Web Design Tips Every Beginner Should Know

If you’re designing your first website for your web design portfolio, there are so many things to consider. While you could hire someone else to do it, that’s out of the budget for most people. If this description resembles your experience at all, these web design tips will do some of the work for you or at least point you in the right direction.

One good thing for you to begin considering is ease of navigation. If there’s too steep of a learning curve, people might not enjoy using your site, and you could lose their interest. So, start with a clear purpose. If it’s an e-commerce site, you will take a much different design approach than a portfolio site. Ensure you have all the basics squared away before starting the design. 

man working on web design mockups in a home office

While your website should have small updates once or twice a year to reflect your current work, a well-planned website should not need a major overhaul for several years. Also, start thinking about how you want to incorporate color, or a lack thereof, into your design. Be cautious here with the color of the text as well as the font; as a web designer, your site design should reflect both your skill and address accessibility requirements. We will get into more detail on things like these later, but these are good to begin considering immediately.

Before Designing Your Webpage

Now, you might be eager to get started and jump into creating an online portfolio for your work straight away. But, you really should go through your work and see what would look nice in your portfolio. You probably have some images you love, but are they the right fit? Moreover, who is your ideal client and what would they think of your displayed work? What is your cohesive theme and/ or style? 

Organize Your Content

If you specialize in web design, consider identifying the areas where you excel the most. For instance, if your expertise lies in creating visually stunning websites, it’s crucial to feature those projects prominently in your portfolio. Ensure that your portfolio is structured by design style or industry, allowing potential clients to quickly locate the specific type of work they’re seeking.

When in Doubt, Don’t

Listen, as web designers, we often encounter projects that defy conventional molds or themes. Perhaps you’ve designed websites that seamlessly blend elements of different styles, or maybe you’ve created something truly unique that you don’t intend to recreate. If you find yourself unsure whether a design fits with your body of work, trust your instincts. Any lingering doubts serve as a reminder that it may not belong in your portfolio, at least for now. 

Who is the Ideal Client?

Perhaps you have a strong intuition about the type of clients you prefer to work with as a web designer. On the other hand, you might not have given it much thought. Regardless, it’s beneficial to approach this aspect with objectivity. Your portfolio can carry different meanings for various individuals, especially when you present your work in a targeted manner. For instance, if you aspire to collaborate with non-profit organizations, it’s crucial to consider how they might perceive and respond to your design elements. This approach would be very different if your focus was to work with large corporations. Set aside some time to evaluate your website or even seek the feedback of a trusted friend or colleague for added assurance. You’ll thank yourself later.

Make it Your Own

It’s important to keep your website design simple while still incorporating your unique style. Consider including a brief about you in your portfolio somewhere, and maybe even a selection of words that mean something to you arranged in some sort of motif. Try to avoid sacrificing legibility for the sake of personality.

Creating for Your Portfolio

Surely you have tons of great examples of your work to add to your portfolio. But, sometimes it’s good to do a project exclusively for your portfolio. There’s a lot of freedom that comes with this, but budgeting for this could be a bit of an issue. On the one hand you don’t want to cut corners for your portfolio, but you also don’t want a money pit of a personal project. Most of all, try and have some fun with it. It will likely show on the design.

Editing for Your Portfolio

Sometimes the designs that sell are different from the designs that really grab someone’s attention. Of course, it would be best to have both, but in case you don’t try and work over some of your older designs. It will be good to revisit the same design with your updated set of skills, and see how you improved. Maybe you know how to bend the rules of design a bit in your favor, but be careful not to bend them too much. Online designs could show more imperfections than you originally edited for in print due to differences in screen size and resolution.

Editing Your Old Work for Your New Portfolio

As briefly mentioned above, it’s a worthy investment of your time to revisit old work of yours and play around with techniques you have learned since, or possibly even trying something brand new.

Editing for Effect

Editing for effect is making something unusually interesting to the viewer. Some things that might help is to try a layout where it gives the design depth, as if part of the subject of the design is coming out of frame, usually an image or graphic of some sort.

Designing for a Polished Look

Designing so a website looks polished can be tricky. It’s easy to overdo it and sometimes very tedious, especially if you’re unaccustomed to it. Basically, you want effortless elegance, but of course, there’s often a lot of work you and your clients put in to make magic.

person working with fonts on a mac laptop

Creating Your Portfolio

By now you’ve got some prime material to add to your portfolio. But, there’s much to consider for the layout of the website itself. Oftentimes less is more with this kind of thing otherwise certain design choices could unnecessarily fatigue your potential clients and drive them away from your portfolio. You could have the best work in the world, but if nobody gets to see it, or if it’s presented in an awkward way, you might struggle to be taken seriously by some people. Here we will go over basic portfolio design tips to help you avoid an embarrassing situation like that.

Font Choice and Color

Choosing a font or group of fonts will help you nail down the impression you want to give your clients. Serif is usually easier to read, but some people prefer a sans serif font for bodies of text. Whatever you do, don’t choose more than three fonts otherwise you will give your clients typography whiplash. Moreover, stay away from excessively punchy colors for text. In fact, you might want to avoid colored text altogether. But, if you do decide to use colored text, a subtle effect might be something for you to consider.

Layout and Copywriting

When designing your portfolio, remember that smaller bodies of text are easier to read. Using conversational, friendly language is also important in order to make your portfolio more approachable for potential clients. Avoid using overly complicated words or phrases. Instead of using words like “pontiferous”, opt for more common words like “awesome”. Keep in mind that less is more when it comes to font, text color, and the amount of text you include in your portfolio.

Add a Bit of Personality

Adding some personal touches to your portfolio can help you stand out from other web designers. If you have a hobby that photographs well, consider including it in your portfolio. For example, if you’re an excellent woodworker as well as a web designer, include some photos of your woodworking projects. However, make sure that these personal touches don’t overshadow your work as a web designer.


Self-portraits are a great way to showcase a different side of yourself to potential clients. They can be a powerful addition to your portfolio, but many web designers overlook them. Make some time to take high-quality self-portraits and headshots to include in your portfolio.

Marketing Yourself to the Masses

Marketing your work is essential if you want people to see and appreciate it. Think about what your prospective clients might be looking for in a portfolio, and tailor your approach to fit their needs. You can also look at successful portfolios from other web designers and use them as inspiration for your own marketing strategy. Remember that marketing is all about finesse and finding the right approach that works for you.

Vocabulary, Vernacular, Etc.

The words you use to describe yourself and your work are just as important as the work itself. Choose your words carefully based on your niche and the type of work you want to showcase. If you specialize in corporate headshots, use words like “success”, “driven”, and “results” to describe your work. If you’re a creative designer focused on producing unique and interesting designs, use more creative and whimsical language to showcase your talents.

Consider Hiring a Marketing Consultant

While you might be tempted to handle your marketing efforts yourself, it’s often better to seek advice from someone with experience in the field. Consider hiring a marketing consultant to help you fine-tune your approach and get the results you want. It’s often better to invest in professional help than risk damaging important friendships by seeking advice from friends who might not have the necessary expertise.

Multiplatform Usage

Given that the majority of people access websites on their mobile devices, it’s important to ensure that your portfolio looks great on both desktop and mobile devices. Test your portfolio on a variety of platforms and make sure it’s optimized for mobile devices in particular. Don’t let a poor mobile experience ruin the first impression potential clients have of your work.

Revise, Revise, Revise Again

Your portfolio is an evolving work in progress that should be updated regularly to reflect your changing interests and skills. Don’t settle for your first draft; take the time to revise and fine-tune your portfolio as needed. Regularly revisiting and updating your portfolio will help keep it fresh and relevant.


Making your portfolio accessible to as many people as possible is important. Consider the needs of colorblind individuals and use color schemes that are less likely to be problematic. For instance, red-green color blindness is the most common, so ensure that designs using red and green together have a lot of contrast in light to dark value. Additionally, make sure to provide closed captions for any videos you include in your portfolio and avoid using language that could be considered offensive or exclusionary. If you’re revising your site, start with one accessibility update and expand upon it each time you make website changes; It doesn’t have to be the overwhelming process it may seem.

Congratulations, you now have a clear understanding of how to effectively communicate your message to your potential clients through your web design portfolio. By the way, if you’re looking for a great platform to build your portfolio and establish your online presence, check out the Format portfolio builder. It’s highly recommended by designers and you won’t be disappointed!

Build your online presence

Showcase your professional web design portfolio with Format.

Start Your Free Trial