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11 Ways to Make Your Portfolio Friendlier

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As the editor of Psdtuts+, I look through a lot of portfolios. A big part of my job is to find talented artists and recruit them to become authors for the site. Over the years, I have developed some strong opinions about the ways in which artists present their work online. In this article, I wanted to share a few easy ways that you can make your online portfolio a bit friendlier to people that hire artists. Let's take a look!

Before we get started, it is important to point out who the target audience for your portfolio is. If the purpose of your portfolio is to land you a job, then the target audience for your portfolio should be people who hire. That could be a human resources representative, a creative director, an art director, or even an editor like me. If that person has a job opening that they are looking to fill, they might be searching through lots of portfolios, and since hiring might not be their only responsibility, they probably have very limited time. That means you will have to get their attention quickly before they move on to other artists.

In this article, I will explain some of the most common frustrations that I have with online portfolios and will give you some tips to help make your portfolio friendlier to people that hire artists.


Too Much Artwork

Artists have a tendency to display every piece of artwork they have ever designed in their portfolio. Please don't do this. Only display your very best work. The people that do the hiring only want to see your best work. If you place mediocre work next to your best work, it will bring the quality of your portfolio down.


Complicated or Confusing Navigation

There is nothing more frustrating than a site with complicated, confusing, or hidden navigation. When it comes to user interfaces, I don't want to be impressed by your creativity. Your site's navigation should be clear, concise, and transparent. If it is confusing, the person looking to fill a position is more likely to to leave your site than to stick around to try to find your work.


Sites That Use Flash

Think Flash is dead? Try clicking through a few portfolio websites. You will find plenty. Why is that? It is because there are still lots of Flash templates and website builders out there that can be used to quickly create a portfolio website. Artists who aren't skilled web designers use these templates to build a quick and easy portfolio.

So why is Flash bad? It is bad for several reasons. It loads slowly, won't load on many mobile devices, and Flash sites can often be confusing to navigate; all things that make it difficult for people looking to hire a new employee.

Flash also makes it hard for people to save your work to a person's hard drive. Some artists see this as a selling point as it makes it harder for people to steal their work. While that may be true, I take the opposite approach. I believe that if you make your work hard to save, it also makes your work hard to share. So design publications will have a hard time sharing your work with their readers.


Unfocused Portfolios

What do you do? Are you a character artist? A logo designer? A photographer? When I visit a website for an advertising agency, I might expect them to be able to provide all those services. When I visit a portfolio for a freelance artist, I am usually looking for something more specific. For instance, I might be looking for an artist to create a character design for a video game that I am building. You might be a perfect fit for the job, but if I visit your portfolio and see a lot of branding or photography, then I might think you're a logo designer or photographer, not a character artist.

This is why a focused portfolio is so important. You don't want people to pass you by just because you happen to be skilled in multiple fields. If you fall into that category, consider splitting up your work onto several separate websites.

You don't want people to pass you by just because you happen to be skilled in multiple fields.

Poorly Designed Personal Sites

Lots of artists think that it is important to own their own domain name and host a portfolio on their own website. While I do think that it looks a bit more professional for an artist to have their own personal domain name, it really doesn't matter where I find your work. The only thing that really matters is the quality of the work I find. If you're not a great web designer or don't have the time to build one, consider replacing your personal domain with a portfolio on Behance, Dribbble, or Deviant Art.


Poor Thumbnails

The thumbnails that you use to represent your work should not leave anything up to the imagination. Make the thumbnails big, and crop out as little of the artwork as possible. Remember, the people who hire have limited time. Most of them are likely to skim your site to see if anything catches their eye. If they have to click on lots of small, poorly represented thumbnails, they aren't likely to spend much time on your site.


No Next Button

I like next buttons. I really do. I find it really frustrating when I click on some artwork and have to press the back button, wait for the page to load, and then click the next piece in your portfolio. Give me a next button so that I can browse your site more quickly.


Too Much Security

When looking at portfolios, I often run into sites that install scripts that prevent right clicks or saves. Artists do this to prevent theft but there is also a flip side, it prevents people from sharing your work. If the goal of a portfolio is to get as many eyes on your portfolio as possible, then you need to be open to sharing your work more freely, even if that means people are sharing your work outside of your website and sometimes without your knowledge.

You need to be open to sharing your work more freely, even if that means people are sharing your work outside of your website and sometimes without your knowledge.

No Real Name

No one wants to hire some one if they don't know their name. I have found that a lot of artists tend not to use their real names on their portfolios. This is happens a lot on sites like Deviant Art. While I do think it is ok for an artist to use an alias for branding purposes, if you want to be hired, please be open about who you are.


No Contact Information

You might be surprised how many artists don't have their contact information on their portfolio. I know this sounds crazy, but it is true. This is more frequent on websites like Deviant Art, Behance, and Dribbble but it also happens frequently on personal websites. All portfolios should at least have a contact form, or better yet, a direct email address.


Too Slow

If your website takes too long to load, people are likely to leave your site very quickly. Don't try to save money by hosting your site on a slow server. A slow site will only hurt your chances of finding a job.


Conclusion

As an artist, your portfolio is your most important asset. I will take one amazing portfolio over a thousand finely crafted resumes any day. While the frustrations that I listed above explain my preferences, I am sure there are others who may disagree. With that said, I believe that the most important thing that you can do as an artist is to produce high quality work. Ultimately, your work will speak volumes more than any tweaks that you make to your portfolio. So if you're looking to find a job, do your best work and the rest will hopefully fall into place.

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