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Building an effective front-end developer portfolio

A strong portfolio website can help you make a positive first impression with potential clients and employers. In this article, Nefe provides recommendations for creating a standout portfolio site.

Nefe Emadamerho-Atori


10 Jun 2024

It's no secret that the web development job market is more competitive than ever, especially for junior and mid-level front-end developer openings, which have become more difficult to find.

As a front-end developer looking for a job, you need every tool in your arsenal to build a strong brand perception and leave a strong impression on recruiters and hiring managers. This also applies to freelancers looking to get new clients—leaving a solid first impression cannot be overstated.

Having the right technical and soft skills is essential to flourishing in your front-end development career and every other field, so you need to get your foot through the door first. Perception is everything, and one great way to improve your odds is by having an eye-catching front-end developer portfolio.

In this article, we will explore the following:

  • Why you need a portfolio
  • Challenges developers face when building a portfolio
  • Best practices for building an effective front-end developer portfolio
  • Features your portfolio should have
  • Some developer portfolios worth exploring for inspiration

The importance of having a developer portfolio

Here are some reasons why you should consider having a developer portfolio:

Showcases your skills

A developer portfolio is an excellent platform for showcasing your skills and competencies. You can list information like:

  • The technologies and programming languages you know
  • Any professional certificates you have
  • Your years of experience in the field
  • Companies you have worked with

Anyone who comes across your portfolio will clearly understand what you can do and the value you can offer. It is a great way to market yourself and allows potential employers and clients to evaluate your skills based on their needs.

Highlights your projects

While showcasing your skills and competencies is excellent, you shouldn't stop there. It's also important to highlight the projects you've built with those skills, and this is another perfect use case for creating a developer portfolio.

While to-do apps are great practice projects, they’re unlikely to leave a strong impression—particularly in today's job market—so ensure that you showcase the most technical and comprehensive projects that demonstrate your ability to build complex apps and solve real-world problems.

Are you looking for more projects to build for your portfolio? Then, look no further than Frontend Mentor's challenges.

The challenges cut across five difficulty levels: newbie, junior, intermediate, advanced, and guru. Once you feel ready, I recommend building some advanced and guru projects like the following to really make a strong impression on potential employers:

  1. Rock, Paper, Scissors game - Advanced
  2. Multi-step form - Advanced
  3. Kanban task management web app - Guru
  4. Invoice app - Guru
  5. Audiophile e-commerce website - Guru

Demonstrates your versatility

As a front-end developer, a comprehensive portfolio can demonstrate your versatility in the following ways:

  • It allows you to showcase your skills and expertise.
  • It's an excellent platform for displaying the various projects you've built with different technologies.
  • It allows you to showcase your creativity. The great thing about building a portfolio is that you can add all the bells and whistles, like visually appealing designs, eye-catching animations, and interactive elements. Pushing the creative boundaries of your portfolio can leave a strong impression and create a memorable user experience.

Establishes your brand

I'm one of those people who has never been a fan of building one's brand. I'd rather stay "unknown" and get the job done. However, I can't deny that building a personal brand has its career advantages.

Having a portfolio is one of the best ways to build your brand, as it contains your best work, skills, and experiences. A portfolio is to a developer what a company website is to businesses.

An effective front-end portfolio can help position you as a skilled developer, making it a worthy investment that will pay off in the long term and set you apart from the competition.

Helps attract potential clients or employers

A compelling portfolio can be a great marketing tool that showcases your unique value and attracts potential clients or employers. It makes it easier for decision-makers to evaluate your skills and experiences and can open doors to new opportunities.

Challenges front-end developers face when building their portfolios

Some common challenges developers face when building their portfolios include:

Creating aesthetically pleasing portfolios

Front-end developers are not UI designers, and while it's possible to see front-end developers with a background in or an eye for design, they are often the minority. This means that front-end developers frequently struggle with the design aspect of their portfolio.

Thankfully, you don't need to be an expert designer to create a beautiful and aesthetically designed portfolio. Instead, you can:

  • Pay a UI designer to design your portfolio.
  • Use a free or paid portfolio template. Thankfully, the internet is full of multiple portfolios, and a Google search for "frontend developer portfolio template" will lead you to several great options.
  • Use a developer's open-source portfolio. Since it's open source, you can use their codebase and make it yours. However, it's essential not to use their code as-is; instead, make several edits to create a unique version for yourself. Also, consider adding a text on the footer that says "built with inspiration from X," where X is the person whose portfolio you used. You can take it further and link to their portfolio's repo.
  • Take design inspiration from another developer's portfolio, whether open-source or not. The focus here is using their portfolio's design as inspiration for yours.
  • Complete Frontend Mentors’s single-page developer portfolio and/or minimalist developer portfolio challenges. You can customize the final version to suit your needs.

SEO - Optimizing your portfolio for search engines

Building an aesthetically pleasing portfolio helps create an excellent first impression. However, you must also ensure potential clients and employers can find you online. This is where Search Engine Optimization (SEO) comes in. Proper SEO ensures your portfolio is visible to people looking for a front-end developer.

Some front-end developers struggle with SEO because it's not a core front-end development skill, meaning they must learn a new skill set.

Luckily, you don't have to be an SEO specialist to optimize your portfolio properly. Here are some best practices you can use to score some quick SEO wins:

Explore this guide to learn more about SEO for front-end development.

Choosing the right project - knowing which projects to include

While you may be tempted to showcase every project you've worked on, they shouldn't all be on your portfolio.

Some developers need help with navigating which projects to choose. However, here are some considerations to keep in mind when selecting projects to feature:

  • Quality over quantity: Your portfolio should showcase your best work rather than a compilation of every project you've built.
  • Relevance: Not all projects may be relevant to the type of work or industry you're targeting. For example, a front-end developer targeting a UI developer role should pick projects that showcase their ability to write quality code, build accessible projects, and use relevant technologies.
  • Diversity: It is important to showcase diverse projects that highlight your versatility. Include projects that showcase different technologies, design patterns, and problem-solving approaches that give potential employers or clients a well-rounded view of your capabilities.
  • Recency: Newer projects that demonstrate your current skill level and familiarity with the latest technologies and trends are generally more valuable than older projects that may be outdated or less relevant. However, you can still include older projects if they showcase specific skills or achievements that are still applicable.

Here are some guidelines to follow when selecting projects for your portfolio:

  • Choose projects demonstrating your ability to handle complex technical challenges, showcase your problem-solving skills, and highlight your proficiency with various technologies and frameworks.
  • Select projects that showcase your attention to detail and ability to create visually appealing and user-friendly interfaces.
  • Projects that had a significant impact, solved a real-world problem, or achieved measurable success can be compelling additions to your portfolio.
  • If you have worked on projects for previous employers or clients, ensure you have the necessary permissions or rights to showcase those projects in your portfolio.

Tips and best practices for building an effective front-end developer portfolio

Here are tips and best practices you should follow to build an effective portfolio:

  1. Create an eye-catching design for your portfolio that leaves a strong impression. Remember that it doesn’t have to be your design.
  2. Write engaging copy and craft a compelling story to sell yourself.
  3. As I mentioned, ensure that the projects you showcase are tailored to match your desired role.
  4. Provide detailed descriptions and breakdowns for the projects you showcase. Include details like the technologies used, why you chose those tools, people you collaborated with (if any), GitHub repo URL, live URL, time to build, images, gifs, and videos.
  5. Ensure your website is accessible and responsive.
  6. Optimize your website for the best performance.
  7. Keep your portfolio updated.
  8. While it's common to see percentage bars in portfolios and CVs, leave them out of your skills and technologies section. "80% JavaScript" doesn't tell the client or employer anything. Instead, focus on showcasing projects that display your level of proficiency with those languages and technologies. A high-quality project with type-checking, clean code, and performance optimizations is more likely to send a positive signal to recruiters and clients than a progress bar.

Features every front-end developer portfolio should have

The number of features your portfolio can have is unlimited. All the options can be overwhelming when planning what to include. Let's explore some core and optional features you should consider adding.

Core features

  • An about me section that covers relevant public information about you. This is a great place to include personal info like name, location, years of experience, hobbies, etc.
  • A projects section that includes relevant projects you want to showcase.
  • A skills and technologies section that shows the different skills you have and technologies you've worked with.
  • An experience section that acts as a mini CV and gives web visitors an overview of the different companies you've worked with.
  • A contact section that includes relevant contact info, such as an email address, social links (e.g., GitHub and LinkedIn), or a contact form.

Optional features

  • A blog. While not everyone is a writer, it is common to see front-end developers add blogs to their portfolios. Writing helps display your knowledge and other essential skills, like communication.
  • A theme switcher for switching between light mode, dark mode, and other color themes.
  • Attractive animations and transitions to add some flair to your portfolio.
  • Testimonials, if any, for social proof.

Inspiration bank: 5 front-end developer portfolio examples worth checking out

Onur Şuyalçınkaya

Onur Şuyalçınkaya's portfolio website in the style of a dashboard.

Onur is a Senior Front-End Software Engineer who built his portfolio with Next.js, Tailwind CSS, shadcn/ui, Contentful, Raindrop, and Supabase. He took a different approach with his portfolio and switched things up by using a dashboard-like layout. Unlike other portfolios with the navigation menu at the top, Onur put his on a sidebar by the left.

Here are some things I like about his portfolio:

  • The unique layout with the sidebar makes the portfolio stand out.
  • He highlights the views of the articles on his blog. While this data is not needed, it adds a nice touch by allowing visitors to see how many people have read his articles.
  • He added a navigation shortcut to the links on the sidebar menu. Instead of clicking the links to change pages, you can press the numbers corresponding to the pages. This feature is another nice touch that improves the website's interactivity. It also shows that he has a solid grasp of Document Object Model (DOM) events, a core front-end development skill.

Andrej Gajdos

Andrej Gajdos' portfolio website that shows a picture of Adrej alongside some introductory text.

Andrej is a freelance full-stack developer who takes a more personalized approach to this portfolio by putting his face on the home page. While you don't have to follow this approach, showing one's face could make a portfolio more welcoming to visitors since it helps them put a face to the person.

Andrej built his website with WordPress.

Here are some things I like about his portfolio:

  • He included the brands he has worked with, which positively affects how people perceive him and helps build his brand.
  • He included a testimonial section with reviews from happy customers. This is good for social proof, especially since he's a freelance developer.
  • The tabbable "Skills and experiences" section shows the brands he worked with, his achievements, and the tools he used.
  • The "Work" section shows the problem he solved, his role, and the tools he used for the highlighted projects.

Victor Williams

Victor Williams' portfolio website.

Victor's portfolio is a perfect example of a creativity portfolio. The animations, transitions, and UI design properly showcase Victor's creative abilities as a front-end developer and product designer. He built the portfolio with Next.js, GSAP, Tailwind CSS, Framer Motion, and TypeScript.

Here are some things I like about his portfolio:

  • He used a custom cursor. While this is not a significant addition, it helps showcase his creativity.
  • He added a loading screen with the text "Developer, Designer, Driller." When done right, loading screens like that can add flair to a portfolio.
  • He took the user experience to the next level by adding several scroll animations and page transitions to the portfolio.
  • Overall, he made a unique portfolio that will leave an impression. While this isn't the standard, his portfolio is a good reference for front-end developers to explore for inspiration.

Charles Bruyerre

Charles Brueyerre's portfolio website showcasing 3D shapes.

Charles' portfolio is another one that pushes the boundaries regarding creativity. It contains a unique cursor, 3D shapes, page transitions, and several animations and transactions. He built his portfolio with Next.js.

Here are some things I like about his portfolio:

  • Like Victor, Charles added a loading screen to his portfolio, which is a nice touch when done right.
  • The animations that occur when you open the navigation menu enhance the interaction, as opposed to the links just popping up.
  • He added a page transition that gets triggered when you navigate to a different page. While not everyone enjoys page transitions, they can be a good addition when not overwhelming.
  • Each project he highlighted has a dedicated project details page that contains information like the year the project was done, the type of project, and images of the final product. I rarely see portfolios with dedicated pages for each project, but I recommend adding one to yours, as it's a great place to break down your projects properly. You can think of it as a GitHub README for the projects in your portfolio.

Tamal Sen

Tamal Sen's portfolio website.

Tamal is a web and app developer with an eye-catching portfolio. He built the portfolio with Elementor, and here are some things I like about it:

  • Tamal's portfolio is beautifully designed. An example is the live-motion background he added to the hero section. The portfolio also consists of 6 colors, which he combines to ensure that the final output is pleasing to the eye.
  • Tamal adds animations to his website. However, he implements them so that they are not overwhelming or distracting from the main thing: his website's content.
  • Like Charles, Tamal also has individual pages for his projects. The pages contain details like images of the final product, the type of project, technologies used, and the client.
  • The testimonial section at the end of the portfolio is a good addition for social proof. It's one thing to showcase one's skills and another for people to vet your competencies.
  • He also added a custom cursor to his website. Custom cursors seem to be a common trend for developer portfolios because they are a simple way to personalize portfolios. Not everyone likes them, but they can add an extra layer to your site when used thoughtfully.

Conclusion and resources for further learning

Your portfolio is often the first impression you'll make on potential employers or clients, so putting your best foot forward is crucial. Invest time in creating a visually appealing, well-structured, and user-friendly portfolio showcasing your best work and demonstrating your ability to create engaging and functional web experiences.

Also, remember that building an effective portfolio is an ongoing process. As you continue to learn and grow as a developer, update your portfolio regularly, add new projects, and remove outdated ones to ensure the portfolio accurately represents your current skills and expertise.

For more insights and tips on building an impressive front-end developer portfolio, check out:

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