How to Make a Web Developer Portfolio in 2023

The web development field has exploded in the past decade, and it is continuing to grow at a faster-than-average rate. This makes 2023 an excellent time to enter the field.

You’ve done the work to get started. You’ve learned to code. You’ve worked on some projects and honed your creative identity. Before you can begin applying to positions, however, you’ll need to create a portfolio. But what exactly is a web developer portfolio? What should it look like, and what should it include?

In short, a web developer portfolio highlights your skills, interests, and creative sensibilities. It shows potential employers and clients what you’re able to do and what you could produce for them down the road.

Let’s take a look at what makes for a strong web developer portfolio, including what you should include, the steps you can take to create your portfolio, and why your portfolio is so important to a web developer career in the first place.

Why Pursue a Web Developer Career?

Pursuing a web developer career is not just a segue into engaging, creative work — it’s also a wise move given the field’s continued growth. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), web developer and digital designer employment is expected to grow 13 percent through 2030, outpacing the average for all occupations.

What’s more, web development is a broad field, so you have plenty of opportunities to find and pursue your favorite (or the most in-demand) skills and projects, from design and front end to back end and full stack development.

Data from Burning Glass Technologies, for instance, has identified the projected growth of some of the biggest specialized skills of web designers, including:

  • JavaScript: +3.0 percent
  • Visual Design: +5.7 percent
  • Digital Design: +18.5 percent
  • Digital Marketing: +19.2 percent

An image that highlights the computer science skills listed in the article and their predicted growth rates.

As nearly every company has some degree of online presence, the different fields and sectors you can pursue within the web developer career are vast. While some of the top employers of web developers include Apple, Banner Health Systems, NBC, and Deloitte, developers can expect to work in a variety of sectors, from information and educational services to advertising, retail, publishing, and more. In short, where there’s a need for websites, there’s a need for web developers.

Web developers can also expect to earn a higher-than-average salary. According to BLS data from May 2020, while the median annual wage across all occupations in the United States was $41,950, the median yearly wage for a web developer was $77,200.

It’s essential to keep in mind that other potential web developers have noticed these trends as well. If you’re considering pursuing a web developer career, put yourself ahead of the curve by enrolling in a boot camp or college course.

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The Benefits of a Strong Web Developer Portfolio

Like an artist’s portfolio, a web development portfolio allows you to showcase your technical skills (coding) and creativity. As one of the most important tools in your arsenal, your portfolio shows what you have done and what you have the potential to do with new clients down the road.

Before you even start the interviewing process, your portfolio tells potential employers who you are as a developer. A strong web development portfolio communicates your hard skills, design sensibilities, and brand identity. Solid coding and design can put you on employers’ radars (by proving what you’re capable of) and set you apart from the pack.

4 Steps to Creating an Effective Web Developer Portfolio

We’ve broken down the four steps for creating the most effective web developer portfolio. It starts with research to find other developers’ portfolios that inspire or engage you. From there, you’ll need to decide what to add to your portfolio (including a resume) and how to build it.

Step 1: Explore other web developer portfolio ideas

Starting with a blank slate can feel overwhelming. While you may have some sense of the approach you’d like to take with your portfolio, hammering out the details — from typography and color palette to your portfolio’s format and presentation — takes careful consideration.

The best place to start is by gathering as much inspiration as possible. While the goal is to create a unique portfolio that exemplifies your work and creativity, browsing other web development portfolios can give you a sense of what direction you’d like to take with your own.

GitHub, for instance, is an excellent resource for exploring web developer portfolio ideas. Users have compiled threads of their own (or other developers’) portfolios for inspiration and feedback. This list can help form your portfolio’s design, user interface (UI), layout, and types of projects to spotlight.

Awwwards is another design-focused resource that features thousands of websites to draw inspiration from. This site nominates and selects submissions for Awwwards based on four metrics: design, usability, creativity, and content. You can search their nominees’ and winners’ sites by design features (color palette, style, etc.), what programming language was used to create it, or what type of website it is (including web developer portfolios).

You may also want to browse portfolio website templates. These templates can provide ideas on basic web development portfolio layouts and recommended inclusions. Even if you plan on creating your own portfolio from scratch, sites like Wix and Squarespace offer some templates that can serve as a jumping-off point for your portfolio.

Step 2: Showcase different web developer portfolio projects

Once you’ve decided on the design, flow, and overall appearance of your portfolio, you’ll need to determine which projects to include. Again, it is essential to showcase various web developer portfolio projects. This shows potential clients and employers the breadth of your knowledge and experience with different skills, tools, and resources for web development.

As was the case when starting your portfolio, now is a great time to look to other web development portfolios for inspiration. You can start broadly, then narrow your search by looking for portfolios from other developers in fields that interest you. Say, for instance, you want to pursue a career in web development for tech startups. A quick Google search or a look into employees’ portfolios on your favorite startups’ LinkedIn pages are great places to start.

After gathering your inspiration, you’ll want to decide which projects of your own to include. These should be the cream of the crop — projects that truly showcase your skills at work. If you don’t have a vast portfolio of paid work yet, don’t worry. Taking some time to create high-quality projects on your own can help highlight your capabilities.

Once you’ve decided what to showcase, you’ll need to plan how to show it off. Some web developers include long-form writing or blog posts describing the projects they’ve worked on or the skills or programming languages in which they are adept. Other developers link to websites that show brief overviews of their projects.

You should be intentional about the projects you want to showcase. While just one or two projects may look amateurish or underwhelming, too many could feel overwhelming. Striking the right balance between quality and quantity provides ample insight into the projects where your skills shine.

Step 3: Prepare a web developer resume

While your portfolio is a CV of sorts, it’s important that you also include a web developer resume in your portfolio. That way, potential clients and employers can see the skills you’ve refined at a glance.

Here is some basic information to include in your resume:

  • Your contact information: Your name, email address, phone number, and social media links (LinkedIn and GitHub, in particular) are great places to start.
  • A brief “About Me” statement: This can include a brief overview of your experience and your career goals. For example: “Design-focused web developer with four years of experience seeking a position with a dynamic, digitally driven creative agency.”
  • Education: While a university degree isn’t necessary to become a web developer, include any relevant education or degrees, including courses like a coding boot camp.
  • Work experience: This is the heart of a web developer’s resume. Starting with your most recent role at the top, include:
    • The names and locations of the companies you have worked for
    • Your job titles/roles
    • The dates during which you worked for each company
    • A bulleted list of your projects and duties
    • Any relevant awards, recognitions, accolades, or promotions you received inside or outside of work
  • Relevant “hard” skills: “Hard” skills refer to your development-related knowledge. These include the programs and programming languages you’ve used to develop your projects, as well as skills like UX/UI design, mobile development, and SEO (search engine optimization) or SEM (search engine marketing).
  • Relevant “soft” skills: “Soft” skills refer to your interpersonal abilities and may include communication, collaboration, attention to detail, problem-solving, and a willingness to learn.

Step 4: Create your portfolio website

Now that you’ve researched website portfolio examples, created your resume, and finalized the plan for your portfolio, it’s time for the final step: creating your portfolio website!

First, you’ll want to make sure you tick the following boxes in terms of information and skills in your portfolio. This should populate on the homepage of your website. As mentioned above, much of this info can be pulled from your web developer resume.

  • Contact information: Your full name, email address, and phone number are a must. It’s also a good idea to include your social media profiles — especially LinkedIn, GitHub, or Stack Overflow.
  • Personal biography: This should be a little longer than the “About Me” section on your resume — about a paragraph or two. This can include your name, education, work background, and even personal interests (bonus if they’re related to web development).
  • Relevant skills: These may be pared-down versions of the skills included in your developer resume.
  • Awards or accolades: As with your skills, you can mention any of the awards or accolades you’ve received and have featured on your resume.
  • Annotated/documented source code: Providing context for the code used in your projects gives your portfolio’s visitors key insights into your thought process and approach to coding. If your portfolio links to your GitHub, you should include general information about the project so your visitors understand what it does and why you created it. You can add annotations in the form of a README file.
  • Web developer resume: You can upload your resume directly to your portfolio or include a link to download a PDF of your resume alongside your contact information.

After adding these details, it’s time to get down to the nitty-gritty of your portfolio website. Considering the framework you came up with in Steps 1 and 2, you’ll want to answer the following questions:

  • Do you want to prioritize interactivity or simplicity? Clean, modern design or a bold, creative approach?
  • Do you want to offer options for light and dark mode? It may depend on your site’s overall design approach and color palette.
  • Do you want one attention-grabbing page? Or maybe several pages with more in-depth information?

An image depicting the four steps to creating an effective web designer portfolio.

When creating a wireframe of the design for your portfolio, you should consider design fundamentals like contrast, composition, and palette. If you aren’t a design-oriented developer, resources like Coolors and Fontjoy can help you create cohesive color palettes and font pairings.

Next, you’ll want to decide how to approach creating your portfolio. You can use portfolio website templates or create a personal website from scratch.

Resources are abundant for portfolio website templates. From Squarespace and Wix to websites like ThemeForest and WordPress Themes, you can do as little or as much customization as you’d like. While the first two sites allow for custom code injection, ThemeForest provides options for WordPress and HTML templates. WordPress Themes is a great jumping-off point if you’re already familiar with the platform and plan to use it to build your portfolio website. You can also forgo using their pre-built themes and use WordPress to build your website from the ground up.

No matter what route you decide to take, your portfolio website should establish your brand identity, communicate your skills and experience, and leave visitors with a clear understanding of who you are as a developer.

Web Developer Portfolio FAQs

Those seeking to begin their careers as web developers often have questions: Where do I start? What should I expect from a web developer career?

Let’s look at the most frequently searched questions to help you understand what it takes to become a web developer and build a strong portfolio of your work.

Before diving into web development, it’s important to answer the first question: “What do web developers do?”

In short, web developers create and maintain websites. They are responsible for the development, implementation, and upkeep of web code and applications — and for optimizing a website’s performance. They work with their employers or clients to ensure that a website meets expectations, runs smoothly, and includes all the requested features.

Developers work in states with major tech hubs. According to Burning Glass Technologies, the highest concentrations of web designers come from California, Texas, Washington, Florida, New York, and several states in the Midwest and East Coast.

That said, things have changed rapidly in the past several years. According to the Pew Research Center, nearly 60 percent of Americans continue to work from home all or most of the time, so you may be able to work from home as a web developer, too. This potential flexibility — partnered with the above-average salary web developers can expect — makes web development an even more attractive career path.

A degree in web development isn’t mandatory to become a web developer, but the right credentials can give you a competitive edge. Coding boot camps, for instance, offer an accelerated, less financially demanding option than university degrees with much of the same education and training.

If you’re not yet employed, you’re likely wondering, “How can I create a personal website for free?”

As stated above, there are many resources for creating personal portfolio websites. Wix offers both free and paid models, as do SITE123 and Weebly. WordPress is popular because of its robust features and customizability and has free and premium options.

The best domain name is the one that best fits you!

Some developers choose a custom top-end domain (the end portion of a URL, like “.com” or “.net”). Some choose “.dev” to clarify what they do, while others use their name.

Become a Web Developer Today

A strong web developer portfolio can serve as the backbone for your future career in development.

But what if you are just getting started?

There is no better time to begin than right now. Resources like coding boot camps provide the training to succeed in a web development career. You will learn the skills to become a developer and receive the accreditation that many employers are looking for in today’s competitive job market.

If you’re ready to jump-start your career in web development, give yourself an edge above the competition by enrolling in a boot camp today.

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