Whether you're a new media professional or in the marketing or communications field, it pays to put your work on the Web. Your online portfolio holds the advantage of showcasing your services 24/7, enabling potential clients to find you with just a few clicks. When building a website, keep in mind that anyone can visit it at any time before contacting you. Therefore, a key goal should be to provide enough information about your services to convince prospects to take the next step: making personal contact. Following are six essential elements every site should have to ensure a positive user experience:
- Home page. Some visitors may not go any further than your home page, so make sure it clearly conveys who you are and the services you offer, and provides complete contact information.
- Biographical information/credentials. Your visitors will want to know about the person behind your website. A brief professional biography gives clients a snapshot of your qualifications, experience and expertise.
- Printer-friendly resume. This is especially necessary if you're looking for a full-time job, so make sure it's easily accessible and ready to print. (PDF files work well for this.)
- Work samples. The primary reason anyone will visit your website is to see your work, so give them enough to look at - but not too much - and organize your pieces strategically. Be sure you have permission to post any work that belongs to clients or employers.
- Partial client list. Include a list of your past employers and clients (with their permission). Testimonials lend even more credibility.
- Contact information. Make it as easy as possible for anyone with the slightest interest to reach you. Give them as many options as possible: phone, fax, e-mail, mail - and make the contact information accessible from every page on your site.
Here are some additional tips for creating an effective online portfolio:
- Keep it clean and concise. The best web portfolios are succinct and straightforward. You risk irritating visitors by showing too many samples or requiring excessive scrolling and clicking. Include only your best pieces and make them prominent or easily accessible from the home page.
- Make it "mega-lyte." All your files should be sized appropriately for the Web. The last thing you want to do is cause a prospective client's computer to crash.
- Tell the story. Just as you must clearly label the pieces in your print portfolio, you also should describe the samples you post online. For each item, provide the client name (with their permission), your role in the project, the date, and any software or special skills used.
- Take it a for a test drive. Make sure your e-portfolio can be accessed using a variety of platforms and browsers before directing anyone to your site. Also, check that all URLs you post are still active and displaying your work.