How to build the perfect front end developer portfolio
Companies want stand-out workers, but it's increasingly hard to stand out when each job attracts hundreds of resumes. Dr. John Sullivan says the average job receives 250 resumes with the first resume received after 200 seconds of posting the position.
Considering most companies only bring in a handful of people to interview, you have a roughly two percent chance of getting selected to move on to the next round once you submit your resume. If you thought competition was steep, this proves it.
Fortunately, front-end developers have an extra trick to get noticed: an online portfolio. A high-quality portfolio can attract hiring managers and senior developers to your website and encourage them to get to know you, your brand of design, and what you have to offer. A great frontend web dev portfolio can make companies chase after you—whether you want a new job or not.
However, there’s a significant gap between throwing together a portfolio for a frontend web developer job and creating a stunning portfolio that gets hundreds of hits each day. This process takes work, but the benefits are worth it. Here is what you need to know to create the perfect frontend web dev portfolio.
Why is a portfolio so important?
A developer portfolio can help you at all levels of your career, whether you’ve just graduated from a coding Bootcamp or have been in the industry for most of your long career. Don’t underestimate this tool in winning new clients or getting the job. Here are a few reasons your portfolio is a must-have.
Get noticed among a stack of resumes
A great portfolio can help you advance your career and get noticed above other candidates in the design field. The team at Hover surveyed 121 professionals, from HR managers to CEOs, to understand the value of portfolios in the hiring process. While only 38% agree or strongly agree that a portfolio is important to have, 86% say they will look at a portfolio if presented with one. What’s more, 71% say a portfolio’s quality will influence their hiring decisions.
Build your personal brand
Your portfolio can do more than just get you hired. It can help you develop a personal brand known in your industry. You can submit your portfolio alongside pitches to present at conferences, and you can also share it as a calling card when you meet potential contacts. Don’t just tell someone you bring a unique perspective and set of skills—show them.
Show your growth
The key to creating a perfect portfolio however, is keeping it up to date like a resume. Your portfolio should grow with your career and as your skills increase. If you take on a different type of project, create a section of your portfolio that showcases those specific skills. In this way, potential clients or hiring managers can see that not only do you have a great portfolio, but you’re continually developing your skills and experience as well.
What are the essential elements of a portfolio?
While your frontend web dev portfolio should be as unique as you are, there are some key elements that hiring managers and potential clients look for when reviewing it for clues about your experience and skill set. Here are a few key elements of every portfolio.
Examples of your work
The most important part of portfolio design is choosing how you want to display your projects so website visitors can sort through them. You want to make it easy for people to find the work that matters most to them, so consider sorting them by:
- Design style
- Type of work (I.E. case studies, homepage design, logos)
Another important aspect of your portfolio is contact information. If people love your work, you want them to be able to get in touch easily. Include your phone number and email address on your portfolio, either under a specific contact page or in the footer. Don’t forget to include links to your social media pages (LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, etc.) if they’re public and design-centric, along with any design specific portfolios you have like a Dribbble or Behance site.
A personal bio
Don’t forget to introduce yourself in your portfolio. Your bio puts words to the design work, allowing you to spell out accomplishments, previous experience and career plans. Your bio can have its own page if you have a portfolio website, or you can place it on the homepage itself. Remember, the way you add your bio to your website is a reflection of your design work. Consider what you might recommend for a client and then do that.
Your work personality
You’re more than just a designer. If you’re an employee, you’re also a team member, a staff member, and a living breathing organism in their ecosystem. Hiring managers want to know more than if you can just to do the job—they want to know if you’ll be able to work alongside your co-workers and fit into the culture they’ve created.
Even as a freelance designer, clients want to know if you seem easy to work with, are good at communicating, or can take initiative. Use your portfolio as an opportunity to showcase your work and your personality.
How to choose the best work for your portfolio
When you first start out in your career, you might put all previous work in your portfolio simply because you don’t have that many work samples to choose from. However, as your experience grows, you can start to choose your highest-quality pieces and work samples that will make the greatest impression on potential employers and clients. Here are a few ways to choose the best work for you to showcase.
If you’ve been granted approval, showcase your work and contributions to the front-end site experience of the big-name clients you’ve worked with. By promoting big names, like Fortune 500 companies or local brands with a lot of influence, you can prove that your skills are trusted by some of the best companies around. This lends credit to your portfolio that can help you stand out even more than just having great design skills.
If you mastered a particular skill or designed an unconventional website, highlight your work on your portfolio. While the average hiring manager might not understand what makes a certain design so special, you can impress senior developers and use it as an opportunity to share more about your expertise during the hiring process.
Highlight projects within a particular niche if you’re trying to break into the industry or become more known in that area.
Projects you led
Showcase projects that you took a more advanced role in. Maybe you led the project as a team manager or worked closely with clients to turn their vision into a reality. Include details about what you did outside of the design work to showcase those leadership skills.
Projects you’re particularly proud of
At the end of the day, your portfolio is subjective. If there’s a website that you loved designing or a creative element on a page that you like, add it to your work samples. These projects might not be outstanding, but they can let your passion for development shine through.
Every front-end developer’s portfolio is unique and yours needs to reflect that you love what you do and you do it well. Choosing work that you simply love, or enjoyed doing, allows you to express this.
Examples of quality web developer portfolios
You don’t have to reinvent the wheel to create an outstanding development portfolio. Most developer websites have the same features, they’re just packaged in unique ways to feature each person’s unique designs and personality. Use these standout examples of front-end developer portfolios to inspire your own.
Remember that your portfolio can grow and change along with you. What you create today might look a lot different in five years from now.
Do you wish modern resumes were more like video games? If so, check out the website designed by Robby Leonardi, which has an interactive portfolio that looks and feels just like a video game. Each level highlights his skills or experience, along with personal quips about what he likes and doesn’t like.
This portfolio provides a great example of creating a unique resume that truly stands out among the rest. If you don’t want to play the video game, you can also enjoy his more traditional website portfolio to get to know his work.
Matt Farley’s web dev portfolio stands out for many reasons. He owns his name as a domain, so finding his portfolio on Google is easy. The homepage provides a high-level intro that speaks to who he is. Within the first five seconds you know what he does, plus you get an idea of his personality from the icon representing him.
Upon scrolling, you can see his specialties, projects, and testimonials. Plus, there are call to action buttons throughout the page to contact him. At no point would a site visitor feel confused about what they were looking at on his web page and it’s easy to get a clear idea of who he is, what he can do, and how to get in touch.
Ben Adam takes a minimalist view to portfolio design. His landing page introduces himself in a single paragraph blurb and if you want to see his projects or read his blog, you can easily find the links.
Each project that you click on keeps you on Ben Adam’s website, bringing you to a project page that dives into greater detail on the project background, scope of work, and results. This is more effective than simply linking to websites because you can see the real work that Ben puts in. He’s showing his qualifications rather than telling visitors about them, making it easy for hiring managers or clients to easily understand what he can do for them.
Eina Onting keeps her portfolio simple but gives a lot of information for each featured project. This allows potential hiring managers or clients to get a feel for her soft and hard skills, including communication and project management. Eina also developed a fun feature that showcases her design and development skills, which makes her site memorable: the ability to view the website in dark or light mode.
For a more creative portfolio, and a great example of persona and branding, check out Jack Jeznach’s site. This website embodies what it means to market yourself through your portfolio. He has a clear and recognizable logo and a fun website that makes you want to play with it. The more time you spend on his website, the more you want to keep clicking to get to know him.
This minimalist portfolio speaks volumes, without being too complicated. Ana Medina makes it easy to see her work right on the homepage, with an option to dig deeper into each project and client. Stand-out images on her work pages allow her unique style and designs to stand out and a straight-forward bio lets her get right to the point of who she is and what she offers.
Tobias Ahlin’s header image immediately showcases his ability to create a unique web experience. You get a feel for who he is and what he does the moment you land on the page. As you scroll, you can see his latest blog posts and review some of the projects he is working on. This impressive portfolio is interactive and has a tactical feel, despite its simplicity.
Find even more inspiration
If you’re looking for more portfolio examples to inspire yours, search for the portfolios of co-workers, friends and people you admire in the field. Pick up the pieces of what you like and then pull them into a unique portfolio that speaks to who you are and what you bring to the table.
Resources to help with portfolio development
The type of portfolio you create will depend on your timeline. If you just graduated and need to get hired as soon as possible, then you can put together a portfolio easily with a few existing websites.
However, if you have several months to design something that truly represents your experience and design vision, you can use a variety of tools, widgets, and websites to build your page. Here are a few essentials to start with.
Journo Portfolio is made for journalists, copywriters, authors, and other writing professionals. There are free options to choose from and the site is already SEO and mobile friendly. You can adapt this site to your needs as a budding front-end developer.
This option might be a little basic, especially if you have your own specific programming knowledge and changes that you want to apply to your pages. However, if you have minimal work to showcase and are simply looking to represent yourself digitally, this might be a good place to start.
You can link to other design portfolios, like Dribbble and Behance from here, allowing you to still share the little work you’ve done so far.
Crevado is made for creatives who want to show off highly-visual work. This is a good site to look into if you have a lot of visual examples of your work, but don’t have the time to develop a website with multiple portfolio pages just yet. The best part is you can see how other users have developed their own Crevado portfolio, allowing you to find even more inspiration for yours.
CarbonMade was developed for creatives and provides a simple interface for developing a customer website without taking the time to code all the pages yourself. For example, you can add text blocks to the images you upload, allowing you to easily provide context for the work that you do and the skills required to complete the project.
This website also avoids templates, which means you won’t create a portfolio that looks like every other developer’s in the hiring pool. Yet, you can still create something unique quickly and easily.
Webflow is a responsive web design tool that also acts as its own CMS. This tool is much different from other portfolio sites or CMS platforms, allowing you to build a fully custom portfolio with no coding. It uses a drag-and-drop interface with a design navigation menu that’s reminiscent of the layers menu you might find in an Adobe tool.
Because of these unique features, you may experience a steep learning curve. However, you can continually update the site as your career evolves, all without writing a single line of code.
If you’re ready to put in the time to develop and design your portfolio, WordPress is the most commonly used CMS worldwide. You can use all your own custom code to create a portfolio that speaks to who you are and allows your work to shine in exactly the way you want it to. Choose the template that speaks to you then customize as you grow and evolve.
How to market your portfolio
You will invest a considerable amount of time and energy into your portfolio. The last thing you want is for it to go unnoticed. If you want people to visit your portfolio and use it as a tool to build your career and brand, you need to market yourself. Take on your brand as a client and use these promotional strategies to get noticed.
Showcase your portfolio everywhere
Your portfolio needs to be your calling card to help potential clients and connections learn about you. Add it to your email signature and include it on your business cards. Share it in professional presentations to networking groups and add it to your social media profiles. Make it as easy to find as possible—wherever people find you, they should also find an easy way to access your portfolio.
Learn about SEO and content creation
If you don’t already work closely with an SEO team in your work, now is the time to brush up on your search optimization skills. Choosing strategic keywords for your pages can help you rank well in Google and drive people to your portfolio. This gets more eyes on your portfolio and work, which can lead to features, speaking invitations, and more.
One of the best ways to target specific keywords and phrases is to create fresh blog content. What’s more, maintaining a blog in your portfolio can help you showcase your personality and expertise in the field.
Share your portfolio on curation sites and directories
There are several websites that specialize in curating and sharing portfolios for specific niches, including front-end development. Submitting your portfolio to these pages can help people find your site and get inspired by your work. Look at the front page of Dribble as an example. You can see what some of the most creative minds in design and development are doing—and you can be seen as one of those creative minds by taking this one extra step too.
Get yourself out there
One of the best ways to get people excited about your work is to make them excited about you. Look for networking groups that can help you connect with industry leaders and potential clients. Visiting your portfolio can become your top call to action, making sure you reference it whenever speaking with new connections.
You can also get your name out there on social media. Create professional social media pages on Twitter or Instagram so you can start connecting with other developers while also sharing your work. You can join developer chats and respond to links or ideas they share. This can elevate your digital footprint and exponentially expand your reach. Not to mention, it looks great when hiring managers find that you’re active in related communities online.
While your portfolio can highlight all the good you do, you still need to be your biggest cheerleader. The more you invest in marketing yourself, the more people will hear about you.
How frequently should you update Your Portfolio?
There is no set rule for how often you should update and improve your portfolio. Some designers use their portfolio as their personal websites and blogs, sharing regular updates about their careers and industry insights with their growing audiences. Others use their portfolio as an about page, including only basic information that doesn’t need to be updated often.
However, there are a few reasons to update your profile, regardless of how you use it.
- When you create a piece of work you’re particularly proud of. Showcase your new designs with approval from the client or employer and share the updated page on LinkedIn and your other social channels.
- When you have a new testimonial. Testimonials provide the social proof others need to confirm that you can do what you say you can do. Whether a client only needed a quick project or an influential peer leaves your company, ask them for a review or testimonial of what it was like to work with you, which you can then add to your website.
- When you learn a new skill that you’re excited about. If you know something that most others in your field don’t, show it off! This is particularly important if you want to get hired to do niche work based on your specialized skills.
- When you complete a new certification or course. If you believe learning is a process and you’re never done building your skills, make an education page on your portfolio. As you earn new certifications, complete front end developer courses or build specific skills, add them to your education or skills page right away.
- When you’re ready to change careers. Let your portfolio visitors know that you’re looking for work by including a line on your homepage or about page.
Finally, keep your portfolio running at its best with good maintenance and “website hygiene.” This includes updating plug-ins and following the latest design best practices. It’s a red flag in the web design and development field if a candidate can’t even keep their own website live and functioning at its best. Log on to your page at least once a month to identify any broken links or issues that need to be addressed.
Tips to improve your developer portfolio
No matter what your profile looks like there, there are a few foundational elements that make all portfolios shine. Here are a few tips to guide your design process so you develop a portfolio that stands out.
Keep it simple
An art museum doesn’t pack in as many paintings as possible; it curates the best pieces to make a stunning impact. Build your portfolio as an art museum. Choose your top projects and best work samples to showcase and guide visitors to. This way your personal Mona Lisa doesn’t get lost in a sea of other projects.
Tell visitors exactly what you do
While your brand might focus on creating experiences and breaking out of the norm, you are first and foremost a front-end developer. Make your job title and skillset clear on the homepage and throughout your website. What is obvious to you isn’t always obvious to other people. A clear title and overall website goal will help you generate better results and avoid confusion.
Start with a strong foundation
You can get as creative as you want with your portfolio, but starting with a clear wireframe of what you want will allow you to ensure the foundation is in place before getting creative. Use this as a first step to avoid forgetting or losing key features during the design process.
Add context to your projects
Linking to a website that you worked on is a good start, but what did you do to it? Did you build the site from scratch? Did you optimize the landing pages to improve conversions? Write about the work that you did for each client or website so visitors can understand what they are looking at and why they should be impressed.
Create a section for awards
Upload banners for awards and moments of recognition for your work, proving that your development skills are exceptional. If you don’t have any awards, then make this part of your marketing process and update as you earn them. Submit your work to competitions like Awwwards to see what expert judges and industry leaders think of your work.
Build calls to action
What do you want from visitors to your website? If you aren’t looking for job opportunities or new clients, encourage people to follow you on social media so you increase your industry influence. If you want recruiters and hiring managers to contact you, point visitors to your resume and contact information.
Creating different calls to action within your website can help you achieve the results you want.
Invest in the right domain
If possible, try to secure your first and last name as your domain. If you have a common name, then look for domain opportunities that highlight who you are and what you do. You want the URL to be memorable and simple. If someone loses your business card or forgets your website, it should be easy for them to find you easily.
Ask for feedback
While you might be in love with your portfolio, others could be confused or overwhelmed by it. Before going live, ask a coworker, peer, or mentor to review the website for you. Challenge them to provide concrete feedback for improvement, this way you can see your development efforts with fresh eyes.
Create a frontend dev portfolio that’s an extension of you
You get to decide how well your portfolio showcases who you are and what you can do. There are many ways to develop a portfolio that stands out among a stack of resumes or RFPs. Start with a basic wireframe to make sure the essential elements are in place and then get creative from there. Whether you use an online builder or you code it yourself, remember that your work should shine as bright as your personality. Let your portfolio be as unique and interesting as you to truly shine in a sea of developers and designers.