Tutorials UPDATED: 28 April 2023

Create a solid portfolio

Yorgos Fountis

6 min read
Create a solid portfolio

Whether you are a WordPress developer, or a designer, student or a veteran professional, having your work arranged in a solid portfolio is beneficial to your career in many ways.  CVs are simply not enough these days if you wish to stand out from the competition. Portfolios are a means to validate your past career achievements in a way that no single piece of paper can ever do. They can be also used in a way to break into the professional world if you are just out of university.

There is a lot of material regarding how one should go about creating one, but the advice offered does not always fit the goals you might have. However, there is a set of principles that are considered fundamental, whether you are creating a 3D design portfolio, or building a software repository based one.

What is a solid portfolio?

Everyone agrees that there are some standard points that you need to consider as you create yours. This includes portfolios created for both academic and business goals.

Quality over quantity

The first and perhaps the most fundamental piece of advice is to include your very best work. You need to have pieces that you are proud of and can incite discussion.  Do not, by any means, include work that is lukewarm. Make sure you have at least three excellent samples that stand out. It is best to have a small but solid portfolio than a larger one containing mediocre work that is all over.

Have variety

Showing that you are capable of variety is also crucial. You do not want to come off as “a one trick pony” as they say. If you are a WordPress developer do not just showcase plugins. Since WordPress now features a REST-API core, why not include examples that demonstrate the platform’s versatility ? If you are a web designer do not only just include CSS themes or websites. Why not take some extra time and prepare a typography sample as well? You don’t need actually to sit down and invent your own font. Showcasing typographical solutions will do just fine.  Which brings us to the third point.

Include only recent work

The people that will be looking at your work are interested in what you can accomplish now. They are not interested how your skills were 3 years ago. So make sure all the pieces you include are recent and reflect your true skills.

Provide context

Do not merely place your work in a void. Take some time and write a concise paragraph explaining what each piece is for, what problems it solves, and what it shows. Therefore, one can actually ask you meaningful questions and start a constructive conversation with you just by looking at the sample and text.  This way no one will ask you trite and vague “what is this?” questions. Make sure your text is economical, right to the point, and written in a way that provides context. Ideally, your blurb should elevate your design.

Show your thought process

By showing your thought process using a sample design or solution, you give to the reader a deeper sense of your capabilities as a professional. Finished work samples show what you have accomplished, but samples that demonstrate thought process show what you can accomplish in the future. For this type of demonstration, a storyboard is best suited with each frame showing the actual steps you took to reach the solution. Everyone can use a storyboard, not only visual professionals. If you are a WordPress developer, instead of sketches and mockups, use diagrams and pseudocode. Put the problem in the storyboard title, and under each frame, include a small explanation of how you thought you should approach the issue and what you tried to accomplish.

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Use a  blog with your portfolio

Having a design or a software development blog gives your portfolio an extra dimension and additional insight to anyone who wishes to find out more about you as a professional. Do not be so picky as to what to put on your blog. It is meant to be a more detailed and ongoing “snapshot” of yourself and your  current interests, creations and thought process.  It is fine for your WordPress blog to be messy, or contain half-baked ideas, and lesser works. Here are some general tips for how to use a blog in conjunction to your portfolio:

Link your portfolio to your blog and vice versa

It is always a good idea to link your blog with your portfolio in case the reader wishes to delve deeper into your work. It is better if your portfolio is part of your blog, as a separate page, for example.

Have your best posts pinned

Even if you don’t blog regularly, it is important to have your best posts pinned in a prominent area so that they are easily found and not hidden under your archives. If not pinning your best, then go for those that are more thought-out and complete. If you don’t really think you will be able to keep a steady output of writing, then omit dates overall. Make your posts be more like small essays, or research notes so that they won’t stand out negatively just because they are from 2012.

Use your domain’s “classics” literature

Every domain of knowledge has its own set of books or body of knowledge that is considered “classic”. Having studied your classics shows that you know what your roots are, you are versed in the fundamental concepts and not just pop-culture fads. Besides listing them on your blog, you can go further and actually do some exercises from them, or write posts discussing a particular bit that you enjoyed or felt inspired by.

Leverage the power of WordPress!

There are tons of related themes as well as plugins for portfolios, book lists, image galleries, slideshows and basically everything you would ever need to start building yours. We will definitely revisit them in the future and give you a curated view of our favourites!

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