JOURNAL

JOURNAL

How To Build The Perfect Squarespace Online Portfolio

All creatives, from Photographers, Illustrators, Graphic Designers and Web Designers to Film Makers, Copywriters and Stylists need a website that’s attention-grabbing and a joy to browse. It should make potential employers, agencies and clients desperate to work with you. Whether you’re a student or a professional, you’ll have built up a body of work to be proud of, so to get hired you need to show it off in the best possible setting. 

Following our founder Allie Astell's talk for Squarespace at the D&AD New Blood Festival 2018, here are her 10 top tips to help you build a high impact, effective online portfolio. If you'd like to view highlights of her presentation, you'll find the film at the bottom of the page. 
 

1: Audience

Choosing your audience for your online Portfolio
 

Establish a tone of voice and personal brand.

  • Will you use a logo or type font? 
  • Is your style going to be corporate or informal? 
  • What will your colour choices be? 

Will your portfolio be very ‘now’ or timeless? Current trends include:

  • Animation/video, 
  • Bold colour choices
  • Creative use of typography
  • Using gradients and shadow (versus flat use of colour and imagery in the past)
  • Illustration
  • Clever and innovative new ways to translate the website to mobiles

Potential employers, clients or agencies will all need a different approach. 

  • What do they want to read and see? 
  • Put yourself in your audience’s shoes as you think about all of the above.
TIP: The Squarespace Design and Style settings allow you to change fonts, colours, spacing, plus much more. You can have a lot of fun here if you’re willing to spend some time looking through huge amount of options available.
 
 

2. Plan your website first

Squarespace Templates
 

Template selection

  • Pick a template that suits your content
  • Will your portfolio be image-led, copy-led or a mixture of both? 
  • Do you want your portfolio to be straightforward and static or would you like parallax scrolling, and lots of movement as your audience browses the website?
  • Do your research carefully 

Think of your Site Map, User Journey and User Experience

  • Clear navigation
  • Minimum clicks
  • Browsing should be a fluid, easy experience
  • Preparation will make the build much easier
TIP: Squarespace templates are very flexible, and you have over 60 to choose from, each with a demo to check out. Once you’ve started your free 14-day trial, you can also switch templates very easily if you change your mind and want to try a new approach. To learn how to build a Squarespace website from the ground up, check out their Help area, packed with instructions and videos to set you on your way as easily as possible.

 

3. Simplicity

Ted Humble-Smith Squarespace photography portfolio
 

Don’t overcomplicate your portfolio with too many special effects and coding

  • You don’t want to slow down the performance of your site and this could lead to a high bounce rate (people leaving the site within seconds as it takes too long to load)
  • Today’s culture is one of instant gratification as people have limited time
  • You need to make an impact quickly

Build a clean, fast loading and easy to navigate portfolio

  • Your website should have clarity
  • It needs to be a as easy as possible for your audience to browse
TIP: Squarespace allows custom CSS and code injection for every page. You can customise your website as much as you like and break away from the template very easily if you know about web development or have a friend who can help. Please bear in mind that you need to be very careful here though as coding is a very specialist area.

 

4. Be selective

Building a portfolio with Squarespace
 

Determine who you want to work with

  • What kind of work would you like to do in the future?
  • Is there any work that you’d rather not advertise as it’s not really something you enjoy or want to pursue?

Choose your best, relevant projects

  • People could be ‘blinded’ by too many case studies or projects and not spot the ones that are your highlights
  • Be ruthless as less is more
  • Create intrigue – don’t give everything away

Don’t make personal choices

  • Seek a second opinion from a knowledgeable source and listen to them
  • If you can, request a portfolio review to hone your choices
TIP: Squarespace offer a wide range of beautiful gallery choices to really make your portfolio pop. From slideshows to lightboxes and carousels, they allow you to add your images, films and gifs quickly and easily.

 

5. Tell a story

Write a caption for each piece of work
 

Provide a description for each piece of work

  • You could have a caption per project, or per image/piece
  • Start with a teaser, then lead to full details if you want to keep things minimalist

Be clear and succinct

Get your point across, but don’t waffle

TIP: There are plenty of ways to add your project descriptions within Squarespace galleries and add verbal colour to your story.

 

6. Keep your design clean

Keep a clean design for your online portfolio
 

Choose a template that’s simple, intuitive, and easy to navigate

  • As with your portfolio selection, don’t make personal choices based on the sample content in the templates or your own taste. 
  • Think of your audience and what they want to see

Check your website carefully for important design elements

  • Stick to a maximum of two different fonts - one font for headings, and another for body copy or you could choose to use just one font throughout the site
  • Check your spacing and formatting
  • Proofread carefully as any typos will give a bad impression

Don’t follow a temporary web design trend unless you have a strong reason to

These will have a short shelf-life so bear in mind you’ll need to start again once the trend has passed 

TIP: You can also switch templates very easily with Squarespace if you change your mind and want to try a new approach.

 

7. About you

include a biography in your portfolio
 

Include an interesting bio

  • The style will depend on your audience
  • Will you speak in the first person or third person?
  • Will it be informal or corporate? Fun or straight?
  • Detail your achievements, experience and awards
  • You should have a minimum of two paragraphs, but it could be much longer

Try and be unique in the way you write it

  • Think about an interesting way to sell yourself
  • It’s your one shot, so make it count

Include a headshot

  • A photograph of yourself will instil trust, especially if you’re not likely to have face-to-face contact with your potential clients or employers
  • Think about the style of the shot – will it be fun and quirky, corporate, in a café, in an office, outside, against an interesting background or a plain one?
TIP: Squarespace offers certain templates built especially for online CVs or bios, centred around you, your work and brand. These include Sofia, Margot, Hatch and Pursuit.

 

8. Contact is key

Contact forms are easy with Squarespace
 

Include a very obvious contact page

  • Give clear and easy ways to get in touch
  • Include email, telephone, an online form, and any other methods that your prospective clients can use

Try and allow plenty of contact opportunities across your portfolio

  • The more chances there are for someone to contact you the better
  • Consider including a contact form or button every page

Encourage follows for your social, emails and blog

  • Include email subscribe areas linked to Mailchimp lists
  • Add social media links
  • Add a Twitter feed
  • Add an Instagram feed
  • Promote your blog on your homepage by including a feed of your latest posts
TIP: Squarespace makes it easy to add your Twitter and Instagram feeds, with up to 30 latest posts. Their ultra-intuitive CMS also makes adding contact forms and email subscribe boxes a breeze.

 

9. Catch Google’s Eye

Squarespace Analytics
 

You need relevant content with regular updates

  • Many creatives are tempted not to include much if any word content, however this is crucial
  • Without clever and natural use of the keywords and phrases you want to be found under, the search engines will have no way to find and then rank your website
  • Update your portfolio as often as you can with new work, news and blogs – the search engines love fresh content and rank stagnant websites lower

Back-end work for SEO is vital

  • Site title, site description, page titles and page descriptions
  • Alt tags (image titles)
  • Headings 1, 2 and 3
  • Tags and categories for galleries, events and blogs
  • Image optimisation (file size) – each one should ideally be under 500kb in size as large sizes will slow down performance 

Disable or delete redundant pages

  • The search engines will crawl every element of your website
  • Make sure that if you’re working on a page that you have yet to finish, or if you have old pages that you might come back to one day, they’re not visible
TIP: Squarespace has excellent built-in SEO settings that you can update very easily. Make full use of this as you build your portfolio.

 

10. Be responsive

Squarespace responsive websites
 

Your website must look fantastic across all devices and browsers

  • 52% of worldwide web traffic in now generated via mobile phones as opposed to 0.7% back in 2009*
  • Google now penalises websites that aren’t responsive and of course SEO is vital in your mission to promote yourself and your work
  • There are hundreds of online platforms available to preview your website – for example Chrome Responsive Web Tester and Browserling. If you can do real checks with your friends’ or colleagues’ devices and browsers, then make sure that you do

Devices

•    Desktops
•    Tablets
•    Smartphones

Browsers

  • Chrome (58.94% worldwide web traffic) **
  • Safari (13.7% worldwide web traffic) **
  • Firefox (5.17% worldwide web traffic) **
  • Internet Explorer (3.12% worldwide web traffic) **

*  Source: statista.com
** Source: statcounter.com

TIP: All Squarespace templates are fully responsive across all devices and in many of them the design settings can be tweaked for mobile as well as desktop, in order for you to perfect the final look and feel. The Squarespace Portfolio app also allows you to share selections of your work on the move, quickly and easily on smartphones and tablets.

A quick recap

  1. Think of your audience
  2. Plan your website first
  3. Don’t overcomplicate
  4. Choose your work carefully
  5. Write captions for your work
  6. Keep design clean
  7. Include a short bio
  8. Make it easy to contact you
  9. Think of the search engines
  10. Test your site on all devices and browsers

By following the advice above, you should be all set to get hired by the people that matter. Good luck!

Start your free 14-day Squarespace trial today or get in touch if you'd like our help.

Watch Allie's Presentation Highlights