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January 28, 2010 By Hendrik-Jan Francke

Tirade on Web Portfolios

Hands down, a web portfolio is the best way to display your art/design/photography, if you do it right. There are a lot of ways you can showcase your work, but let’s be honest—users just want to quickly move through your portfolio. When this becomes a longer process, users get bogged down in the experience.

First, the science…

Here’s some science to chew on… New research suggests that users can formulate an opinion about the visual appeal of an image in less than a tenth of a second. Less than a tenth of a second! Furthermore, users feel like they have more control on a website when they perform an action (like clicking a button) and the response takes a second or less. After a second, their feeling of control decreases.

What does this information mean for your portfolio? First, it demonstrates how quickly users can form an impression (even if it deals with the visual impression of images). It also shows how little time you have to keep users happy when they click through your work.

The Clicking Game

One of the most frequent problems I see with web portfolios is that they make me play, what I call, the “Clicking Game.” With each new image, the next button changes its location on the screen, forcing me to chase it with my mouse. This Clicking Game is a nuisance! Considering how fast I can view images (remember the science above), it’s a lot of little mouse movements and clicks in a very short period of time. This task that should take no more than a second becomes a nightmarish game of mousing around. (You might think I’m overreacting, but I look at a lot of portfolios.)

Fix it with fixed position

I wish designers, illustrators, photographers—anyone and everyone—would borrow a technique from our own portfolio website. Our site uses buttons in a fixed position so users can place their mouse in one spot and keep it there until they’ve finished clicking. Our images vary in size but they don’t affect the movement of the “next” button.

You’ll notice the “next” button leads you beyond our samples to our contact information. That decision is more a personal choice, but I think it encourages clients to initiate business with us.

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