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5 Tips to Make Your Programming Portfolio Stand Out

In today’s article I’m going to give you 5 ways to make your programming portfolio really stand out amongst the crowd.

These are 5 principles that I basically came up with after looking at hundreds and hundreds of people’s portfolios and establishing the underlying reasons why some of those stood out to me.

Why I’m like, oh I really want to investigate these people further versus others where I’m looking at their website, their portfolio page and just going like, yeah, this is not really doing it for me.

So, my goal for you by the end of this post is to really have a good sense of how to structure your portfolio so that it just stands out amongst the crowd.

There’s so many people looking to become software developers now and you just want to make sure you’re doing everything you can to just stand out.

By the way if you’re new here I’m Peter Mukundi. I’m a mentor and a coach to people who are looking to teach themselves how to code and land their first job as a programmer.

So, I highly recommend checking out my blog from time to time as I give actionable tips to take your career to the next level.

So, with that being said, let me just talk about one quick thing about what your portfolio is and what it is NOT.

Just to be super clear, your portfolio is NOT your Github page. It’s awesome to have that but I’m not referring to that in this article.

What I’m talking about is the section on your personal website where you are going to showcase your projects.

I consider that your portfolio and that’s what I’ll be talking about here.

So, with that in mind let’s just get right to it.

Follow the 6 second rule

So, principle number one of making your portfolio stand out is following the 6 seconds rule.

So, you have about 6 seconds when somebody comes onto your portfolio page to really figure out whether they want to stay or they want to leave and go do something else with their precious time.

This comes down to basically a few things.

Number one, is your site aesthetically pleasing? Does it have the information that the person wants?

Is it clear what the page or site is all about?

So, if I go to your portfolio page and it’s not clear that this is your portfolio page and there’s a lot of distracting things, it’s just not clearly stated and I just don’t know what’s going on.

I’m more likely to leave because I really am going there for one thing. I’m going there to check out what you have done as a programmer.

And so you want to make sure there’s little distraction as possible. That things are clearly state.

Like, this is my programming portfolio and these are my projects.

If any of that is confusing and again if the site is not aesthetically pleasing to the eye. These are all factors that can contribute to someone after 6 seconds deciding to do something else with their time.

Or they just decide to look at somebody else’s portfolio since yours is a complete mess!

A good way to get a gauge on this is to show people your page and really try to get some honest feedback about it.

Try to avoid asking your mom, dad, brother, sister, spouse or really close friends!

Try to get people who are more objective and will tell you like straight up if there’s something wrong with your page.

So, following the 6 second rule is going to be really helpful principle.

Make it easy for the user

Principle number two that you want to follow, is you want to make it easy for them.

People are coming onto your site, your portfolio site and they’re trying to check out what you’ve done. So, you’ve got to make it as easy as possible for them to get the information that they want.

So, you want to display the projects in a nice way. It should be very logical, nicely and cleanly separated.

You want to make sure to have a link to your Github code or make sure there’s a link to the working website or working application.

You also want to make sure there’s a brief description with the programming languages you use.

And generally what the apps are all about. Just a brief summary with screenshots if necessary.

Just keep it short. You don’t have to have 10 screenshots. Just have a couple that are really helpful.

The worst thing in the world that you can have is a portfolio page where somebody comes on to it and they can’t find your code.

They can’t find a link to the working application. They don’t know what it’s about because you haven’t clearly explained things.

So, make sure you have that so that you’re not confusing or frustrating people who are viewing your portfolio.

Keep things concise

Principle number three is you want to keep things concise. So, in those descriptions of your programming applications that you’ve built you want to make sure that they are concise.

Which means you want to convey as much information as possible in as little words as possible.

I think two paragraphs is the maximum of what you should focus on. If you really want to share a lot about this project you love.

Why you built this application or what design decisions you made.

That’s more appropriate for a blog post or a youtube video.

So, instead of trying to write an 8000 word easy about this one project in your portfolio section. Offload that or put a link to a blog post or that youtube video where you can go hog wild.

In fact, I highly recommend making blog posts and a youtube video because the person who’s going to your site can then get a better sense of your personality and how you communicate.

But be concise, don’t blabber on and on about things.

Show off your personality

Principle number four that you’re going to want to follow is show off your personality.

And this is really important. Companies nowadays are not hiring robots. They’re not hiring a person to just sit at a computer and write tons and tons of code.

They’re hiring people who they want to work with. Who are a good culture fit.

So, you want to make sure that you’re showing off your personality in a tasteful way. This could be how you describe your applications.

It could be the styling or the template that you use for your website. It could be a number of things but either way you want to make it as consistent as possible with who you actually are.

The key thing here is tasteful.

Don’t try to get too cute with this!

My fear of telling you to show off your personality is that you’re going to probably make this site where gifs, animations and banners are all over the place.

You don’t need all that. In fact, showing up your personality could be actually taking away some of the things. It could be having a minimal site with very clean and simple design.

But either way show off your personality by what you say and how you style the site.

Make sure everything works

Principle number six which is really important and kind of wraps up everything here is make sure everything is working.

You do not want to have broken links. You do not want to have glaring bugs in the live website or working applications that you’re linking to.

If there’s any glaring bugs, that looks bad!

You want to make sure there’s no typos either.

Any of these three things could contribute to somebody just being really turned off. If I go to your Github page and it links to a 404, not found.

It’s like, is this person looking for a job still or they just don’t care. Or maybe they just don’t have attention to detail.

But either way make sure everything is working. Go over it 5 or 6 times.

Have family and friends go through every link and every word on your website so that way you don’t have these mistakes.

I really hope you make use of these tips.

These are my five principles on how to make your portfolio stand out.

I highly recommend you use them so that way you’re not making some mistakes I see people make.

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