Aiken Lao
ILLUSTRATOR / DESIGNER / MARKETER

Blog

Snippets of my life, behind the scenes work, and thoughts.

Tips on Redesigning Your Portfolio

It’s always difficult to brand yourself. The self is always changing, it’s difficult to pick one style to portray and stick with it. I know I’ve always had trouble.

After keeping the same layout for about a year I decided it was time for change. My previous site seemed too cluttered, and users had a hard time finding my best projects out of all the projects I dumped into it. While doing the redesign I constantly asked myself why I did things the way I did. My current site is nowhere close to perfect, but I made up a quick list of things to keep in mind if you’re stuck on redesigning your site.

Take Out The Crap

Steve Jobs once said to Mark Parker, CEO of Nike, “Nike makes some of the best products in the world.  Products that you lust after. But you also make a lot of crap. Just get rid of the crappy stuff and focus on the good stuff.” This doesn’t just apply to products a company has, but to all levels of life. I had a lot of crap on my website because I was afraid that I would be missing out if someone saw a style that I didn’t include. The work wasn’t terrible, but it also wasn’t the best stuff in my portfolio. Currently my website holds a lot less compared to the first version but that’s fine. People can now more easily navigate towards things I consider to be my better work, and view my other work on platforms like my blog and Instagram. Humans aren’t very good at having too many choices, so focus on giving them less but the best.

Use Mock-ups

Not only do mock-ups look great, but they help the user understand the context of your project or how your work can be applied to their needs. An alternative is to have a photograph of your work out in the wild, but we don’t always have that luxury. Mock-ups help make your website look professional and better communicate your ideas to the viewer.

Tell A Story

I’m guilty of not doing this enough because it’s not an easy thing to do. Each project on your portfolio should tell a story. What were your objects for this project? How did you reach your goals? What steps led you to the final idea? People are invested if they are invited to join you on the journey to your final idea. Show people your rough sketches, and explain to them how the final idea was chosen. It helps people better understand your own thought process, and also helps yourself as you rediscover why you did the things you did.

Show Logos

This is one part of my redesign I haven’t gotten to yet, but many clients have mentioned that seeing the companies you’ve worked with on a single page helps them frame your experience and past clients. We write down names on portfolios, but having one page with just logos on your About page is a nice summary of your experience. Even a list is often helpful for people.

Find References

Take the time to research sites you like and site you don’t like. How can you best utilize their best points on your own website? What designs make them special? I find that constantly asking yourself questions helps redirect you to smarter design. Stay curious.

Maximize Your SEO

Fortunately for most designers who use Square Space like me, the web platform automatically optimizes your SEO. However, there are some simple things that you can do both in and outside of Square Space to optimize a little more. Always hyperlink relevant links, especially when the websites have a higher search ranking than yours. By doing so you insert yourself into their “web” and increase your own score. Bonus points if they link back to you as well. You can also add captions, alt tags, and social media excerpts. Whatever you can fill in on Square Space you should do so because it gives search engines and users more context on what your site provides. Alt-tags are especially important if you want to make your site disability friendly as people with visual impairments will be listening to that text to describe your images.

These are just a few thoughts I have at the moment, or a list of things I want to improve myself. I hope they help you on your redesign journey! If you have extra tips, feel free to add them to the comments. I’d love to hear them!