Question

What type of projects do you want to see in a recent graduate’s web design and/or development portfolio?

James Archer

Purpose. I want to look at a page, understand the purpose, and see that it was cleverly and intentionally designed to achieve that purpose. I want to see that they’ve accomplished a lot with a little. I don’t care about drop shadows, gradients, wet floors, etc.—I want to see what they can do with Helvetica and no graphics.

Andy Budd

There is an over-reliance of bad Flash design. For some reason university lecturers are still stuck with the idea that the web=multi-media so everything needs to beep and animate. Instead I’d like to see site maps, wireframes, well designed websites, XHTML/CSS templates etc.

Joe Clark

A markover: Take a site with lousy code and redo at least one page in good code. A site that shouldn’t need to be accessible but is: Take a client, even a hypothetical one, like a photographer and create an accessible site. A site with a complex sign-up form (like applying for a passport). If you can get the user interface and form HTML/CSS right on a page like that, you can work anywhere.

Andy Clarke

I need to see imagination, a desire to think outside of the box that brings inspiration from all aspects of visual design into their work. Most important I need to see examples of clear, justifiable thinking and an attention to every detail.

Jeff Croft

I want to see their portfolio include the kinds of work they’re going to be asked to do in the real world—the kind of work that matters on the web today. Social web apps, editorial design for the web, e-commerce, etc. What I don’t want to see is yet another five page brochure-ware site.

I’d also like to see really thoughtful, interesting personal sites for the graduate, rather than typical resumes and run-of-the-mill portfolios.

Mike Davidson

It doesn’t really matter how big or impressive the client list is. I’d rather see really good work created for fake clients. With design it’s more much straight forward. I can thumb through five fake projects in someone’s online portfolio and already know if they are good enough (pure design wise) to call in. With development, it’s a bit harder because in a lot of cases, you have to go through code to judge the quality of it.

Pro-bono stuff is a great way to build your portfolio early.

I guess, to sum it up, I’d say that I want to see great work, not necessarily great clients.

Rob Goodlatte

Projects that the individual completed outside of school. Anything that shows passion for design or a particular Web-related topic.

John Gruber

I’d like to see projects that seem “real”—work that is done for real web sites that are actually used.

Aaron Gustafson

I like to see projects that leverage the best of web standards and that show a fundamental understanding of what the web is and how to use it various languages. I’d also want to see a thirst for more knowledge and an eagerness to progress in the field. Unless they backed it up with a solid explanation of how they did it without using the timeline, I’m not interested in seeing all-Flash projects in a portfolio.

Jon Hicks

Any project that demonstrates a student’s understanding of typography and spacial awareness. Ideally if this was demonstrated across a range of mediums, such as Posters, Magazines & Websites. This would show an understanding of design beyond simply ‘web’.

Molly E. Holzschlag

Honestly, more than a portfolio, I would be evaluating prospective employees based on the following criteria: General awareness of the Web, social networking and culture, strong spoken and written language skills, and here is the key: Enthusiasm and commitment to life-long learning. Everything else can be taught, and will be taught, over and over as time goes on. Therefore, it’s the broadly educated, open-minded, and self motivated individuals who would get my attention.

Shaun Inman

Personal projects beyond what is assigned for class. A well-designed personal site or, even better, a well-designed community site created by the graduate. (obviously, myspace.com pages and wordpress.com-hosted blogs don’t count). Specific projects (eg. a lawyer site, a band site, a generic web app) aren’t as important as demonstration of understanding of core principles; for a designer, color, whitespace, consideration of the medium’s limitations. For the developer, valid code, semantic markup, etc. Beyond basics like handling of links, hierarchy and navigation, the often overlooked design of forms or other more complex interaction is important as well. Attention to detail.

Jeremy Keith

Rather than looking for any particular kind of work, I would look for passion and understanding: a passion for the web as a medium and an understanding of what works (and what doesn’t) for that medium. While an attractive portfolio is still important, a demonstration of passion and eagerness (often through blogging) would go a long way. So I wouldn’t be looking for perfection; I’d rather see some interesting failed experiments than one perfectly executed but uninspiring centrepiece.

Geert Leyseele and Veerle Pieters

A few example sites that really bring out all the material covered in the classes. Static versions for those who did not opt to be a developer and a site with everything found in today’s community sites for those that opted to walk the developer road. So they get a real world feeling in setting this up. They really should understand how important a quality portfolio really is. It’s amazing with today’s possibilities that there are still students that don’t have one and are amazed it’s hard to find a job.

Cindy Li

A portfolio that showcases their personal style for the portfolio website but integrating projects that they did during the course of their degree.

Typography, color palette, speed and usability of the website. I want a short description so I can see what sets them apart from the rest of the world, what makes them special.

Dan Mall

A graduate’s portfolio should show skill in a particular discipline (or a number of them). It should show mastery of tools: for instance, Photoshop or Illustrator for a designer, or clean coding skills for a developer.

It’s also important for a graduate to be able to communicate about his work and skills, so well written abstracts around the work is a must.

Eric A. Meyer

As a front-end guy, I want to see the sites they’ve designed and/or built, and some information on how they met challenges unique to each project. I don’t care about any particular type of site: just that it have been done and done well.

Chris Mills

Evidence of good semantic HTML, nice clean CSS styling and layouts that work nicely across major browsers and alternative devices, and JavaScript functionality that is unobtrusive and degrades gracefully. Accessibility should be a must.

Cameron Moll

A portfolio is important, no doubt. We recognize that students rarely have an extensive portfolio upon graduation. However, it’s difficult to hire a recent graduate for anything other than an internship if he/she hasn’t had thorough experience creating the very things he’s been learning about in school.

That said, we also like to see students be taught, and be able to speak to, the generalist role. Can they solve problems? Can they understand the user? Can they build great relationships with clients and internal customers? Etc.

Keith Robinson

Well, if I were hiring I’d want to see as many fully realized projects as possible. I’d be less concerned about the kind of projects as I would the graduates ability to showcase the work they did and the artifacts associated with that work. For a designer I’d want to see their thinking; their design documents, etc. For a developer I’d want to see code. Again, the more realized these projects are - the better. I wouldn’t necessarily expect real client work, but I’d like to see a wealth of actual work, thus my recommendation to use practice in the curriculum.

Josiah Roe

Content rich site, like a magazine or newspaper site using content management. A flash site. A basic site. A one-off sexy non-flash website.

Dan Rubin

If a front-end designer, I want to see primarily visual examples, an understanding of user flow (doesn’t have to be wireframes or flow-charts, but at least something that goes beyond just pretty pictures), all with an emphasis on interaction and clarity of information and communication. I also want to see creative problem solving. Some code examples would be nice, but they can be minimal (just something to show that they understand how markup and CSS combine to realize a design in workable form). Anything beyond that should be left for interviews and job-specific tests (e.g. a visual designer shouldn’t have to show examples of JavaScript unless a specific job requires it). Above all, I want to see an understanding of how the visual design works to serve the greater purpose (e.g. solving the problems at hand).

On the back-end, developers should be able to show the same understanding of markup and CSS at a basic level, as well as flow and interaction, and then examples that show their code, how it works, with emphasis on optimization, clarity (including commenting, etc. - a good developer’s work should be understandable by another good developer) and efficiency. JavaScript developers should show creativity as well (creative thinking is really paramount in all areas, as long as solving a given problem is the primary concern).

In all cases, The thought process involved is the most important thing for me. I like to see that each problem is approached in a unique way that’s appropriate to the given problem. I don’t really care how it’s approached, just that a degree of thought has been applied.(so perhaps showing the process or explaining it somehow would also be useful in a portfolio - however, I tend to lean towards leaving this to interviews).

Gareth Rushgrove

Time served in a real company building real websites in a team environment. Too many students think only in terms of what they can do - rather than thinking about websites that are build by large teams over a long period of time. I’d also like to see more application design examples rather than just simple information websites.

Also general projects - rather than ‘the accessible one’ and ‘the flash one’. Also anything presented not in the browser will make them look silly.

Richard Rutter

As potential employers we’d look for projects which display good sense of design and quality code. Most of all though, an enthusiasm for the Web. Design mockups that demonstrably solve problems would be good, as would be the tools of IA trade - show us some wireframes or site maps.

Currently, from what we’ve seen in the UK, 3 years experience building websites for a living (or even as a serious hobby) almost always outweighs 3 years being taught web design as a student. Universities need to change this and output more rounded students with better and more relevant skills.

Daniel Ryan

Developers

Fairly complex web application tying together a database of content, a front-end of HTML, and a back-end for managing the content, preferably in more than one language and tackling different types of applications (say, a database for a hospital storing medical records and an ecommerce store)

Designers

Working examples of diverse sites with a broad range of design esthetics and target audiences/clients

Jason Santa Maria

I would like to see less “interactive” work. Often times classes are taught a wide variety of interactive work, DVD menus, screensavers, etc, most of which aren’t applicable to jobs in the field. Maybe this is done to formulate some sort of well roundedness, but it detracts from the specialization.

I would enjoy seeing more website design work that has a purpose or aims to solve a problem. I won’t hire someone who makes things look pretty alone, they need to back that design up with a real message that gets communicated well.

Christopher Schmitt

I would like to see a student have an understand of the usable nature of the Web. Some portfolio examples I see give me the impression there seems to be a disconnect between student designers surfing the Web sites they use all the day and then building Web sites which I believe they would find themselves hard to use.

We can teach design. We can teach programming. But teaching the merging of design and technology into a usable site is something I haven’t seen addressed in colleges.

Glenda Sims

I love to see real work that involves clients and customers, not just personal work. I'm really happy whenever I see work that has contributed to K12, higher ed or non-profits.

Greg Storey

I want to see their process for how they solve problems. I want to see their workflow.

The problem with show piece portfolios is that you have no idea how much of the work they did, but more importantly how they got to the solution and how long it took them to complete the work. I was once forced to hire someone because their portfolio impressed by boss. The person ended up being one of the worst designers I’ve ever had and I later found out that half the work they presented was the result of work by others on team projects.

Khoi Vinh

It’s quite depressing, actually. Usually I see the same sort of projects that have been coming out of analog design programs for decades—corporate identities, brochures, marketing campaigns—executed online. Lots of Flash—too much Flash. Very little interface work.

Aarron Walter

Projects should show a range of skills, independent thinking, knowledge of the project lifecycle, ability to work in teams, high production values, user-centered design, and a strong understanding of web standards.

Rob Weychert

Evidence of a well-rounded education, a fundamental understanding of responsible design and development that focuses on the needs of the end user, and a genuine curiosity and enthusiasm for continuing to learn and grow. I want to see how their imagination works in both heavily restrained and wide-open atmospheres; I want to get a sense of their instincts. Bottom line: A healthy mix of expressive experimentation and buttoned-down client work (understanding that the client work may be fictional).