10 Qualities of a Successful Online Portfolio


1. Discretion Over Bling

A portfolio has one primary purpose: to show off your work in the best possible light. Therefore a good portfolio is invariably also a simple portfolio.

If all your portfolio demonstrates is that you spent a lot of money on a flashy design, then it's not doing its job. Never lose sight of the fact that a portfolio is there to present your work in a flattering manner, not steal the show.

2. Content Dictates Form

Choose a gallery template that is appropriate to the kind of work you want to show. This may seem obvious, but it's surprising the number of people who decide upon a gallery style without giving much thought to the most appropriate way to showcase their work.

For example, there's little point using a slideshow template that shows only one image at a time if your work makes most sense when viewed as a series. At the very least, you should opt for a thumbnail gallery template.

Or perhaps your work needs extensive explanatory text or captions? In which case make sure to use the gallery and image description fields.

3. Spell It Out

It makes no sense to show off your talents to the world if visitors can't easily work out who was responsible for these masterpieces, or how to contact you. This means making all important information such as biographical info or geographical location quickly and easily accessible. For example, consider adding a footer to your website that prominently displays your contact information at the bottom of every page.

4. Foolproof It

Similarly, people don't have time to waste trying to figure out where the back button is or how to view your work. Make your portfolio so it’s simple to use and logically structured. Endless menu subheadings or complex and frustrating navigation will quickly deter even the most patient of visitors. Don't give people an excuse to navigate away from your site.

5. Keep It Lean And Mean

Waiting for pixels to load row-by-row is the digital equivalent of watching paint dry. Sure, you'll want to upload images of a sufficiently high resolution for viewers to really appreciate the quality of your work, but there comes a point when any further increase in file-size will just translate into a decrease in the number of views - as impatient visitors click off elsewhere in frustration at your slow-loading pages. Upload photos that are no larger than 1920px on your Portfoliobox site.

6. First Impressions Count

Although it's tempting to believe that every visitor to your portfolio page already knows exactly who you are and what you do, the cruel reality is that this is probably the first they've ever heard of you and they could in fact care less.

You have literally a couple of seconds to hook new visitors before they go sauntering back off to where they came from. Keep your bounce-rate low and increase converts by making sure that the first thing anyone sees on your site is your absolute best and most representative work.

Or perhaps not your best, but the most attention grabbing and easily appreciated. You may have recently completed some exceptionally deep and complex work that you're just dying to share with the world, but if its subtle nuances can only be fully understood after reading a 3,000 word jargon-filled essay, it doesn't have any business being on your landing page.

7. Tell Your Story

So you've grabbed the visitor's attention and kept them hanging around. But are they getting the full picture? Does your portfolio create an accurate image of who you are and what you do? Are perhaps some important elements still missing?

Ask friends and colleagues who know your work well if they think your portfolio offers a comprehensive overview of your talents and skills. If not, change it.

8. Take No Prisoners

Everyone produces the occasional dud from time to time, even acknowledged masters. The difference between pros and wannabes? Knowing what not to show.

Whether your output is photography, architecture, graphic design, or any other creative endeavor, editing is an important part of your job description. Nowhere is this more essential than with your online portfolio: it's always better to show just a few absolutely killer pieces that leave people wanting more, than to make up the numbers with mediocre filler that drags the rest down.

9. Show Where You're Going, Not Where You've Been

Our creative interests and style of working develop over time. Perhaps you've made your name doing a certain kind of work but want to move away from that now? Yet clients keep coming back for more of the same, and it's hard to say no.

Consider removing this type of work from your portfolio, showing only the kind of projects you'd like to be commissioned to do. Don't have any projects like this yet? Time to make some!

10. The Only Constant Is Change

Your online portfolio is your store-front window display. Convincing potential clients of your skills and professionalism. It needs to be maintained: sun-faded posters and dead flies will not make a good impression on window-shoppers.

Sustain interest by regularly updating with new work. If viewers repeatedly return to your portfolio only to find tumbleweed blowing through it, they'll soon forget you in favor of more obviously active creatives.


Putting together a stylish and persuasive online portfolio needn't be a struggle. Consider these ten key points and you'll soon have a great looking portfolio ready to showcase your work to a new audience. And it makes no sense to put off the task, thinking it needs to be perfect right from the start: by its very nature a portfolio is always a work in progress. Get it online and you can tweak as you go.

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