5 Tips For a Better Online Portfolio
Photo by Darwin Bell.
You can’t get away from the web these days, regardless of your profession. Even non-web freelancers find quickly that that a website is not only expected by clients, but a critical marketing tool.
How can you make your website better? Run through this list of tips and see if you can use them to improve your website or online portfolio.
- Use CSS to style your content, and keep the use of tags to a minimum.
- Make sure your (X)HTML validates.
2. Keep It Usable. Your user’s experience on your website is key to them sticking around and contacting you (converting them from a blind lead into a potential client). Be sure to keep key usability concepts in mind when working on your website or online portfolio:
- Watch your font families and sizes. It’s easy to disregard the family or size of a font in Photoshop, only to find later that people can’t view or read it on the web as intended.
- Stay consistent. If your navigation is at the top of one page, make sure it’s at the top of all pages; always avoid confusing your visitors
- Follow the 7±2 Rule: Chunk information into 5-9 groups, any more may overload the visitor’s short term memory.
- If something is important, make sure the visitor can get to it in a minimal number of clicks — a best practice is three clicks or less.
3. Don’t overload with examples. Keep your portfolio limited to your best work. It’s tempting, especially when starting as a freelancer, to list every client you’ve worked for. This is normal — you want your potential clients to know you’ve got paying customers, right? However, it’s best to stand firm. Show 5-7 examples of your best work. Even less if you’ve got some really great content. (Showing too many things in your portfolio increases the likelihood a client will see something they hate! — Ed.)
4. Always tell your visitors what you want them to do. It sounds simple enough but not calling visitors to action is a mistake freelancers often fall into. Short, simple statements that stand out on a page will help incite a potential client to contact you. This can be as simple as a “Contact Us Today” callout linked to your contact form on every page or as intricate as a quick online quote request form. Always opt for letting potential clients contact you through your website (via contact form) over just posting your email address. The less steps they need to take to get in touch, the more likely they will get in touch.
5. Make sure your contact information is findable. So your site is accessibly and people enjoy using it, but where the heck is your phone number?! A contact information page is normally an inherent standard on any website. Take it one step further: put your preferred method of contact on every page and put all of your contact information in your footer. Remember, some clients appreciate an actual phone call over trying to read through your website. A voice and your personality can be much more effective than your website on some clients.
Some Cautions and Warnings
Avoid over-exchanging links. It’s great if you have partners or want to link to some great content on the web, but avoid linking with the sole purpose of generating traffic. This normally results in lower quality visitors and has little to no positive effect on search rankings.
Never spam your link. There are tons of freelancers on the web and clients are looking for quality.
Avoid advertisements. This is your professional website/online portfolio. Unless you’re generating enough traffic and converting enough users with online ads to greatly supplement your income, you should avoid any advertisements.
In summary, use accessibility and usability concepts to allow users to easily get to and use your website or online portfolio. Keep it short, sweet and to the point. There’s no point in overloading a user with too much, your goal should be to keep them intrigued enough to contact you. Finally, be sure to tell them what you want them to do and how to do it. If you prefer your potential clients call you, make sure your phone number is on every page of your website.
When in doubt, take on the persona of a potential client. Think about what frustrates you about other websites and online portfolios and offer your site as the solution — you’ll be cursed with success!
Andy Stratton is the principal of Blue Sky Multimedia and a web entrepreneur focused on accessibility, user experience, and web standards.