Call to action Link

Ask yourself what you want to get out of your personal portfolio website. Do you want to be hired? Attract more blog readers? Maybe you just want people to know who you are.

Each page should have a call to action, a “Next step.” The best way to accomplish this is with a “call to action” button that is clear and stands out from the rest of the page. Link it to your blog, portfolio or contact page, and use appropriate language (e.g. “Hire me,” “Request a quote,” “View my portfolio”).

Matthew Brown’s call to action is a contrasting button that stands out from the restfigureof the website.

9. Use social networking websites Link

Now that people have an interest in you and your work, encourage them to follow you on other websites. Make it clear that they can follow you on Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, LinkedIn, etc. Make the most of social networks and have a group of friends to call on if needed.

Sam Brown offers clear links to other websites he uses, allowing us to stalk him.

10. Language and communication Link

How you conduct yourself is important. Remember, it’s a personal portfolio website, so be personal. You don’t need to sound like a corporate brand with no emotion. Be friendly and personal, but also clear and precise; don’t ramble. Once you write all the text for your website, read it again and see if you can cut it in half.

Marius Roosendaal uses a relaxed and friendly tone on his website.

Other tips: Link

  • Let people know where you’re from. This is always interesting to know, and some clients prefer to work with people nearby or in the same time zone.
  • Validation is important, especially for Web designers. If you’re going to be building professional websites for clients, then your own website’s code should at least be valid12.
  • Link images, not just text. Most people will click on images, expecting them to point somewhere.
  • If you don’t have any previous clients for your portfolio, create a WordPress theme, design an icon set, develop a Twitter mashup, etc. You have a lot of possibilities, and there’s a big difference between having one project to show in your portfolio and having none.

40+ beautiful personal portfolio websites Link

Robbie Manson13


F. Claire Scroggins15


Timothy van Sas17


Maru Velázquez19


Chikezie Ejiasi21


Miki Mottes23 (Flash)


Jakub Krcmar25




Chris J. Lee29


Pedro Lamin31


Leigh Taylor4933


Alex Coleman

Alex Coleman

Sarah Longnecker

Sarah Longnecker

Toby Powell35

Toby Powell36

Jay Hafling37

Jay Hafling38

Elliot Jay Stocks39


Tony Geer41

Tony Greer42

Marius Roosendaal43

Marius Roosendaal44

Ryan O’Rourke45

Ryan O'Rourke46

<img /> is everything (Phil Thompson)47

Img Is Everything48

Leigh Taylor4933

Leigh Taylor50

Design Me (Marek Levak)51

Design Me52

Matt Dempsey53

Matt Dempsey54

Brad Candullo55

Brad Candullo56

Andre Augusto

Andre Augusto

Rob Hawkes57

Rob Hawkes58

Magnus Jepson59

Magnus Jepson60

Corking Design (Daniel Cork)61

Corking Design62

Evan Eckard63

Evan Eckard64

Alexandru Cohaniuc65

Alexandru Cohaniuc66

Miles Dowsett67

Miles Dowsett68

Andrew Bradshaw

Andrew Bradshaw

Shannon Moeller69

Shannon Moeller70

Vitor Louranco71

Vitor Louranco72

Mark Dearman73

Mark Dearman74

Wong Yeng Kit75

Wong Yeng Kit76

Chris Wallace77

Chris Wallace78

Spoon Graphics (Chris Spooner)79

Spoon Graphics80

Fabiano Meneghetti81

Fabiano Meneghetti82

Mark Wallis83

Mark Wallis84

Chris Morris85

Chris Morris86

Paiko (Heiko Brömmelstrote)87


Henry Jones89

Henry Jones90

Winnie Lim91

Winnie Lim92

Greg One (Gregoire Hoin)93

Greg One94

Mark Hadley95

Mark Hadley96

David Appleyard97

David Appleyard98

Design Moves Me (Roy Vergara)99

Design Moves Me100

Brian Murchison101

Brian Murchison102

Mike Precious103

Mike Precious104

Digital Deceptions (Duncan)105

Digital Deceptions106

Chirag Solanki107

Chirag Solanki108

Jason Reed

Jason Reed

Johnston North (Stuart Johnston)109

Johnston North110

Penflare Designs (Sean Farrell)111

Penflare Designs112

Nine Lion (Chikezie Ejiasi)113

Nine Lion Design114

Brian Wilkins115

Brian Wilkins116

Jason Santa Maria117

Jason Santa Maria118

David Hellmann

David Hellmann

Dave Lam119

Dave Lam120

Luke Stevens121

Luke Stevens122

James Lai

James Lai

Alessandro Cavallo123

Allesandro Cavallo124

CSS Jockey (Mohit)125

CSS Jockey126

Kerry Nehil127

Kerry Nehil128

Darren Hoyt129

Darren Hoyt130

Matthew Brown131

Matthew Brown132

Digital Mash (Rob Morris)133

Digital Mash134

The Things We Make (Mike Kus)

The Things We Make

Ed Merritt135

Ed Merritt136

What do you expect to see on a good personal portfolio website? Link

Anything important we’ve missed? What would make the difference between your deciding to hire someone and deciding against it?

Further reading: Link


Footnotes Link

  1. 1 /2008/03/04/creating-a-successful-online-portfolio/
  2. 2 /2008/11/26/50-beautiful-and-creative-portfolio-designs/
  3. 3
  4. 4
  5. 5
  6. 6
  7. 7
  8. 8
  9. 9
  10. 10
  11. 11
  12. 12
  13. 13
  14. 14
  15. 15
  16. 16
  17. 17
  18. 18
  19. 19
  20. 20
  21. 21
  22. 22
  23. 23
  24. 24
  25. 25
  26. 26
  27. 27
  28. 28
  29. 29
  30. 30
  31. 31
  32. 32
  33. 33
  34. 34
  35. 35
  36. 36
  37. 37
  38. 38
  39. 39
  40. 40
  41. 41
  42. 42
  43. 43
  44. 44
  45. 45
  46. 46
  47. 47
  48. 48
  49. 49
  50. 50
  51. 51
  52. 52
  53. 53
  54. 54
  55. 55
  56. 56
  57. 57
  58. 58
  59. 59
  60. 60
  61. 61
  62. 62
  63. 63
  64. 64
  65. 65
  66. 66
  67. 67
  68. 68
  69. 69
  70. 70
  71. 71
  72. 72
  73. 73
  74. 74
  75. 75
  76. 76
  77. 77
  78. 78
  79. 79
  80. 80
  81. 81
  82. 82
  83. 83
  84. 84
  85. 85
  86. 86
  87. 87
  88. 88
  89. 89
  90. 90
  91. 91
  92. 92
  93. 93
  94. 94
  95. 95
  96. 96
  97. 97
  98. 98
  99. 99
  100. 100
  101. 101
  102. 102
  103. 103
  104. 104
  105. 105
  106. 106
  107. 107
  108. 108
  109. 109
  110. 110
  111. 111
  112. 112
  113. 113
  114. 114
  115. 115
  116. 116
  117. 117
  118. 118
  119. 119
  120. 120
  121. 121
  122. 122
  123. 123
  124. 124
  125. 125
  126. 126
  127. 127
  128. 128
  129. 129
  130. 130
  131. 131
  132. 132
  133. 133
  134. 134
  135. 135
  136. 136
  137. 137
  138. 138
  139. 139 /2008/03/04/creating-a-successful-online-portfolio/
  140. 140 /2008/11/26/50-beautiful-and-creative-portfolio-designs/
SmashingConf New York

Hold on, Tiger! Thank you for reading the article. Did you know that we also publish printed books and run friendly conferences – crafted for pros like you? Like SmashingConf Barcelona, on October 25–26, with smart design patterns and front-end techniques.

↑ Back to top Tweet itShare on Facebook


Lee Munroe is a freelance web designer from Belfast. You can see his other writings on web design on his blog.

  1. 1

    Vasil Stoychev

    February 26, 2009 1:50 pm

    Great article. Thank you! :-)

  2. 2

    Thanks for the tips and list of great websites.

  3. 3

    Thanks SM for the great tips! Speaking of which, I think SM needs a face-lift…current design has been on long enough.

  4. 4

    yes, they are perfect.
    Im totally amazed !

  5. 5

    Another great one for in the book!

  6. 6

    These are awesome tips! I am going to use all of them on my new portfolio design. I never thought about alot of these, and just took them for granted!

    Thanks for this alot!

  7. 7

    Could I asked, from where did you get these portfolios? Any website gallery?

  8. 8

    Great article guys at SM. I’ll pass it along via twitter. @bobbyburdette

  9. 9

    Great article, I am going to incorporate these on my personal site. Thanks!

  10. 10

    Great article SM! already retweeted!

  11. 11

    been working on my portfolio site lately and this def comes in handy, thanks! and big props to all the designers listed.. awesome sites!

  12. 12

    Camilo Oliveira

    February 26, 2009 2:10 pm

    Some links of the showcase are wrong. They are all linking to Robbie Manson´s website.
    Fix it, please ;)


  13. 13

    Very Nice Article Lee…. I like the details.

    DKumar M.

  14. 14

    joyoge designers' bookmark

    February 26, 2009 2:11 pm

    nice article good tips thanks..

  15. 15

    Wow…really great list. Very inspirational. Glad to see Elliot Jay Stocks made the list. His portfolio has always been one of my favorites.

  16. 16

    Great Portfolios!!

    Just might take some pointers here and there…

    Thanks SM!!

  17. 17

    Great post, am in the process of building my portfolio myself >.<

  18. 18

    been workin on my portfolio lately and this def comes in handy.. thanks SM! and props to all the designers listed! awesome work

  19. 19

    Thanks, have my portfolio up recently and it needs improvements!

  20. 20

    This was a great article. I went through several of the sites and noticed that none of them were flash sites. Any specific reason? Perhaps this article should have been titled 10 steps to the perfect css portfolio website.


↑ Back to top