Over the past couple of months I have set about re-designing my website, which includes my portfolio of design work from 2014 onwards. My goal was to create a central hub for my projects and articles, where other designers could view my portfolio and find out more about me. I approached my website re-design like any other design project, and as such, I have learnt a lot along the way. This is an article of my ten key takeaways.
Find inspiration before your website re-design
In order to visualise what I would create, I began by looking at lots and lots of other design websites to find inspiration. My website is not the first or the last to exist on the Internet and there are many other talented designers out there. I started by observing what other designers add to their websites, how they organise their content, what font-types they use and how they write about themselves.
A couple of galleries I would recommend are The Semplice Club and Best Web Gallery. Searching for portfolios on Twitter and Google is also a great way to find designers that you wouldn’t otherwise stumble across.
Talk to other designers
In order to validate the ideas I gained during my inspiration phase I met with other designers. Getting early input from other designers on my initial re-design ideas was key because they will be viewing and critiquing my projects in future. I also wanted to learn about how they would approach a website re-design project.
The question I was exploring was ‘what do they (other designers) look for when they view other designers portfolios?’. By getting into this type of detail, I was able to learn a lot about what motivates and delights my potential users. This also helped me validate assumptions about my audience and what they see as valuable in a portfolio.
Further along in my website re-design process, I sent written copy and initial mockups to a number of designers to get their feedback. This definitely saved me time and some of it has become part of the current iteration.
Write the copy first
Having read ‘The Elements of Content Strategy’ by Kristina Halvorson, I was aware of the benefits of writing all of my copy first. This exercise helped me see content length and how it affected page design. It gave me a clear picture of my website structure and user flow.
Structure content for your audience
By keeping my audience front of mind I was able to ensure that my users could find and consume the content with minimal effort. This thinking also helped me structure my portfolio correctly during the website re-design process.
Get other (non-technical) people to read through the content
One piece of feedback I received was that there is quite a lot of technical language in my portfolio. This isn’t unexpected given that I currently work in software design where terms such as 'Automated Testing' and 'DevOps' might not mean much to the everyday Designer.
In order to remedy this I sent written copy to a number of non-technical friends to read. This safe-guarded my content from jargon, and ensured I was using language that people outside of design and technology could understand. This also helped guarantee that my ideas were delivered in a clear and concise way.
As a Product/UX person I have to work with many people within a business that don’t work in product or design, and communicating ideas and ensuring they are understood is very important. In the context of my website, I needed others to understand what skills I have, and what I have contributed towards previous design projects.
Get a professional writer to check it for spelling/grammar
Attention to detail is a key attribute of any designer, but sometimes we miss things. With this in mind I decided to send my portfolio to a friend who works as an editor to ensure I wasn’t making any obvious spelling and grammar mistakes. Getting someone with an eye for spelling and grammar, as well as ideas about clarity of writing, gave me the piece of mind that there weren’t any glaring errors, and that my delivery was appropriate.
Use a good CMS/content editor
I still love the idea of coding a website from scratch, but I simply didn’t have time to code. With this in mind I needed to find a robust and relatively inexpensive content management system (CMS). WordPress is my CMS of choice.
One of the valuable takeaways from my conversations with other designers was my introduction to Semplice Labs. So far it has been a worthy investment. I've been really impressed with it’s ease of use and speedy responses from their support team. WordPress is a great (and free) CMS and the Semplice Labs theme is easily customisable. It is great for designers wanting to display their portfolios online.
Ensure photo/picture quality is the best it can be
Using high quality imagery in your portfolio is important. The risk in using sub-optimal images is that it will compromise how others interpret your attention to detail. Keep reminding yourself that the quality of your work should never be compromised. If your portfolio is a reflection of how you work, it also needs to reflect your standards.
Check it on lots of other devices
It’s likely that the first time someone views your website it will be on a mobile device. I designed my website with a ‘mobile first’ mentality to ensure the content was sized and spaced correctly. It was important to test the font sizes to find a size that everyone could appreciate on mobile.
Remember that this is just another iteration
It’s important to remember that at this stage my website is just another iteration. The website re-design process and improvements will never be finished. I will add more elements in future and adjust the design based on how my personal brand evolves.