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Web design inspiration: How to create a gorgeous portfolio website

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The internet has revolutionized the way people view and consume content. People can now view entire portfolios of work from every type of professional all over the world online.

This gives artists, photographers, graphic designers and even contractors a way to show off their skills to a huge audience of people.

The challenge with any portfolio website is to create something beautiful enough to catch a potential client’s eye, but not so over-designed that it doesn’t effectively showcase the creative’s work.

Characteristics of a great portfolio site

All good web portfolio sites have certain elements that make them both stand out and be effective with their audiences.

Here’s a brief list of the characteristics your portfolio should have to ensure that your portfolio site will be effective.

Superb aesthetics

The first and foremost thing you need to think about is layout. It needs to not only be crisp and clear, but also to have the right visual elements – elements that work with the content you plan to present.

The one thing you need to understand is that the site layout itself doesn’t need to be over-the-top. You can go for a minimalist approach, which in turn will better emphasize your work.

Your portfolio website just needs be laid out in a way that will promote your content while not detracting from your main focus – your great creative work!


While a minimal design will work very well, that doesn’t mean you can’t be creative in terms of how users interact with your site. Elements that pop out, unique transitions and other one-of-a-kind qualities will elevate your portfolio site.

While there are plenty of examples of creative portfolio designs, some of which we’ll look at later, the point to bear in mind is that creativity is all about pushing the boundaries.

So long as your design stays usable, and creative transitions, pop-outs, etc., help with showcasing your work, rather than being a source of frustration to users (don’t use Flash, for example!) you can get as creative as you like.

Showcase the best of the best

Effective portfolio layouts put the best work of an artist front and centre. They guide the viewer through to see the best of the best before giving them the option to see other work.

This allows visitors to get an idea of your work at just a glance. They can then look deeper within your website to get a fuller idea of what it is that you do.

exit film portfolio

Examples of their work are easily accessible from Exit Film’s homepage

Information about your services

Though one of the purposes of your portfolio should be to showcase your work to potential clients, it should also convert visitors into customers. Doing this requires that you provide enough information about your services for your potential customers to consider hiring you.

This is why an effective portfolio website will always have a page dedicated to services, and commission rates and fees. Depending on the kind of work you produce – for example, if you’re a photographer who will sell prints directly to customers online – you might need to implement an e-commerce solution, too.

See our rundown of various e-commerce solutions for small businesses here.

An artist or photographer may have two pages: “Services” and “Commission Information”. The “Services” page might list the type of work you’re willing to do along with guidelines for requests. “Commission Information” might list if you are currently accepting commissions and your rate for such commissions.

In terms of layout, it’s important that these pages are as accessible as your best content. You want these pages to be a single click away so visitors can become paying customers with ease. Including them in your main navigation bar or somewhere on your homepage a good idea.

dunckelfeld portfolio services

Digital creative agency Dunckelfeld showcase their services in a very creative way.

Contact information

One of the biggest mistakes you can make with a portfolio site is to leave out your contact information. If you don’t include this information, your visitors and customers can’t get in touch with you! It’s not a bad idea to also include some information about your values, and what inspires you.

When you create your portfolio, make sure that you have the following things covered:

  • Your name
  • Your telephone number
  • Your address (If applicable)
  • Your values or your business’s core values
  • Some information about yourself or your business

Remember to extend your creativity to your contact or profile page! This will create a favourable impression on your potential customers.

Examples of great portfolio design

Bjorn Meier –

bjorn meier portfolio homepage

The portfolio website for this Berlin-based product design studio is a great example of how to successfully marry minimal design with creativity. All of the studio’s projects are accessible from the homepage, and display as a drop down when you click on the title. A brief description of each project appears, along with some stunning photography. The idea is simple, but the implementation is slick and extremely effective.

bjorn meier product portfolio

Emma Job –

emma job portfolio

Emma Job is a professional photographer. Her portfolio uses a neat responsive design that works brilliantly with both touch and mouse input devices – important in these days of widespread tablet and mobile use.

Read more about why your portfolio website needs to be mobile and tablet ready here!

You can drag your cursor or move your finger across the images on the homepage to see a selection of other images from a project.  This allows her to to show off her most stunning work while also allowing easy access to her other photography.

Charlotte Tang –

charlotte tang portfolio

Tang calls herself a ‘design ninja extraordinaire’, and her portfolio website lets her design work do all the talking for her. The design and layout is simple, all the better to show off her work. The black-and-white images turn full color on mouse-over.

Jam3 –

Jam3 has been instrumental in utilizing cinematography to allow everything from charities to services like YouTube to create and spread their messages. Their portfolio website is incredible.

jam3 portfolio

Not only does it showcase their work beautifully, but it does so in a modern way that responds smoothly even on devices that don’t have much by way of processing power and memory. Almost every element on every page involves some kind of interactivity, which means that just clicking around on the page is a pleasure – in fact, it’s almost fun! It’s hard to do it justice with still images – you’re just going to have to visit the site if you want to really appreciate its brilliance.

Time to get to work!

We hope you’ve been inspired by these amazing portfolio websites, and now that you know the essentials, you can get to work on building your own.

The main thing to keep in mind is that there is no restriction on what you can do with your portfolio. You can use high-definition images, responsive layouts, HTML5 video, creative transitions, interactive elements, and more. You can mix different content types together and make them work seamlessly – what you do with your portfolio website is limited only by your imagination.

With the right mix of creativity and technology, you can give your small or medium business the edge you need to compete with even the largest competitors.

Main image: Kasia Raj