Choosing the Right Look for Your Portfolio Site

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Choosing the Right Look for Your Portfolio Site

Many designers with a strong sense of aesthetics are lacking in the web development department, and their site is nearly impossible to navigate. Sometimes the the UI is easy to navigate, but there are possible functional problems. Sometimes they’re issues that could easily be solved with progressive enhancement, but no one bothered.

Following are some key points to be kept in mind for a great portfolio.




Design the site that your client aspires to have. Make them envious, and then give them what they want. Make your portfolio site feel a lot like the sites you build for clients. You know your market. Use that.

Shape does this very well. The whole look and feel of the site is quite similar to an eCommerce template. Well, they design eCommerce sites, so that’s absolutely perfect.


Put a preview or two on the home page, or you can put the full portfolio there. If they’re already looking at your work, then the look of your site (and anything you might have to say about yourself) is incidental. Don’t give them the time to judge your portfolio site’s aesthetic by putting your work right in front of them. This approach is typically used with minimalist sites, but it can work pretty much anywhere.

Will Sanders does pretty much the same thing, only his photography is organized as a collage. The photos draw in the eye so quickly, it’s easy to forgive the inconveniently-orientated navigation.





Experimentation is good, both for design and development. You should be doing new things. However, maybe your portfolio isn’t actually the best place to do them. If you’re going to get crazy with the animation, the navigation placement, or what-have-you, it might be better to do it with a side project.

Your portfolio is supposed to be selling your work or services. If the site breaks because the JS doesn’t load properly, or if it’s just hard to navigate, the results are just as bad as they would be on a large eCommerce site, or a major blog. You will lose money.
People with bad internet need websites too.



Following trends isn’t an inherently bad thing. Right now, trends are basically what push web design forward. It’s how we went from “Web 2.0” gradients to skeuomorphism, and then on to flat design, and beyond. People following trends, and the inevitable backlash to people following trends are what keep the discipline alive, interesting, and ever-changing.

More recently, trends are how we ended up with some highly creative post-modern style sites:


Trends are how we ended up with daring typography-based sites:

The downside is that many people follow trends without thinking too hard which lacks creativity. They don’t think about the purpose behind the aesthetic, or the usability concerns of the people who started these trends. These aesthetic styles didn’t come from nowhere. They came from the minds of people that needed to solve a specific problem.

There’s nothing wrong with having a design in a currently-trending style, just make sure that you’re embracing the trend for the right reasons.



No matter how you choose your site’s aesthetic, accessibility and usability are on you. However, using
these simpler approaches can remove some of the temptation to go overboard. You don’t need to limit
yourself. If you end up with a trend-filled site, that’s great.

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