Seriously upgrade your design portfolio site in 20 minutes or less

upgrade your design portfolio

Are you one of those designers who uses a web portfolio to show off their work and find new clients?

You’re in good company because most designers do the same.

And most designers also rely on an analytical tool (like Google Analytics) to tweak their site and find more customers.

Sound like you too?

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But many designers get frustrated and spin their wheels making tiny upgrades to their design portfolio in hopes of higher conversions and more clients with no luck at all.

The real problem is, you’re “upgrading” all wrong.

Yes, you heard me right. There’s one amazing way of knowing what the most important upgrades to your design portfolio should be. It’s the most effective method I’ve ever used. And the best part is it takes less than 20 minutes (usually).

Here’s the easiest way to upgrade your design portfolio in 20 minutes or less:

Here it is – you won’t believe how simple it can be:

Watch someone new visit and use your design portfolio site.

When you’re looking for a way to improve your design portfolio online, it can be easy to fall into the trap of thinking you should dive deep into your Google Analytics account to see how people are reacting (or not reacting) to your site.


But few things will open your eyes more to the pitfalls of your design portfolio than to watch a real human being use the site.

And don’t go to your friends or family for this either.

Your candidate has to be unfamiliar with your design portfolio –preferably not knowing anything about you or your business.

Once you’ve found a good candidate, sit down with them at the desk and watch over their shoulder.

Give them a task (ideally one that aligns with your site objectives. For example, have them visit your web site and challenge them to “contact you about a project they need help with.”).

Then say nothing.

Not a single word.

Zip. Nada. Seriously.

You don’t get to say things like “oh, you can just click the close button on that popup” or “sorry that link is a little small and hard to see, just click there.”

Why? Because you don’t get to talk to people who are coming to your design portfolio every day to learn more about your services.

So don’t talk.

As you watch them interact with your site, you’ll learn loads of information – I promise. Take solid notes.

You’ll see what aspects of the design portfolio are confusing, which parts are hard to use, which parts are annoying, etc.

It’s an amazing exercise. And it leads to the best upgrades you can imagine!

Here are a few more things you can do while watching a stranger use your web site:

• Take amazing notes. You’ll want them for later.
• Ask them to talk outloud while their using your site. It may alert you to even more concerns.
• Screen-record it for future reference.
• Time the user to see how long it takes from landing on your site until they can accomplish your task.
• Follow the exercise up with a Q&A where you ask what improvements they wish you would make to the site.

Why this is the best option

So why is this the best (and fastest) way to seriously upgrade your design portfolio?

Because these people are human.

Just like your clients.

The more people you can do this exercise with, the better. You’ll start to notice patterns. You’ll start to learn what’s important to a site visitor (headline, copy, photo of yourself) and what doesn’t really matter (button color, placement of social icons, etc.).

Give it a try and let me know what you learn!

Comments here.

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  1. Hi, i’m finishing my studies in Art Direction and i’m looking for a job. I would be happy if you check my website 😉

    See you

  2. I am just starting out my site. I want to make design and art and eventually sell pieces on my site. I also started a YouTube channel to put up videos of everything that I make. I am still learning premier pro and after effects. I hope to have a site comprised of entire process of people making amazing things. This includes video, Instagram, blogging, etc. I hope to make comedic content as well. Thanks for the site and all of the books you have put out so far.

  3. Thanks for this post.

    I have signed in into Clicktale – a website which records the users interactions as videos. It’s pretty cool.

    But having a ‘real user’ is also a great idea! I will start looking for my guinea pig 😉

  4. Hello,

    Hi Preston,

    I used to working in a corporate office, now that I’m on my own, I miss the collaboration amongst co-workers – I would love honest feedback from a peer, someone in the industry. I wanted a clear, precise website, a little edgy but not over the top. I’m thinking to update the website soon and would appreciate any and all comments and recommendations.

    I enjoy and respect your posts – its great to have someone to commiserate with. looking forward to your new Stoked.

    Best regards,

  5. I used to subscribe to a guestbook service and view counter, but let those go after a few years of inactivity, or insufficient information.

    I’d like to know what samples you do click on , and why the others didn’t catch your attention. Overall, I’m happy with the site, but don’t get feedback, even when the viewer can write me an email or fill forms out for quotes.

    Thanks for your site, and hopefully for an honest critique.


  6. My Echelon Graphix website has been online for a little over a year now, with some limited success, but – I NEED MORE! As a graphic designer in his 20th year, I’m still pretty old school when it comes to web design / social media and it took me until recently to really develop something online that I can be proud of, as well as to actually understand what I was doing in the first place. Aesthetically speaking, I feel I did a fairly decent job of using my design and wording skills throughout the website to put my best foot forward in that regard, but I could still be wrong in that assessment without even knowing it.

    This year, I would like to at least quadruple the 5-10 hits I get per day but don’t know how, as I am still pretty limited in everything concerning the nuances of SEO. Design is still my speciality, and my web skills are getting better, but a formal and non biased critique is what I could really use to grow my ‘old school’ brand. From there I can and will use this knowledge to better my overall understanding of all things online – to become a better overall designer for multiple generations in the process.

    Please consider this request to critique my website and have me learn more about todays designer, as it never hurts to learn something outside your own box. Have a great day and kudos to Millo for your very informative articles, you guys are great for an old fogey like me.

    Jonathan Nickens
    Echelon Graphix

  7. Hey guys, as a student who is new to being a freelancer, I really would value your opinion on how to improve my site. I appreciate your articles because they help me understand industry from a freelancer’s perspective as well as when Stoked launches.

  8. We got some good feedback from the Millo Facebook page, but always need more!

    We’re a small mom and pop company and having an outside perspective is critical to appeal to our prospective clients. Currently we get most of our clients from referrals, but we think our website could do a better job of showcasing our skills and portfolio.

    Laura Chenault

  9. Yes, please critique on my site would be great. Its in all Dutch should I change that, I’m only working in Holland (untill now)

    kind regards
    Thieu van Kaathoven

  10. Hey Preston,

    Hmmm why should my site be critiqued?

    Well, I think I showcase my work well and I have returning clients and referrals but am lost to know if my website is working the best it can be to attract new clients.

    I do not have the beauty of an outside perspective (this is a great idea by the way) so to gain a critique from somebody whose opinion I respect and value (and genuinely like lol) would be awesome. I was actually going to write to you the other day to say I wish I could nail a few more clients per month so I can take one day out each week purely to implement and apply all the useful information here on Millo and from fellow subbscribers, to my business. I’m slowly working my way through but like most people never seem to have enough time to do everything so this would mean a lot to me.

    Really looking forward to Stoked too!

  11. I am so stuck in Y2K era it’s not even funny…this was my first attempt at a website, I don’t think it’s a bad site for a first go round, I just don’t think it really sells Ugly Duck Design. Any help would be appreciated. Thank you and have a most awesome day!

  12. I’d like my website to be critiqued as I need to generate more business from it. At the moment I don’t even know how many people have seen it!

  13. I would like to have my portfolio reviewed to get a true, honest critique. I’m not sure if I’ve set up my website to accurately portray the type of work I enjoy and am capable of. I would like to do whatever it takes to make my site more polished and professional.

  14. My site is always the last to get updated. It could sure use a makeover and since I live on a small island in the carribean I could use all the help I can get. Thanks for considering my site.

  15. Hi there,

    I have recently resigned from one of my jobs, to concentrate on Freelancing. Being fairly new to this, a critique on my site would be amazing!

    Having a critique done by you, will assure me that I am on the right track and give me more confidence that I can do this and be successful!

    Please Help!!


  16. I’ve been using this web for 3 years now. It has been very useful and I’ll always hold it dear in my heart :__) but I feel like it’s too childish and It doesn’t look very professional now. I’ve been working in a lot of UX projects and some flat, trendy UI. I haven’t had time to upload those yet but I’m looking forward to rebrand and relaunch my web with this expertise in mind.
    … What do you think about it? Any suggestions? 🙂

    Looking forward to see what Stoked it’s all about!

  17. May I play devil’s advocate? So, I get it… Watching someone use your site can be invaluable. But wouldn’t the average user have a different opinion than someone like a art director or someone familiar with design? They know what to look for, and the average Joe or Sue wouldn’t know any better?

    1. Steve,
      In my opinion, that’s exactly the point. Unless your target audience is “art directors” (and it may well be), then you actually need “average Joe or Sue” to use your site.

      Art Directors will tell you your button needs to be a certain color, your typeface is too big, your color scheme is to warm. Average Joe will SHOW you that it’s really hard to know how to contact you and hire you.

      So it depends on your audience. But I would say a Art Director might help it look nice, but may not necessarily help it bring you more business.

  18. Seriously? Why do I need my website critiqued? Doesn’t everyone. Ok, I have several portfolio sites. None of them have a call to action and they are just… Well, just there. I have only been using them to keep from taking a portfolio around when I go after contracts. I really haven’t put a lot of effort in growing the business and now is the time for me to move forward and stop being a slacker. I’m hoping you can help.

    That is my honest answer.
    Stuck in Seattle.
    Paul Hebron

  19. I need my website/portfolio to be critiqued because I can’t be that crap! why can’t I get more work? what I am doing wrong?
    Sometimes is to good have someone from the outside to make us see things clearly, in other words “a kick in the ass” , “a slap on the face” is good to make us see light at the end of the tunnel.

  20. I just did a complete redesign of my business site and because of huge changes in my life over the past year, it took me that long to do it. This is the best opportunity to come along for me right now as I want and need some advice and mentoring to get my business thriving, again and I hope you’ll help me do that.

  21. Hi, I would like to know if the navigation on my site is easy and understandable.
    Thanks a lot for your posts and keep moving forward! 😉

  22. Not gonna lie…I love your site and the information you provide. I’d love a critique of my simple site to see what I’m doing right, and more importantly, what I’m doing wrong. Thanks !

  23. A great, easy to understand article. Sometimes we get so caught up in the complexities of what we do, we forget the simplest tasks can achieve fantastic results. This is definitely one of those, “Why didn’t I think of that first?!” moments! 🙂

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