I’m Chanpory, and this is my site on how to live and work better as a designer.

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Kyle Meyer of Astheria has an excellent post on why online portfolios just plain suck. He must be reading my mind, because I was just about to write about my intense hatred for online portfolios. Thankfully, Kyle’s saved me the trouble.

He’s combed 200 online portfolios to find these 7 common mistakes:

  1. Bad navigation
  2. Zoomed and cropped thumbnails
  3. “Mystery meat” squares
  4. No phone number
  5. No email
  6. No contact info of any kind
  7. Background music

Amen, brother. I’d also add three more to Kyle’s list:

  1. Flash animation
    You’ll overdo it, and it won’t work in every browser, so just say no.

  2. No labels
    Is it a CD cover, a poster, a billboard? What is it!? I hate guessing, so label your work with clear basic information such as project name, media, and dimensions. Even better, put your work in a physical context.

  3. No resumé
    You’re not just a collection pretty little images. I want to know what classes you’ve taken, where you’ve worked, and what makes you tick. Remember, you’re more than your portfolio. Give me a resumé or even just a short bio.

Click here for Kyle’s detailed findings.

To see some online portfolios that don’t suck, check out my round-up of one-page portfolios.

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11 Comments

  • Taylor Wright

    gravatarMay 13, 2008
    8:16 am

    Chanpory,

    I’m going to step up to defend Flash, as a Flash developer. Lately I’ve been describing Flash as a very big pool. You could work with Flash for years and never leave the shallow end; some people never stop splashing in the wading pool, they actually make careers out of it. I had been using flash for 5 years before I moved from the shallow end (timeline) to jumping from the diving board into the deep end (“big kid” programming).

    That transition as well as spending enough time for the novelty to ware off has left me a more apt and sensible flash designer / developer. This process was similar to learning to let go of the Lens Flare tool when first learning Photoshop as a teen.

    My advice may just elaborate on yours, which is to be sensible with what you’re doing if you use Flash (or anything else). People have come to your site to see your body of work (not just the site that happens to be your portfolio), don’t hinder them from it. Flash gives it’s users to so many possibilities and temptations to get in the way of their content; but that’s what separates the good from the bad, and the people who visit your site will notice the separation.

    So, just don’t throw Flash out with the bath water.

    regards, Taylor

    postscript- you’ll notice my distinct lack of a portfolio. sigh

  • sir jorge

    gravatarMay 13, 2008
    9:27 am

    This is spot on accurate.

  • Luc Latulippe

    gravatarMay 13, 2008
    10:56 am

    I agree with everything except the Resume part. I don’t have much interest or patience to read through a lengthy resume.

    Maybe a good solution is a short Bio section, plus a Resume underneath, or as a separate link.

  • Grant

    gravatarMay 13, 2008
    12:36 pm

    Nice post. I agree, though, that a resume is potentially unnecessary. Seth Godin had a great post recently about people who are truly great don’t need resumes, and I agree.

    http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2008/03/why-bother-havi.html

  • Chanpory Rith

    gravatarMay 13, 2008
    12:36 pm

    Hey Taylor, you have a point about sensible Flash animation in a portfolio. If you can pull it off and be judicious, then I’m fine with Flash-based portfolios.

    Most people, however, get carried away with things flying around all over the place. It just becomes unviewable. Also, Flash is pain in the ass to update. Which means when you visit a Flash portfolio, the work on it is already pretty old, because the designer’s too busy to muck around in Flash.

  • Chanpory Rith

    gravatarMay 13, 2008
    12:37 pm

    Luc,

    Yeah, I think a resumé link or a bio would be fine, just as long as I get that there’s a real person behind the work. A link to a LinkedIn profile would work too.

  • The real Mr. Funk

    gravatarMay 13, 2008
    10:13 pm

    Not to defend Flash for bling’s sake, but if you’re looking for work doing Flash / Flex, it’s probably a good idea ;-)

  • chemic

    gravatarMay 14, 2008
    8:26 am

    I’ll also step up to protect flash.. it’s good and powerful. But still key features should work without it (navigation etc). As JS librarys are great nowadays.. better use them for fancy animated menus etc.

  • Clark

    gravatarMay 14, 2008
    9:21 pm

    I’ll add one: neglect. Something mine suffers from.

  • Lewallen

    gravatarMay 12, 2009
    4:30 pm

    As others have stated…Flash is a must. If your browser doesn’t support Flash, then throw your computer out the window.

    Also, Flash helps protect from image theft. Flash helps with overloading files onto 1 page. Flash takes less to load when it pertains to images such as a portfolio vs. HTML page loading 100+ images. Need I go on?

  • Guy

    gravatarAug 25, 2010
    7:39 am

    There are 2 types of portfolio, the ones that you want to impress people by using all the knowledge and skills you posess and the ones that you want to brefly show to the employer your strong points and a bit of info about you. The employer will aproximatly use 30 seconds of his time to firstly see how it is basically eye catching, then use most of the time to look your personnal projects and then see your bio. So basically, it all depends on who you are presenting your portfolio.