How To: Create A Successful WordPress Portfolio Website

Digital portfolios are everywhere on the web. They’re one of the most popular kind of websites, second only to blogs. In fact, just by looking at Themeforest’s repertoire, you will see the overwhelming majority of themes are based around the portfolio category. This is not without reason: they’re extremely versatile, allowing you to showcase your work, clients, services, or just about anything you’d like.

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Still, that doesn’t mean creating a successful portfolio site is easy. In fact, we’re so accustomed to their design that standing out from the rest of the crowd has become a daunting task. Their tried and true layout formula is a double-edged sword, providing a versatile and usable design, but dull and repetitive. Fortunately, that doesn’t mean portfolio sites are doomed.

Contrary to what you may think, the most important factor in determining the success of your WordPress site is not having a pretty portfolio theme with a polished design, but rather having a solid content strategy to complement it. In this article we will take a look at some tricks you can use to improve upon your portfolio site, hopefully boosting your traffic and helping you achieve your goals more easily.

First Things First: Have A Clear Goal

Before jumping head-on onto your portfolio site, you should work on establishing a clear goal. This is an often overlooked step for many, thinking it’s not important enough. Do I want to build my own brand by showcasing my work? Do I hope to be contacted so I can offer my services? Is my portfolio up for sale and I want to sell as much as possible? No matter how big or small you are, you must always have a direction to walk towards.

It's important to know who you will be talking to, and plan your portfolio content accordingly. Element Creative knows this well.
It’s important to know who you will be talking to, and plan your portfolio content accordingly. Element Creative knows this well.

Without a goal, focusing your actions on what truly matters the most becomes much harder. Defining your objectives will help you sort out your priorities, and avoid doing useless work– which happens more often than you may think. Most of the time, it’s not a matter of how hard you push, but instead of pushing in the right direction.

For portfolio sites, that means you should define a single, primary goal. This goal is meant to give your whole site a purpose, and should be preferably as SMART as possible. An example of a good goal could be getting a certain number of contact form submissions each month, or gathering more than X newsletter subscribers. You should be clear on what you want to achieve by creating a portfolio site in the first place, and everything you do on that site should reflect that. Once you’ve decided on what your objective is, it’s time to tweak your site to make it happen.

Improving Your Portfolio Site

As you may guess, when dealing with portfolio sites most of your work should be focused on improving the portfolio itself. It is, after all, the main feature of the website and the most prominent one too. You will want your portfolio items to receive the most web traffic– regardless of what you’re showcasing– to get visitors to know about your offering. For that same reason, you must carefully curate each of your items so they all work towards your established goal. Here are a few tips that can help you with that:

Create Content That Is Relevant To Your Goals

The main reason people are going to go to your site is its content. It doesn’t matter if you have a kickass design, or have an extremely usable interface; what will keep visitors hooked is compelling content. In a portfolio site, that encompasses the copy you have written and the media you’re showcasing. You must make sure each of your portfolio items is relevant to the eyes of your audience, in order to keep readers on your website for as long as possible.

Put yourself in the eyes of a potential client. What do I want to see? What will catch my interest the most? Doing this is the first step towards identifying who your audience is, and will help you make your content more relevant in their eyes. Remember, you will be trying to persuade the visitor to convert with your content.

Create Elaborate And Polished Portfolio Pages

You should always focus on quality, not quantity. It’s vital that you invest the necessary time to create a polished portfolio, even at the expense of having less overall items in your collection. By adding more detail to each of your pages, you will have a better chance of keeping users interested. This has the added benefit of filtering out irrelevant visitors, as people who stop and read what your work is about will show way more interest than those who simply skim your content.

The folks over at Infinum will showcase each of their work in great detail.

A good example of this is Infinum. Take a look at its portfolio and you’ll see how each page has highly detailed copy, accompanied by a large number of images to breathe life into its work. You should strive to add as much detail as possible to each of your pages, taking the time to introduce the user to your product and explaining its benefits. You can achieve this by following a few, simple tips:

  • Use a lot of large, high-quality images that complement your copy well
  • Focus on detailing the benefits of your product, not its features
  • Add many types of interactive media, like video, accordions, or tabs

Having an original layout is also a plus. Most premium WordPress themes will offer you the possibility of creating slideshows, galleries, or even add video to each of your portfolio items. You should take advantage of this to make your website more remarkable.

Add Call To Action Buttons To Each Portfolio Page

One of the most common mistakes made when creating a portfolio-oriented site is forgetting to add a follow up to each of your pages. Since you’re using your portfolio as a means to promote your work, you should facilitate the task of achieving your site goals as much as possible. One way to do this is adding a link button at the end of each of your portfolio pages. This button should point to whatever your goal page is– it can be your contact page, your about page, or maybe a link to add a product to the cart.

Digital Telepathy invites you to hire them right after introducing you to their brilliant work.
Digital Telepathy invites you to hire them right after introducing you to their brilliant work.

Compared to having to go back up the page and having to look for the contact page in the menu, a button at the end of a well-designed portfolio has a much better chance of being clicked on. It becomes a natural step for users who have taken the time to read, and it also makes your goal page much easier to locate. Needless to say, you should also add these links right in your homepage, along with the featured portfolio items.

To make it even more effective, you can also style your links as a button. Making your link more prominent will improve its chances of being clicked on, and serves as a call to action so that users feel compelled to click it. Thanks to the use of WordPress shortcodes, you can use a plugin such as Shortcodes Ultimate or CPO Shortcodes to easily add it into your portfolio’s content.

Remove Clutter And Reduce Noise

If you keep adding content to your portfolio, it may eventually become cluttered with excessive amounts of information. All this content can turn into an obstacle for your users, making it harder for them to find what they’re looking for. This is called the signal vs. noise ratio. Curating your portfolio involves not only adding new items over time, but also eliminating old work or repurposing pages so they better fit into the overall picture.

Focuslab only has a few case studies, but each one of them is full of amazing content.
Focuslab only has a few case studies, but each one of them is full of amazing content.

You shouldn’t be afraid to remove content that is not relevant to your goals. For one, having irrelevant stuff on your website will do more harm than good, both in your audience and Google’s eyes. Also, by having less to work with you will be able to put more emphasis on each piece, and thus create more refined pages. Remember, we are working towards making every piece of your site work towards your already-established goal, not against it.

You can reduce the clutter of your portfolio by looking at each item and examining it from a more critical perspective. Is it overall quality good enough? Is it related to the rest of my work? Examples of content that produces noise may be:

  • Portfolio items not related to the rest of your pages
  • Marketing copy that doesn’t offer any real substance, or is watered down
  • Old portfolio items that don’t reflect the quality of your current work
  • Portfolio categories not organized in a logical way

You should work on identifying this noise content, and either repurpose it into something better or remove it altogether.


Building a great portfolio site takes time, effort, and a lot of experimentation. You should always strive to make a lot of small tweak to your site and see how it goes, especially as you get to know your audience is. One thing is clear though: always go for quality over quantity.

Manuel Vicedo

Manuel Vicedo

Manuel Vicedo is an enthusiastic WordPress designer and developer located in Spain. He loves using the platform to create amazing websites that solve problems and create value. When he is not doing all kinds of custom work or developing web applications, he works around the clock on CPOThemes, a young but growing premium WordPress theme store.

2 thoughts on “How To: Create A Successful WordPress Portfolio Website”

  1. I think this is among the most significant information for me.
    And i’m glad reading your article. But should remark on some general things, The site style is
    perfect, the articles is really nice : D.

    Good job, cheers

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