5 Digital Portfolio Best Practices: How to Make a Portfolio That Pops

By Robert Half on June 16, 2020 at 2:00pm

Whether you are — or want to be — a graphic designer, UX designer, copywriter, marketing professional or other accomplished creative, you need a great digital portfolio that effectively showcases your skills. And you’ll want to create an online portfolio of that work, too, to make it easily shareable with employers who may be hiring candidates remotely.

But standing out is easier said than done.

How can you make sure that your digital portfolio will catch the eye of an extremely busy hiring manager? Consider the following five digital portfolio best practices:

1. Select your strongest samples

You might be tempted to throw a wide selection of samples into your digital portfolio. But as the old saying goes, “Less is more.” Seven to 10 samples should adequately demonstrate your skills. In fact, research by our company says eight is the lucky number.

The samples you choose for your digital portfolio should:

  • Represent your core strengths, industry experience, technical ability and range.
  • Be no more than five years old. Keep everything new and fresh unless you were the mastermind of a high-profile campaign.
  • Start and finish strong. Lead with your best work and end with the runner-up.
  • Be tailored to the employer. Are you applying to a Fortune 500 firm, a scrappy startup or something in between? You want to ensure your digital portfolio content will appeal — and be relevant — to the company you’re contacting.

Seeking remote job opportunities? Read this post.

2. Include detailed caption information

A well-written and compelling description of each sample can add vital context about your contribution to the work and your creative process. Your caption information should include:

  • The client or agency you did the work for
  • A few sentences outlining the main goal of the project
  • Your role in the project

Also, highlight any positive outcomes related to the sample. Metrics matter. For example, did it help lift sales or boost online traffic? Or, did the piece win any awards or receive coverage in the media?

3. Focus on the user experience

Don’t force a hiring manager to spend a lot of time clicking and scrolling. Also, don’t be afraid to use white space. A clean look is always better than a cluttered one. As for the overall format of your digital portfolio, consider using one of these simple but effective approaches:

  • Industry-specific — As an example, if you’re applying for a creative project or position at a hospital, lead with your healthcare-related samples.
  • Chronological — This format works best for entry-level creatives. Start with your most recent work to show your professional progress.

4. Give your portfolio a test run

Because you want prospective employers or clients to have an easy and enjoyable experience when reviewing your work, you’ll want to put your online portfolio to the test before sharing it. So, make sure it’s easy to view on every version of every browser on every platform. Also, take care to:

  • Check image load times
  • Verify that the navigation is intuitive (as noted earlier)
  • Confirm your online portfolio is responsive for mobile devices
  • Feature high-quality photographs of any printed work
  • Carefully proofread all captions

5. Showcase your unique creative style — within reason

Companies and hiring managers want to get a sense of who you are. But here again, less is often more when it comes to adding personal flair to your online portfolio.

One way to flex your creative style, without going overboard, is to match your digital portfolio design to your personal brand. Just make sure the elements you use are consistent with the look and feel of your other job search materials, like your resume.

Another idea is to approach your digital portfolio as if it were a client project. You know what you need to market: you. Now, take time to learn more about your target audience and understand their needs — and then, really think about how you’d like the employer to experience your work.

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