Level Up Your Developer Portfolio


My notes on Josh Comeau's book Building an Effective Dev Portfolio

Developer portfolios can be an important factor in finding your first position. It can be hard to show interviewer you have enough technical experience but this is where portfolios can help them shine through.

A good portfolio can showcase your journey and highlight your skills. A good portfolio won't necessary get you a job but it can increase your chances and put you in more situations for success. A portfolio should be personal and memorable. Employers should be excited to meet you and know who you are.

The biggest upside about creating a portfolio is you get to be the one in charge. Resumes, cover letters, and LinkedIn profiles leave little room for creativity. We have to follow certain guidelines. I like the way Josh Comeau describes portfolio sites as secret weapons. There's a lot of potential upsides you get from having a good portfolio.

The ultimate goal of a developer portfolio should be to show employers we're competent at building stuff. There are 3 main sections to have in your portfolio: About Me, Projects, and Contact.

Josh Comeau uses the word 'Tour Guide' and I think this is a great way to approach what you should be putting on your portfolio. You can guide anyone who visits your site to see exactly what you want. Highlight your strengths and create a fun unique journey.

Your 'About Me' section should be personal. People tend to be overly formal in the about me sections for fear of not sounding professional but it ends up making you forgettable. Your portfolio is your space and you should use it to your benefit to show off your personality and give employers a sneak peek into what it would be like working with you.

The projects section is by far the most important part of your portfolio. For me, it was the chance to show off to employers that I can do the work even though I don't have work experience. But I wasn't utilizing this section to its fullest effect.

My projects section had some thumbnails, a small section about the app, and links to the live site and Github. I've seen this layout a lot and it seems to be a common mistake.

A screenshot and small paragraph can only capture so much of the project. And most projects are more nuanced than that. Try taking notes on your projects, it can help you see the progress you've made, but it will also help you write a details page.

Details pages are what I was missing in the projects section of my portfolio. A details page allows you to talk about your project in detail, which can help you in interviews, but it also gives you a place to really accentuate the strengths of the project.

Projects have hidden complexities and employers want to hire people who they know can solve problems. You want to prove to them that you overcame challenges and in my opinion, that's the most important tool for a developer.

Things to include on your details page:

  • Introduction
    • What is the project?
    • Features
    • Your role
    • Technologies Used
    • Initial designs
  • Purpose or Goal
    • Why did you build this?
  • Lessons learned
    • New technologies used
    • Interesting problems

Remember these are only my notes on the book and after finishing it I really recommend looking into it yourself. It took me about a day to get through and I think it's totally worth it. Josh Comeau uses a lot of good examples and goes into more details than I do in these notes.

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