Web Portfolios from both sides

The following is almost entirely opinion, and also a little bit tongue in cheek.

This week I was looking at some web portfolios, and would like to take a little bit of time to talk about them. I’ve found that web portfolios tend to fall into one of a few categories. I’ll call these categories “Michael Bay”, “I did my job”, “Content speaks for itself” and “The Beatles White Album”

I’ve had to make my own portfolio more than once, and I’ve also had to browse through other people’s portfolios for work. I think every portfolio can fall into one of these categories, and some have elements of more than one category. So here goes my explanation on each one:

Michael Bay

Also known as “over the top”. These are the portfolios I love to hate. And love. And hate. Portfolios like this are the kind that are so loaded with “cool” features and specials effects that I forget this is a portfolio. I even forget it’s a website. The over the top portfolios are an instant wow followed by immediate frustration and consternation, much like Michael Bay’s movies. Best not to ask too many questions. The problem I find with some of these is twofold. First, I sometimes can’t navigate them and find myself lost, looking for the door. Not good if I have the job of finding someone I need to hire. Secondly, the wow factor becomes so front-loaded that the work sometimes never gets updated, and sometimes doesn’t live up to the special effects presenting it.

I did my job…

This is the low effort version. This is the portfolio that screams to me “I don’t know how to make a website, so I bought a template and did nothing with it”. Which, depending on the job you’re looking for, may not entirely be a bad thing. Especially if the template is really well made to begin with. For example, if I’m looking for an awesome photographer, I really don’t care if they can design a website. I want to know if they can make pictures. However, if I was looking for a web designer this isn’t a good sign in my opinion.

Content speaks for itself

This is probably my most favorite portfolio type to work on or to browse. This is the portfolio that tends to strike the best balance between looking cool and being useful. I love when a portfolio’s design is good, but understated enough to make the work show through. Really, there isn’t much negative to say about this kind of portfolio, unless your trying to showcase your work as a master of web special effects. But even in that case, you can leave the special effects in the portfolio pieces themselves. The only downside to this portfolio is it seems to be the hardest to do well.

The Beatles White Album

This guy. This one is also known as “I’m a pretentious artist” or “artsy”. It can take a couple of forms but often goes the route of “so minimal as to be effortless”. Don’t misunderstand. I like minimalism, and I think it often makes a great product. Minimalism in a portfolio can really help show off the content itself. However, some “artists” like to make a statement. “This is so minimal there’s nothing on it”. So basically nothing. I do appreciate thoughtful art. But sometimes I think it’s malarkey. Not always, but sometimes. I also think for that reason this portfolio can be mistaken for the “I did my job” approach. The difference, I think is that with the “I did my job”, it’s often a lack of effort rooted in thoughtlessness. The “White Album” on the other hand, is decidedly effortless. Someone made a great effort to do nothing.

until next time…

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John is a developer, designer, and photographer.

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