The rise of the internet has changed how we interact with the rest of the world. We are constantly connected to one another and have access to vast resources for education, entertainment, and business. Yet, the continued practicality of these technologies relies on the talents of web developers to provide interfaces and structures.
One of the ways this is most clear is through the development of the digital economy. The rapid shift toward businesses and consumers interacting with each other in online spaces has resulted in a fertile environment in which sales transactions are convenient and information and services are readily available. As the technology and practices that make the digital economy more efficient and effective expand, so too is the demand growing from businesses for agile web development across an increasing number of industries. The Bureau of Labor Statistics has predicted the job outlook for web developers is likely to grow 13% over the next decade, which is faster than average.
That said, just as the demand for web developers is growing, so too is the competition increasing. With no shortage of talented professionals available, you need to make sure your portfolio demonstrates you have skills businesses want to invest in. Let’s take a look at a few of the ways you can stand out from the crowd.
Treat your portfolio the same as any web design project you’d embark upon. Formalize your intended structure and flow. Understand what story you want your portfolio to tell employers about you and where you’re taking them. This isn’t always easy, so it’s sometimes worth doing some research on what makes for the perfect web development portfolio beforehand. This could include finding inspiration from developers whose careers you want to emulate and look into what skills are in demand from the sector you’re targeting. Consider too how you can go beyond just a display of your work and show some of your personality.
Part of your planning process should also be about how you can make your portfolio more agile. This is particularly important if you’re considering expanding into different sectors — like publishing, animation, or marketing. Each sector will tend to have different needs for a web designer and you must be able to submit the most relevant portfolio to each potential client. You also don’t want the immense work of creating an entirely different portfolio for every application. It can therefore be wise to plan out a template with the basic information that all versions need, with elements to swap elements in and out as needed.
Focus on Skillsets
You may have had some impressive clients in the past and worked on some cool projects, but this isn’t necessarily what makes your portfolio stand out. A recognizable name can make a limited impact. A clear demonstration of your skillsets, on the other hand, makes it immediately clear to a potential client what you can do for them. Make it easy for them to find what you’re good at.
A good approach to take is listing your contents by the skills they showcase, rather than just in chronological order. Your client may not know exactly what they need from their web designer, but if you arrange your portfolio to give clarity on what examples demonstrate your design principles or which show accessibility protocols, you also have a good chance of showing you have skills they need that they may not have previously considered. If you’re using an online portfolio system — if you’re pitching for web design gigs, you should be — don’t just point to an example showing your abilities in developing for user experience, demonstrate it through your approach to your portfolio.
Part of showcasing your skills also has to include clarity on the services you provide. It isn’t unusual for developers to cultivate skillsets overlapping the line between web development and software development. The broad differences between the former working in online environments and the latter in software and apps may be obvious to you. However this, alongside nuances of web development like front end, back end, and full-stack development, may not be as clear to potential clients. Consider carefully what you are capable of doing to a professional standard. Then make sure there is a focus on these skills in your portfolio.
Showcase Your Process
If you look at enough web development portfolios, one thing you’ll see a lot is a tendency to focus only on the finished product. This can make for a very clean and impressive-looking portfolio. However, it leaves out the important part of your contributions. The assumption that nobody wants to see how the sausage is made is not applicable in this scenario. Clients want to know about how you approach your problem-solving so they can get a good impression of what it’s like to work with you. Not to mention showing the amount of work and talent you put in is an excellent justification for your fees.
For each project you showcase on your portfolio website, include a few examples of your planning and execution process. It doesn’t have to be in fine detail; just give a sense of the work that goes into your development. This could be scans of your mind mapping, examples of research you performed on the needs of the industry, even a description of how you got from the client brief to the final product. Don’t be afraid of showing something incomplete — no one is under any illusion about the creative process being ugly! What helps you stand out, though, is how your technical processes result in something clients are proud to have as the front door of their business.
A web development career can be a lucrative option but it is also highly competitive. By taking a carefully planned approach to your portfolio, you can make sure you’re pitching the most relevant and attractive examples to potential clients. A focus on your skills and a glimpse into your work process can also help clients to understand your value to their projects. It’s not always easy, but taking some extra time to create an agile showcase of your abilities can help you build a rewarding career path.