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Finding an Awesome Online Portfolio Tool: What Designers Should Look for in a Site Designed to Display Works

As a student showcasing work for the first time, a freelancer trying to gain more clients or a designer looking for a new job, all graphic designers need an online portfolio.

Recently the online artist community deviantART.com launched a portfolio tool for it’s members. The site did extensive research by talking to artists, students, professors, art schools, creative professionals and focus group to figure out exactly what a great portfolio site needs to have and needs to ditch.

Portfolio: The Awesome Version is the culmination of their R&D. It is a comprehensive online portfolio site that doesn’t require any coding or HTML knowledge. And by spending time with those who needed portfolios and those who reviewed them, this portfolio tool is one of the best ways for artists and designers to showcase their work.

“Many of our artists used their galleries on deviantART.com as their main portfolio, but wanted a simpler cleaner – more professional – interface to showcase their work. The also wanted the ability to use their own domain name, not as re-direct, which gives them credit for their portfolio.” says Dan Loesch, who works for deviantART.com. “The portfolio gives them these two things and additional professional features like space for a CV and navigation and layout that are preferred by those who professionally review artwork.”

What a Great Portfolio Site Should Offer

(According to deviantART.com’s new portfolio tool: Portfolio: The Awesome Version.)

Portfolios have to be easy and quick to build. Especially so designers can create special versions on the fly to meed specific requests. Because designers do lots of different types of work, an employer only interested in logo design doesn’t always need to see the rest of the designer’s work.

Site design should be clean and professional without all sorts of unnecessary options. Clients and professors don’t like overworked design of the portfolio and believe that designers should be concentrating on selecting and organizing their strongest works.

The site should always work. When portfolios fail, they lose credibility. When the site doesn’t function like it was intended to, it reflects poorly on the designer, even if it was someone else’s screw up. The site should be optimized to all major browsers and have reliable hosting.

Navigation needs to be obvious, simple and reliable. Many handmade Web sites that are used as a portfolio often confusing clients and teachers because the navigation in inventive, but not obvious to the one doing the clicking.

Portfolios should go straight to the point, which is showcasing the work. The portfolio should have neutral backgrounds and the work should be placed in the same location on each page so that the viewer doesn’t have to hunt around when going from image to image.

First impressions are everything. A portfolio should open with a bold statement of the designer’s best work.

Online portfolios need to pitch the artist not the site. Even if it’s free, don’t go with a site that allows Google ads or excessive site promotion. The portfolio should be about the designer and their work, not the site they are using to showcase their work.

Many options exist for designers looking to entice employers or schools. Some are free and some cost money to create and/or maintain. Either way the designer decides to go, there are a few things to look for when creating a Web site or choosing an existing online application. These guidelines can be the make or break factor in getting hired or even just getting exposure. After all, a designer’s Web site is how they present themselves to the world and without a professional and easy to navigate site, many employers and schools will simply move on.

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