Creating a Great Portfolio Web Site: Thoughts on Content and Design

I plan to build a portfolio site for my class project: It will show work I have done as an employee, an independent business owner and a student in the MCDM program. Here are initial thoughts about the design and content of my site, potential audiences for the site and analysis of three possible competitors’ web sites.

Criteria for Effectiveness of Site Design

  • Aesthetics: clean, professional
  • Shows some creativity and imagination
  • Easy navigation
  • Shows accomplishments and demonstrates the range of my expertise
  • Useful content (more than just a portfolio, but shares some of what I know and have learned)

Possible Audiences

  • Staff working for local government environmental program (e.g., King County Water and Land Resources, Seattle Public Utilities, City of Shoreline stormwater program) looking to hire communications contractor
  • Potential employer interested in hiring me for a job (e.g., Washington Sea Grant, local environmental nonprofit group, local government)
  • Larger consulting firm looking for subcontractor (e.g., environmental consultant or PR/marketing firm looking for a writer)

Potential Competitors

I chose two small partnerships and one individual.

Veda Environmental

Good design and content

  • I like the soft colors. They remind me of water and forests and are soothing to the eye.
  • Descriptions of projects are short and sweet.
  • I like the testimonials.
  • They have a clean way to separate work they did together as Veda Environmental with work they did for employers.
  • I like the way the pictures change when you scroll over the list of topic areas on the home page.

Bad design and content

  • The categories listed under “Projects” are not the same as the list of “Our services.” A third list appears under “Expertise.” The lists should match.
  • There’s a fourth list under the drop-down menu under “Home,” which looks like subject matter expertise but isn’t labeled as such.
  • You can’t get back to “Home” by clicking the logo, which is standard practice these days.

Scheiderer Partners

Good design and content

  • The front page description is appealing, with a photo that makes them seem like people I would like to meet.
  • They have a nice list of testimonials.

Bad design and content

  • I really don’t like the orange color.
  • If you click on any item in the bulleted list of services in the upper right corner, it just takes you back to the home page.
  • The list of services isn’t clickable.
  • The descriptions of the two partners seem a bit long.
  • They have what appears to be a blog, but posts aren’t dated, even though the first lines start with “I had breakfast this morning . . .” and “. . . we were pleased to participate last night in . . .”
  • With such a small firm, it seems odd to have a contact form, rather than listing their email addresses.
  • Portfolio examples feel buried in too many layers.

Teresa Meek Communications

Good design and content

  • She is a good writer and demonstrates that from the very top of the web site.
  • I like the photo.
  • I like her description of herself on the first page.
  • She has an impressive writing portfolio, arranged by topic.
  • Her Marketing and Editing services page has brief descriptions that are clickable. That works well.
  • Her blog is personal and interesting.

Bad design and content

  • The first page seems a bit long. I would take the list of services to another page, or make it shorter. The list should also be clickable.
  • Resume seems a bit long, and formatting has some problems, especially with bullets.
  • Some of the portfolio pieces are a full page, without a “read more” link. I think she did that because she only has one piece, but it makes the page feel much too long.
  • The blog also needs “read more” links. The posts are really long (perhaps too long), and it’s hard to get a sense of the overall breadth of the stories.
  • She also has a contact form, rather than direct access.

About Annette Frahm

Annette Frahm is the owner of FrahmComm, a communications and video production company. She uses video and writing to help organizations tell compelling stories. She has more than 25 years of experience in strategic communications planning, making technical concepts understandable, and engaging audiences in creating a greener future. Annette is also an avid skier, mountaineer, hiker and biker.

2 responses to “Creating a Great Portfolio Web Site: Thoughts on Content and Design”

  1. Kathy E. Gill says :

    Hi, Annette — good start on the project plan! When you are creating assessment criteria, think about how you’ll measure them. For example, what “shows creativity/imagination”? Write that down. 🙂 Remember you’ll need three personas in the final plan.

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