Portfolios: Not Just for Designers

Designers have all the luck. Their work is always front and center. It’s the thing that all website visitors see and comment on. “Wow, what a nice looking website!” But what about the programmers or developers that made that website work? You don’t hear any visitors saying “hey John, come look at what happens when I click this great looking link.”

I was a designer for a very brief period of my career and quickly figured out it’s not as glamerious as it looks. But in most insdustries it’s all about looks. When a designer walks away from a job they have a portfolio full of colorful and well designed work (web, print or otherwise) to wow potential employers. But what do developers and programmers have?

It’s important that you not get discouraged by the lack of glitz and glam that development work has. Without the code, a website is just a picture that doesn’t do much. But it does lack a certain wow factor when compared to the design of a site. However, remember that you’re not applying for designer jobs. Your contribution to a project will matter to the respective hiring manager when applying for a development positon, you just need to show it off.

So how can you as programmer or developer show off your work?


One great way is to contribute code to an open source project. It doesn’t have to be a huge or well known contribution, it just has to work and follow the standards of the project. Beef it up with some documentation and a narrative about what you did and you’re well on your way to showing the world what you can do.

Another great way to contribute is by creating plug-ins or add-ons for popular applications. I’ve done a lot of work with the ExpressionEngine CMS and have created some plug-ins that I released open source on Github. Again, these are the most popular or well known add-ons in the community. But their code is available on my GitHub profile and anybody can check it out for quality and thought process.

Be sure that you have a GitHub, or equivalent service account, and that you have uploaded some quality sample work.

Use Pictures

Just because you didn’t design the site doesn’t mean you can’t use a picture of it. When creating an online portfolio of your work feel free to include pictures of projects you’ve worked on. A picture is worth a thousand words and it will make your site look better. Just be prepared for the question “so what specific contributions did you make to this site?”

Also, if you’re not a designer then don’t feel the need to design your own portfolio. Some people have the gift for making nice looking websites and others, like me, don’t. That is why we are blessed to have resources like ThemeForest and other sites that will sell you great looking templates for under $50.


Every developer should have a blog. Creating a blog of your own helps you grow as a developer by posting about things you’ve learned, become a better writer by writing more frequently and a better job candidate by giving potential employers a peek at how you think and approach certain things. Just write about what interestes you when you can and you’d be surprised at the opportunities that present themselves.

What other methods have you used to promote yourself and the work you’ve done? Leave your ideas in the comments.