One vital lesson that budding developers learn (sometimes to their horror) when they graduate and start looking for a job, is that experience means just as much as employment history. Because so many developers are learning the craft at bootcamps and short courses rather than through university degrees, the industry has become more accessible than it’s ever been. For employers, the focus is shifting away from who you’ve worked for, towards what you’ve done. And that’s great news for new developers. It also means that having an effective developer portfolio is more important than it’s ever been.
Developers who have the edge are those who find ways to apply their newfound skills from the get-go. Sometimes that means embarking on a ‘passion project’ that doesn’t pay but gives you a great reference. Build a website for a family or a friend, develop an ecommerce platform for a local small business to try out, or build an online trivia game around a topic you love. Apply your skills, get the job done, then build a portfolio.
What’s In A Developer Portfolio?
A developer portfolio is how you demonstrate your skills rather than just telling people about them. It’s a way of bringing your CV to life. And most importantly, it’s how you introduce yourself to the world. There are three main sections to an effective developer portfolio:
This section will serve as an introduction to you as a developer – your educational history, your work history, who you are and what you’re passionate about. If you’re not great with words, this may be the time to hire a copywriter to fine-tune your message. Not a spelling or grammar error should be anywhere in sight, so make sure it’s professional but not too wordy. All your portfolio needs to do is get your foot in the door. From there, your natural charm and charisma will shine through (we certainly hope).
This section needs to contain your best work. If you’ve been in the game for a long time, the task of choosing work may be more challenging than if you’re a newbie. Basically what you want to show is diversity. You want your portfolio to appeal to someone who’s looking for a mobile app developer,a web developer or a database manager. Try to show off diversity as much as possible. Today’s best companies are looking for specialist generalists – individuals with a broad range of experience and skills rather than one specific skill-set.
Ultimately what you want is for a lead to see your portfolio and contact you. That’s the ultimate call-to-action. So when it comes to your contact page, make sure that it works like a well-oiled machine. If you use a contact number, make sure it has a professional voice message. If you use an email address, make sure you reply within a few hours. If you use a form, make sure it’s brief and that it uses a captcha (spammers love portfolios). It may be worth putting in an hour or two of research to make sure the UX of your page is up to scratch; you want the user to have an intuitive experience when visiting your portfolio.
4 Top Tools for Building a Developer Portfolio
Whether you’re a novice or a seasoned veteran in the development industry, you will probably have heard about the open-course, website creation tool, WordPress. Here’s the lowdown on this crowd-favourite. “WordPress is the fastest growing CMS, with roughly 500+ new sites being built daily in the top 10 million websites on the web (compared to Shopify’s and Squarespace’s 60-80),” according to Karol K. The reality is that if your next gig is a website development one, the CMS you might be using is quite likely going to be WordPress. If you can show that you’re already well-versed in all things WordPress, that’s a huge plus. It happens to be one of those platforms that devs either hate or love. Try it out – it’s a great CMS for a first portfolio.
3.1 million. That’s how many paid subscribers Wix has. Over a relatively short space of time, Wix has proven itself to be an indispensable tool for developers and even non-techies. The plus side is that as a developer, you’ll have the background you need to customise templates beyond what most people can. Wix is great if you’re into animation – they’ve invested millions into perfecting their animation functionalities. Wix websites are responsive so you can make sure your portfolio looks good on desktop and mobile. It’s also free to use, although we recommend upgrading to a paid package so that you can register your own domain name. Make the small investment – it will be worth it.
Over the last decade, Squarespace has emerged as a force to be reckoned with. In a space that’s dominated by the likes of WordPress, Drupal and Wix.com, it’s proving that it’s here to stay. Squarespace requires little to no coding knowledge (although as a dev, you’re at a definite advantage). It has a range of different templates to choose from as well as customisation options that will make sure you don’t produce anything that looks like it comes off a shelf. In a review of Squarespace, Website Builder Expert suggests that: “More than 1 million people pay to keep using Squarespace after its free 14-day trial, and that’s a solid testament to the quality of results it delivers.”
It wouldn’t be strange to have a potential employer ask a developer if they can see his/her Github. It’s become an industry standard for devs across the world. In fact, “In 2017, the GitHub community reached 24 million developers working across 67 million repositories.” In essence, GitHub is where developers store their projects and network with like-minded people. You can contribute to the development of a project, get advice on how to take the next steps with your own projects and gain access to updates as they happen. One key reason why developers love GitHub is “much like using Microsoft Word or Google Drive – you can have a version history of your code so that it is not lost with every iteration.” When things happen in the coding world, they happen on GitHub, so we’d encourage all devs to jump on this bandwagon.
Your portfolio is how you show your future employer what you can do, the work you’re most proud of and how you choose to showcase your skills. Spend time on crafting it, call on some experts to help you out, make it count, because it’s how you put your best foot forward.
We specialise in guiding developers towards better, more fulfilling careers. Chat to an expert at HyperionDev who will give you guidance on how to take the next step in your career.