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In an effort to ‘give back’ [cheesy phrase I know] to the degree that got me to where I am today, I wanted to pass on some words of wisdom to the current year group. Interactive Multimedia Design, a primarily web design focused degree offered at the University of Ulster in Belfast, continues to produce a steady stream of top quality web designers each year.
The students recently had to submit a portfolio site to promote themselves and their skills, so I thought I would display my chosen top 10 out of the 90 strong class to give them some praise and exposure for their work. I didn’t judge them on any particular aspect but simply on overall quality, design and unique appeal. Hopefully the remarks I make about each will be of use to both the rest of the class and other web designers.
So in reverse order…
#10 - Chris Fearon
> Interesting design, a break from the norm.
> Chosen typeface and spacing indicates a sense of professionalism.
> Unique name is a selling point.
> The ‘tag cloud’ look for the about text is a bit unusual. Perhaps changing the colours instead of size to pull out the key words would be better.
> Content could be structured more effectively, some links are hidden within the page.
#9 - Brian Burns
> Clear indication of identity. This site is definitely Brian Burns’. :)
> About text is short and instantly pulled out with the blue background.
> Striking image is attention grabbing.
> Individual projects are nicely sectioned.
> Belfast Banter holding page is fantastic.
> ‘Available’ status is a nice detailed feature.
> Make sure alignment is perfect on every page element. A couple of pixels off can ruin a page’s professional look.
> Could push the Twitter, Virb, Delicious links more instead of just on the footer.
#8 - Shane McAstocker
> Refreshing, unique style. It hasn’t got the usual web 2.0 vibe so it stands out from the crowd.
> Small details, like the Adobe icons in watercolour style, are also good ways to subtly push Shane’s style.
> Twitter status’ prominent location will encourage people to follow.
> The ‘tweet tweet’ image could link to your twitter profile.
> Instead of scribbling out the active page link on the navigation you could circle it so it’s still readable.
> More alignment of the links at the bottom of the page keeps visual consistency.
#7 - Jonny Campbell
> Clear, professional and clean layout.
> ‘About text’ length and size are perfect. Including a funny remark puts the viewer at ease. Offering more details below the short intro in a much smaller font size does not overwhelm the viewer with text.
> Pushes ‘Gonzo Design’ but does not neglect ‘Jonny Campbell’.
> Including ‘In Under 150 words’ is a nice idea, puts the viewer at ease before starting a long piece of text.
> Strikethrough on visited links is a good idea for lists where you need to see where you’ve been, e.g. list of blog posts. Should not be used on navigation as people will come back to click multiple times.
> Perhaps larger images of your projects in the ‘work’ section, they should really speak for themselves with very little text.
#6 - Ryan Carlin
> Fun branding with the Panda, memorable.
> Great use of icons to illustrate your key points. Love the Panda ears through the helmet. :)
> Simple colour scheme is a plus.
> Too much text on the homepage. Should limit it to a few choice words with a ‘read more’ link.
> The capitalisation and 3 exclamation marks on the YOU!!! makes it look a little unprofessional along with the rest of the text, which is perfectly worded.
> The ‘check it out’ buttons could be improved visually.
#5 - Paul Wilsdon
> One page layout is a nice change among the other portfolios.
> Simply using black and white is refreshing.
> I like the visual style with things like ‘By 2010 Digital Advertising…’. You’re saying a lot by just structuring the text in a creative way.
> Scrolling could be smoother, would give it a nice finish and not make the viewer uneasy about using a different method of navigation.
> Perhaps the change in typeface is too drastic. Could be a better choice for the section headings.
> Could align up the text fields on the contact form.
#4 - Ciaran McGettigan
> Love the header, makes your name very memorable which is a big factor in a portfolio site.
> Automatic appearing contact panel is a great idea, saves the user from losing the page they are currently on.
> Cow icon is nice, adds a little bit of fun to the site. :)
> By using few colours and a clean look you allow people to focus on the content.
> Could perhaps make the navigation stand out a little more, perhaps with subtle rollovers.
> Seems to be nothing in the footer, perhaps you could put in contact details here also.
> You are missing a couple of link images on the right hand side links.
#3 - Caroline Smith
> Fantastic subliminal messaging with the word ‘Beautiful’ in huge type. A great change from typical words usually found to describe web design.
> Striking homepage content, all done with text, subtle colours and gradients and not one screenshot. Well done.
> Portfolio showreel is effective.
> ‘Hire Me’ as a section heading is a great idea, stands out to potential employers.
> Maybe make some distinction between the three call to action buttons on the homepage. Tell the user where you want them to go first by highlighting that button in particular otherwise they will always go for the leftmost one if they are all the same.
> The dark brown links and pinkish rollovers are a bit hard to read.
#2 - Suzy Johnston
> Has to be the simplest site of the top ten. Amazing what you can achieve if you strip it back to the basics. Very effective.
> Fantastic use of space, especially above your name, makes it really stand out well.
> Large but light titles are perfect.
> Great self promotion in your footer.
> A tiny piece of text with each project, even as a transparent rollover on the image would perhaps help out viewers.
> Apart from that it’s perfect. :)
#1 - SkipSkap
I had to choose SkipSkap as the number one portfolio. It’s superbly designed, very memorable and achieves everything it should.
> Getting your name out there straight away in the centre of the homepage, will be remembered.
> Great branding with the name and logo, also very memorable, and fun to say. SkipSkap!
> Contact form design is great.
> Ripped up image on homepage is very unique.
> Colour scheme and background textures are really well suited.
> Choice of font and style are very professional.
> Too much text on the about page. Strip it back to exactly what employers will want to know and pull out key words with colour.
Information to Everyone
Well that took a lot longer than I thought it would, but I think it was great to see what talent there is in IMD. I had it narrowed down to about 20 earlier and then scaled that back to a top 10. It was tough job and there are many other sites in the class that have fantastic features. These top 10 however have a great mixture of everything and deserve the credit in my opinion.
These choices are of course my opinion and everyone else would make different decisions about the best portfolio sites. I tried to make most of the suggested improvements useful for everybody.
Talk to Me
Be sure to follow me on Twitter @PaddyDonnelly and if any of you who weren’t chosen want me to talk about their site then just email me email@example.com. I’ll be more than glad to give my thoughts on how to improve.