How To Create a Full-Stack Developer Portfolio [+5 Examples]
In this article
When you’re applying for a job as a full-stack developer, your portfolio is (arguably) more important than your resume. While a resume will give recruiters a sense of your career trajectory, your portfolio demonstrates your skills. A portfolio is the quickest way for a recruiter to gauge whether you’ll be the right fit for the role, and the extent to which you’re proficient in the skills you’ve listed on your resume.
It can be daunting, knowing that so much is riding on this one document. That’s why we’ve put together this guide. Below, we’ll outline how you can showcase your best work, and show some exemplary portfolios so that you can emulate them and land your dream job.
What Is a Full-Stack Developer Portfolio?
A full-stack developer portfolio is a document or webpage detailing the previous projects that you’ve worked on. The goal is to show hiring managers your full-stack development skills and how you’ve used these skills to solve different problems.
In some cases, technical recruiters might look at your Github repos and scan the code you’ve written. But your portfolio also needs to be comprehensible to non-technical staff, which means that you need to describe your projects in simple terms.
Why Do You Need a Portfolio?
You might think of a portfolio as something graphic designers create to show off their work, but a personal portfolio has now become necessary for full-stack developers looking to land their next job. Almost all potential employers are going to require that you show them your full stack developer portfolio site or document. So you need a portfolio to clear this first hurdle in the job interview process.
But your portfolio is also a means to take stock of your evolution as a full-stack developer. Let’s say you have a background in design but have transitioned towards a career in front-end development, and are now looking to become a full-stack developer. You’ll want your portfolio to reflect that evolution.
Lastly, if you’re looking for freelance work, then a portfolio is what’s going to get you hired (or not).
Characteristics of a Great Full-Stack Developer Portfolio
Recruiters don’t have the time to read long passages of text. Your project descriptions should be short and include only key information, such as the problem statement, the tools and languages used during the project, and the final result.
Quick Load Times
Full-stack developers know the importance of fast loading times. So if you’re hosting your portfolio on a webpage, make sure that any background images or other high-volume elements are compressed and load fast. It can be the difference between a recruiter checking out your entire portfolio versus looking at a few projects and leaving because the web pages take forever to load.
You don’t need to have a design or art background to get this right. All you need for a professional-looking portfolio is a consistent structure and a minimal design. Don’t go overboard and you’ll be fine.
Choose Your Best Work
The more experience you gain, the more portfolio pieces you’re going to have. But resist the urge to add every personal project or open-source contribution to your portfolio. Include the projects that are most relevant to the job that you’re applying to.
Include Social Proof
Social proof has the kind of impact that talking up your own projects simply doesn’t. So make sure that you include testimonials from past employers, awards or recognitions, and media mentions that you’ve garnered. It’s a way to show prospective employers that your work has already been validated in the past.
Get To Know Other Software Engineering Students
Everything you include in your portfolio is for nothing if recruiters can’t reach you. So make sure that you have up-to-date contact information mentioned in your portfolio and a contact form if you have a standalone portfolio website.
How To Construct Your Full-Stack Portfolio
Start your portfolio off with a quick introduction. You want to make this brief but catchy. Here’s a good example of how you can do that.
This introduction does a great job of covering all of the candidate’s professional skills. Then, they list how they’ve used those skills. Recruiters like it when they can gather these details quickly.
A Comprehensive “About Me” Section
While you should keep your introduction concise, you can go into more detail about your background and skills in your portfolio’s “About Me” section.
It’s totally fine if your “About Me” section looks like a mini resume. That’s because you need to include information on your previous jobs, educational background, and any coding courses or full-stack web development certification programs that you’ve completed.
You should also include an overview of your skill profile in this section. Break these down into sections covering programming language, development tools, frameworks, and soft skills. Here is an example of how you can present your skills in your portfolio.
Your Best Projects
Your full-stack developer portfolio site should only detail your best projects. This is your opportunity to show recruiters that you have the skills that you’ve listed elsewhere. In this section, you can include personal projects, open-source contributions, school projects (if you’re just starting out), and projects from your previous employers. With each project, mention the problem you were faced with, the solution you devised, and what programming languages and tools you used to solve it.
For example, let’s say you want to build a website that displays information on upcoming events across a range of different sports. You would describe the results of this project in terms of which APIs you used to source data, how many sports you were able to cover, the loading times you were able to achieve, and so on.
Highlight Work Done for Prominent Companies in Your Niche
Remember that recruiters have a small amount of time to spend on each portfolio. So make sure that you put your most relevant portfolio items at the top of your portfolio.
Consider Adding a Page or Section for Each Project
This is just good formatting practice. Always start a new portfolio item on a new page and have separate pages for all the projects that you’ve worked on.
Include Project Details, Findings, and Takeaways
There are a few key details that you want to include about each project. Start with the goals of the project, and make sure they are specific and measurable. Then, describe how you went about achieving those goals. If you were in a team, describe what your role was. Make sure that you mention what programming languages, tools, and approaches you used to solve the problem.
Make It Easy to Navigate (Simple and Concise)
In focusing on the contents of your portfolio, don’t forget to get its structure right. The sections of the portfolio should have a logical flow and it should be clear how a reader can navigate its different sections.
Any text that pertains to the navigation of your portfolio should be simple and intuitive. If you have a website, then make sure to use common terms like “Home,” “About,” “Portfolio” and so on.
How To Stand Out
Follow these tips to make sure that your portfolio stands out from the competition:
Use a Self-Hosted Solution
As a full-stack developer, building websites is what you do. So when it comes to your portfolio, it’s not a good look to use a third-party host to deliver your site. Always use a self-hosted solution for that reason. There are plenty of affordable hosts to choose from these days.
Invest in an Appealing Design and Layout
When it comes to the design of your website, go with something minimal. If you’re nervous about your design chops, you can hire a designer to make a mockup for you or suggest corrections once you’ve built a first version of the site.
Reinforce the Types of Projects That Interest You
Recruiters want to know what kind of work candidates are interested in doing. So when building your portfolio, list your favorite projects early on. In the description, talk about what it was about the problem statement that got you interested and how you went about building your software solution.
Illustrate Work Traits That Will Help Potential Clients Get to Know You
Along with descriptions of the projects themselves, make sure that you also mention qualities that hiring managers want to see in candidates. Describe situations where you had to tap into qualities like analytical thinking, problem-solving, project management, and systems thinking.
What To Avoid
Copying Other Portfolios
Using other developer portfolios for inspiration is fine. It’s even recommended that you do that when you’re building your first portfolio. But what you don’t want to do is copy elements of other portfolios without determining whether they’re appropriate to your experience or the job that you’re applying for. As much as possible, make everything that’s on your portfolio original.
Fabricating or Exaggerating Skills
You might feel pressed to impress recruiters and exaggerate your skills, but if you do this, it’ll like come back to bite you in the long run. It’s best to be honest.
Mentioning Irrelevant Projects
Always make sure that you include only information that is relevant to the job that you’re applying to. So let’s say you’re applying for a job as a full-stack developer for an e-commerce website. In that case, you should mention projects that revolve around online selling and commerce. A cybersecurity project isn’t as important to detail.
Full Stack Developer Portfolio Examples
This is a portfolio website created by software engineer Chris Chin. It is notable for its simple navigation, which includes dedicated pages for the about page, portfolio, Github, and LinkedIn.
The portfolio section also includes websites created for companies that don’t exist, like the e-commerce website where people can purchase robots. That’s an idea you can steal if you haven’t worked at any companies yet but want something to put on your portfolio.
Remember what we said about keeping things simple? This portfolio is perhaps the best example of sticking to that rule.
Everything that you will see in this online portfolio is intuitive and easy to consume. The copy is pithy, the projects are described succinctly, and the visual hierarchy of the elements is consistent. Those are all things to aim for if you’re working on your full-stack developer portfolio.
This is a great example of how to use your portfolio to introduce yourself. The introductory text includes their specialties, links to their work, their contact information, and some accolades.
There’s also a little easter egg in there with a button that says “Destroy this webpage.” Clicking that button turns the homepage into a game that you can play on your keyboard. It’s a great example of ‘show don’t tell’ and conveys his skills in a fun way.
Full-Stack Developer FAQs
How Do You Present a Full-Stack Developer Portfolio?
You can present your portfolio in the form of a website or static PDF document, depending on your prospective employer’s requirements. It’s best to have both versions ready as you prepare for your full-stack development interview.
Do You Include a Resume in Your Full-Stack Developer Portfolio?
You don’t need to include your full-stack developer resume in your portfolio. But it is a good idea to have some of your educational background and professional history in your portfolio’s “About Me” section.
How Long Does It Take To Become a Full-Stack Developer?
The time that it takes to become a full-stack developer is different for different individuals. Remember that you need to give yourself enough time to apply your skill in the form of projects after you’ve picked them up in a theoretical sense. Give yourself at least a year to study full-stack development if you’re just a beginner.
Since you’re here…
Interested in a career in software engineering? Join our mentor-led Software Engineering Bootcamp or our foundational Software Engineering Course if you’re just starting out. We help people make the switch every day (just peep our reviews). You can do it, too!