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How to build a coding portfolio

If you are looking for a job in programming, a portfolio is a must. Find out how to build a coding portfolio that stands out.
maura-deering
Written by Maura Deering on
A Black person works at a desk with multiple computer monitors.

Showcase your best work to potential employers with a coding portfolio.

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Coding portfolios are online resumes showcasing your coding projects to employers. While a resume tells hiring managers about your coding abilities, a portfolio demonstrates what you've actually done.

All programming professionals, including data scientists, software engineers, and web developers, should maintain a portfolio. This guide offers advice on how to build a coding portfolio, what to include, what format to use, and how to most effectively feature your projects and highlight your skills.

Do you really need a coding portfolio?

Anyone looking for a job that involves programming or career advancement needs a coding portfolio. That includes computer systems analysts and engineers, database and network administrators, software quality assurance engineers, and web and software developers

Increasingly, employers look for applicants with portfolios and consider portfolios as important as resumes and cover letters.

Busy hiring managers may only skim your portfolio, so it's important to make it as attention-grabbing as possible through design and targeted, concise project descriptions. You want your coding portfolio to compel potential employers to take a closer look. 

What your coding portfolio needs

This section walks you through the essential coding portfolio components. Projects are the most important element in your coding portfolio, and we offer details on highlighting them.

Domain name

Your coding portfolio domain name — the web address at which it lives — should reflect your professional identity and the type of work you do. A domain name will cost $10-$20 per year. 

Check whether a domain name is already taken through a web search or lookup tool like icann.org and think of a couple of backup names. 


SEE: The best domain registrars: Top domain name sellers



Host

Your coding portfolio host can be a website, blog, or networking site like LinkedIn. You can find free options out there or build your own, but many programmers choose to pay for a quality hosting platform like those described below.

Or, you can check out more of our picks for the best web hosting providers.

GitHub Pages

Coders recommend this platform, which allows you to create a site from scratch or use a pre-built theme. It also links to users' GitHub accounts and offers custom URLs.

Itch.io

Used by game developers to upload and sell their work, Itch.io pages can include a bio, projects, and social media links. 

Squarespace, Wix.com, Wordpress 

These well-known hosts allow you to build a website from a template, which is the easiest way to create a portfolio. However, it won't show off your web development skills. 

"About me" section and contact information

The "About me" section should have a more personal tone than your resume to let your personality come through. Include a short bio and information such as: 

  • Professional strengths
  • Relevant experiences and hobbies outside of work
  • Awards and honors
  • Summary of your workplace values
  • Link to your downloadable resume
  • Education
  • Relevant tech certifications you've earned

Be sure to add contact information. An email address usually suffices, but you can also list your Github and Linkedin profiles and Twitter handle. 

Projects

Projects are the meat of your coding portfolio. They demonstrate to potential employers what you've done and how you can contribute to their companies. 

You should have 4-10 projects

When deciding how many projects to include, think quality over quantity. If only four of your projects best show your skills, only include four. Recent projects are preferable to older ones. 

Your projects should be your best work

Take the time to ensure that your projects present as well as possible by cleaning up and refining code to make it readable and efficient. Consider adding testimonials and positive comments about your projects from previous employers and clients.

Your projects can be anything…

The types of projects to display on your portfolio can be any of the following:

  • Class assignments: If you're just starting out in your career, including projects from a coding bootcamp or computer programming degree is perfectly acceptable.

  • Personal or volunteer projects: If you're short on relevant professional projects, add personal projects you've built, such as a blog, game, or website.

  • Freelance work: In addition to projects done as an employee, freelance projects are also fair game.

  • Contributions to open-source projects: These can highlight your strengths in collaboration. Be sure to describe your role.

  • Ongoing projects: With these, employers can see real-time code updates. Just remember to update them regularly.

… But your projects must demonstrate job-relevant skills

Tailor the projects in your coding portfolio to your potential employers, the positions you want, and the kind of projects you'd like to work on going forward. 

If you're applying for web developer positions, focus on the websites you've built but maybe not the video games you've developed.  

Project ideas for software engineers include algorithm visualizers, a blog that connects to a database, contact management systems, and web or mobile applications.  

Your portfolio should give the reader a window into your projects

Make it easy for employers to view your projects by including screenshots, providing links to websites or web pages you've worked on, or linking to your projects on GitHub. 

Write explanations for each project detailing how you approached it and anything you want to highlight. For group projects, specify which parts you worked on and your role. 

Ensure you have permission to display projects completed for clients or former employers to avoid legal issues.  

In conclusion

Creating your portfolio is a necessary but time-consuming step in the job-search process. Our guide on how to build a coding portfolio can offer the tips, suggestions, and tools you need to get it done relatively quickly and painlessly. Explore platforms like GitHub to get started.   

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