5 lessons from 5 portfolio redesigns
I've been redesigning my website every year since 2015. On the one hand, it's a bit embarrassing to look back at my old work, it's also nice to look back and see how I've grown as a designer. Even better than that is that each design has taught me a valuable lesson that has helped me improve on each of the following designs, here's what I discovered.
Open doors by learning something new
The debate has raged on for years. Should designers code? My personal belief is that you should pursue things that will make move you closer in the direction of the work you want to do. Before 2015, I was working on print and branding projects more than I cared to. I started to learn how to code as a way to move into a front end design role, and better understand what it's like to design for the web.
It may not make sense for you to learn how to code, that's okay. Make sure you are taking the time to start thinking about what you need to know for your next role and start practicing it now.
Experiment with style, but don't overdo it
Move beyond the homescreen
Ah yes, the angles. I think I had just learned that this was something you can do in CSS and not just with a background image. I remember feeling like this was it, I had reached peak portfolio design. I was ready to book work for months out just due to the amazing site alone. In reality, I had built myself in a corner where it felt weird to build a site identity around simple angular lines on the homepage. This leads me to not only not start writing and creating content, but also not creating case studies or even a real about page. If I had planned for this like I would any real client project, I would have created a visual system that represented my personal brand in a way that had more depth than just a nice homepage.
Don't just chase trends
In an effort to do something different, I think I tried to chase a trend that focused on a more minimal, almost brutalist aesthetic. Again, I think exploring your personal style and brand on your website is a good thing, but I think you miss the mark if you try to fit your brand into a trendy style. Take the time to design the site you want, inspired by the things that inspire you, and use that to make a great experience.
It's okay to keep it simple
I think you could see this coming, the last site felt a little more trendy and not really me. That made it easy to scrap and start over, but that also takes a lot of time. It's okay to make the choice to simplify and create a more streamlined site that can still connect users to the correct information they are seeking. In my case, I didn't want to work on case studies, work mockups, or even writing. I just decided to scrap everything and create a really simple landing page with some important details about me. Simplifying your website will allow you to have a placeholder, a place to experiment, and make you discoverable.
Treat your portfolio like a side project
I wrote earlier that we could all benefit from thinking of our own personal website as a side project. I first thought about this in late 2019 when I knew how my simplified site was both a great place holder (what was I thinking with that hero type) but it didn't really help me achieve my personal goal of writing more or really act as a place to showcase and talk about my work. I decided to treat my website just like I would treat any project, by starting with research, designing sketches, and outlining the content and story I want to share with my friends in the industry. While this site is never truly done, I think I've finally turned the corner after so many iterations, that I'm finally happy with what I've got. I truly believe that's because I started to take it seriously and put as much effort into building the portfolio I wish I always had.
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