Ultimate Guide to Creating a Programmer Portfolio

CJ HaugheyCJ Haughey | 9 minute read | July 24, 2019
programmer portfolio

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Before you land an interview for your dream job as a software engineer or junior developer at a top tech firm or emerging startup, you’ll need to get noticed. If you’re going to stand out from the pack, an impressive programmer portfolio website isn’t an option—it’s essential.

Read on to discover the benefits of a programmer portfolio, and get the insight you need to create a software developer portfolio that employers can’t ignore.

What Is a Programmer Portfolio and Do You Need One?

A programmer portfolio is more than a simple resume. In essence, it is a showcase that proves that you can do what you talk about in your resume. 

Rather than telling prospective employers about your skills, you can create a software developer portfolio to show them. 

So, why should you create a programmer portfolio website? Is it worth the effort?

In a word: absolutely.

A well-rounded programmer portfolio is a vital asset that can make all the difference when you’re competing with other hopefuls for a coveted role. 

Not only does a programmer portfolio website act as a showcase for your previous work samples, but the site itself is an example of what you can do! 

Furthermore, you can use a tech portfolio website to craft your personal brand. You can go beyond the work samples to express your personality and highlight critical soft skills too. This gives potential employers a better understanding of how you may fit in with their existing company culture or whether you’d succeed in the role they’re looking to fill.

job outlook for web developers


3 Key Components of a Strong Portfolio

You’ll find hundreds of different software developer portfolio examples online, which can make it a little tricky to settle on a basic template for your own.

At the very least, a junior developer portfolio should include the following components:

  • About Me – People want to know who you are, so make sure your portfolio includes some detail about that. Include your name, a photo, and a short blurb about what you’ve done and where you hope to go in your career. It’s a good idea to refine this narrative over time as your career progresses. Developing your brand story takes time, but it’s a unique asset that you can nurture to help your career grow.
  • Projects – The critical component of any programming portfolio will be home to the very best samples of your work. This section should be as captivating as possible, so get creative with videos, GIFs, and eye-catching web design and copy.
  • Contact Me – Without this, you could be hurting your chances of getting job offers. Ideally, you should include a contact form and your social media channels. If you don’t do that, at the bare minimum, add your email address plus links to your LinkedIn and GitHub profiles.

If you include the three aspects above, you’ll have the fundamentals of a basic programmer portfolio website, which is more than a lot of people. However, to put yourself ahead of the competition, you may want to consider stepping your game up.

Let’s see how to do that.

7 Best Practices for Creating a Programming Portfolio Website

Remember that a software developer portfolio is more than showing a few coding examples. It’s a chance to demonstrate your personality, your technical proficiency, and your creativity.

Here are seven best practices to think about when you want to create a programming portfolio that is more than another cookie-cutter effort.

1. Tailor Samples for the Role You Want

Ideally, your programming portfolio website will contain evergreen samples of your work. However, you can update it to align with the job you’re targeting. For example, if you’re applying for a coding job, it may be a good idea to add some more samples of coding work to your portfolio.

2. Include Extracurricular Work

Sometimes, you may want to highlight particular skills in a portfolio, but you may struggle to find freelance jobs that will cater to these needs. However, you shouldn’t let that stop you from taking on side projects to create the specific samples you need to grab the attention of prospective employers. 

For example, you could develop a new version of a landing page or website for the company you’re trying to impress. Not only will this showcase your skills, but it will also prove you have a self-starter attitude.

3. Ensure You Have a Responsive Design

This is the mobile age. When somebody lands on a website that isn’t mobile-responsive, it can be a frustrating experience, which often sends them running for the exit. Don’t let that be the first impression any employer gets from your software engineer portfolio website.

For further reading, check out here what software engineers do.

Take the time to find a mobile-responsive theme that will offer a fantastic user experience on all devices. Better yet, develop your own!

4. Appealing Visual Design and Layout

If you use a free theme template, it will save you a lot of time otherwise spent on design or development. That being said, it’s still important to make sure you customize it to make it your own. Moreover, you must create a visually appealing layout that visitors will remember.

5. Custom Web URL

Remember that your programming portfolio site is a big part of your unique personal brand. With that in mind, choose a suitable URL. Ideally, it should include your name or at least reflect the work you do. Furthermore, it’s best to buy your own domain instead of using a free one, as it looks more professional than a long-winded free domain name.

6. Minimize the Touchpoints

You are trying to impress people, not confuse them. Therefore, a junior developer portfolio doesn’t need to be a complex labyrinth with lots of pages and options. You should make the user interface smooth and straightforward so that visitors can navigate throughout the site with just a few clicks.

7. Include Social Proof

Getting testimonials from happy clients is always a boon to your programming portfolio. If you can, encourage past clients to write a few sentences that explicitly state how your work had a positive impact on the project or business. Also, if you can get their contact information, it will add more weight to their claims, allowing interviewers to get in touch for any follow-up questions.

A day in the life of a web developer


What Do Employers Seek When Looking at a Programmer Portfolio? 

It’s a smart idea to keep your target audience in mind while creating your portfolio. What earns you kudos from your fellow coders may not have the same impact on a company looking to hire a promising junior developer.

Here are a few things employers will put under the magnifying glass when considering potential new employees:

1. How Current Is Your Work?

Some of the best portfolios are left untended for months—or even years! It doesn’t look good when the last sample you added was from your sophomore year of college. Get into the habit of maintaining your junior developer portfolio site to check that the website runs at top speed and the work samples are consistently updated to show you are actively progressing in your career.

2. What Is Your Educational Background?

Are you a self-taught coder who has cracked the industry through a sterling online reputation and good networking? Or perhaps you have a master’s in computer science and a series of short course certificates? Include everything that is relevant, as employers will want to confirm you have the qualifications to fill the role.

3. How Are You at Problem-Solving?

Coding may be a significant aspect of any software developer portfolio, but it’s not the be-all and end-all. Professional coding jobs involve a lot of other tasks, including debugging and problem-solving. 

By including explanations of projects to illustrate how you handle problems, you can display your proficiency at identifying and improving code issues.

3 Common Mistakes to Avoid

So, by now, you should have a clear sense of how to create a programmer portfolio that gets noticed. Before you get to it, here are a few pitfalls to watch out for to ensure that your portfolio doesn’t get noticed for the wrong reasons.

1. Code Done by Other People 

It may seem obvious, but to be clear, the work displayed in your portfolio should be yours. It should not belong to your work colleague, your old college friend who was always better than you at coding, or the prodigious kid in the library. 

If you’re caught out trying to pass off somebody else’s work as your own, your chances of being hired will vanish.

Should you happen to have reason to include work by other people, get their permission first, and credit them in your portfolio. Make it clear why you have included it.

2. A Patchy Timeline

As mentioned already, a consistent approach to updating your programming portfolio is vital. If there are a lot of activity gaps, employers may suspect any number of things—none of which are good news for your hopes. 

They may think your career has stagnated, that you don’t produce good work consistently, or that you aren’t genuinely invested in pursuing a career in software development.

You must continue to develop your skills and your portfolio. This is a fast-moving field, and you must show you have the skills to keep pace with the very best.

3. Poor Project Descriptions

When you work for a software company, not everyone will speak code like you. A beneficial soft skill is the ability to clearly articulate your code to fellow programmers, and also to non-programmers. People like the design team, your boss, and your clients will want a crystal-clear, concise explanation they can quickly wrap their heads around.

If your portfolio can’t do this, employers may assume that’s a weak point that you would take into the office.

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Useful Tools for Creating a Programmer Portfolio 

The prospect of creating a winning programming portfolio website may seem a little intimidating. Luckily, the internet is rich with excellent portfolio resources that you can use to bolster your new site.

Here are some suggestions worth considering:

  • GitHub Pages – Any aspiring software engineer will already have a profile here. You can use GitHub to host your programmer portfolio and make connections with fellow coders and developers.
  • Namecheap – Here you’ll find bargain prices for your custom domain name registration, from as little as $8 a year.
  • Start Bootstrap – If you want to use a CSS framework, Bootstrap has a vast range of style elements and templates. While this may not be the right choice for a front-end developer portfolio, it’s a good option if you want to create a quick portfolio site.
  • Dribbble – Perhaps you need a little inspiration to get your creative juices flowing. Check out Dribbble to get some programmer portfolio ideas for your design and color palettes.

5 Programmer Portfolio Examples

By now, you’ve got everything you need to create an incredible portfolio. Take a look at these stunning examples to get an idea of what’s possible.

Matt Farley

Matt Farley is a UX/UI designer and front-end developer. As you might expect, his sleek portfolio offers a smooth user experience. 

Matt Farley programmer portfolio example

Emily Ridge

Emily Ridge is a WordPress developer and designer whose portfolio emphasizes her focus on customized, responsive website designs.

Emily Ridge programmer portfolio example

Denise Chandler

Denise Chandler has created a junior developer portfolio website that illustrates how you can catch the eye with unique imagery.

Denise Chandler programmer portfolio example

Jonny MacEachern

Jonny MacEachern offers one of the better front-end developer portfolio examples you’ll see, homing in on the needs of potential clients with a captivating landing page.

Jonny MacEachern programmer portfolio example

Devin Walker

Devin Walker leverages a bit of personality on his homepage, so his developer portfolio has a more relatable feel.

Devin Walker programmer portfolio example

Wrapping Up

Creating a programmer portfolio takes some time and effort, and there is a lot to consider beyond publishing a few work samples. Done right, you can use a junior developer portfolio website as a stage to propel your career to new heights.

It can become an integral aspect of your brand, and the perfect playground to experiment with new development techniques and tools. Soon enough, you’ll have a portfolio that turns heads, helping you attract the attention your work deserves. 

Interested in more career-focused resources? Check out these posts:

Since you’re here…
Considering a career in software engineering? We’ll help you build a CV that rivals experienced software engineers in 9 months flat with our Software Engineering Bootcamp. If you’re still mulling, try our free software engineering learning path and check out our salary guide to see what you could be making. 

CJ Haughey

About CJ Haughey

CJ is a journalist, creative writer, and self-described digital marketing nerd who is currently studying data analytics.