Maybe you’re not getting enough business out of it, maybe you want to add more features but you can’t because of a restricting layout, or maybe you’re just tired of the current design.
No matter the reasons, there are some basic steps and guidelines you should follow when redesigning a portfolio site. These four tips will help you make the most out of it:
First, Figure Out If A Redesign Is Necessary
I’m all for innovation and making things pretty but sometimes you simply don’t need to redesign. Remember that the time you take to work on your new design is time away from working on projects for clients. If giving your portfolio site a facelift means you’re going to get more business, then by all means do it! If on the other hand you’re not sure, here are some questions you might want to ask yourself (before you even fire up Photoshop):
- What is it that you don’t like about your current design?
- Is it just you or have other people (clients, other designers, etc…) told you it could use a facelift?
- Are you more skilled now than you were when you put together your current design?
- Does it still represent you? Maybe your design style changed.
- Are you loosing business because of the current design?
- Will a redesign bring you more clients? How?
- Is it standard compliant?
- Do you want to add new features? (blog, forum, etc…)
- Are you currently using a CMS? Do you want to use one?
- And so on…
Basically, you have to really question yourself as to why you want to redesign. If you just want to redesign, I say it’s not good enough. If you need to redesign, then keep reading! :)
Step 1 – Showcase Your Skills
Maybe one of the reasons you need to redesign is because you’re better at what you do now than you were 3 years ago! People come to your portfolio site because they are looking to hire someone to work on a project with or for them. If you claim to be an experienced graphic designer and Photoshop expert but your own site design doesn’t show you’ve got the skills, people will most probably leave and hire someone else. Focus on your strengths.
Step 2 – Common Sense Usability
Usability really is just pure common sense. Just try putting yourself in your visitor’s shoes. Can you quickly find what the average visitor would look for first? Here’s a quick checklist:
- Why can’t I click that logo? A lot of the portfolio sites I’ve visited had a ‘home’ link or button in their navigation bars, but I couldn’t click on the logo to go back to the homepage. Most people expect your logo to be linked to your home, and it’s easy to do.
- My eyes hurt! Red text on a blue background gives me headaches! Ok, now what about very light grey on a white background? I’m fine with that but If some potential clients can’t read your website you probably won’t get the gig. if your eyesight is 20/20, great! But it’s not the case for everyone.
- is that a link? No need to reinvent the wheel here. Make sure links can be identified easily, whether it’s by using a contrasting color or by underlining them. You want people to click on those, don’t you?
- What page am I on? It is common practice to highlight the page the user is currently on in the navigation. You can see this in action right here on Freelance Folder. Just click a link in the top navigation bar.
- How do I contact this guy? Make it easy for people to email you. Maybe you don’t want to list your phone number on your site, but at least make it apparent that you want people to get in touch with you. Don’t scream it but don’t make people search for your contact page either.
Step 3 – Getting Traffic
Of course if you redesign your portfolio site with web standards in mind you won’t have any problems having it featured on most of the CSS Galleries out there. This alone can get you some pretty good traffic!
Also, I strongly suggest adding a blog to your portfolio site! For 3 reasons:
- Connect with potential clients You do not need to write mile long Illustrator tutorials on your blog – I know for a fact that blogging can quickly become very time-consuming and we’re all busy with projects and clients. But it happened to me countless times that I got hired because of blog posts I wrote! Of course if you’re a freelance writer, this is a no-brainer!
- SEO: Once the traffic you got from the CSS galleries has died out, are there other ways of getting traffic? Sure! Blogs are great for SEO. Google loves indexing fresh new content on a regular basis!
- Social Media and social networking: There are many design related social media sites like DesignFloat and DesignBump that can drive quite a lot of traffic to your online portfolio! Thing is, these social media sites won’t send traffic to your homepage, but rather to blog posts you wrote. This is a great way to get traffic. And of course Twitter is always there for networking! :)
Step 4 – Planning For The Future
Now before you go ahead and start designing there’s one more thing: You need to think ahead and plan for the future!
What happens with your new design if in 6 months from now you want to hire other freelancers to work with you, expand your business and offer more services? Will you have to go through all that again? Or will you be able to easily adapt your new design as your business grows? Is it going to be easy and fast to add new features to your site?
Your Turn To Talk
I hope you found these tips useful! If you’re in the process of redesigning your portfolio site it’d be nice if you could share with us your design process and the reasons why you decided to go ahead and give your business a facelift. Did you or will you do a completely new design, or adjust the curent design to fit your needs? See ya in the comment section! :)
Image in this post: tricky