The purpose of an online portfolio is to get a recruiter or a hiring manager just interested enough to want to talk to you in person. I did a random audit of design portfolios from new to experienced designers and found that the average portfolio project is over 1,300 words.
But length alone is not an issue. Almost every portfolio I see has the same format. They look and read like an outline, not a well-crafted story. They always have a header, followed by a paragraph and an image repeated over and over. These sections often include:
Project Overview: Design Challenge, My Role, Problem (People and Business)
Design Process: Competitive Analysis, Heuristic Review, User Research, User Personas, User Stories, Affinity Diagramming, Usability Testing
Solution: Sketches, Flow Diagrams, Wireframes, Design Specs, Prototype
Outcome: Metrics, Retrospective / What I Learned
This list makes it easy to understand why the average portfolio project length is 1,300 words. But hiring managers and recruiters are sifting through tens or hundreds of resumes and portfolios each week. Think about the hours, days and weeks you spent meticulously documenting your process and solution only to find out — or likely not find out — that not a single person has read it in its entirety.
Finally, this outline format makes for somewhat uninteresting reading. Instead, tell a story, focusing on the most interesting and impactful parts of the project. Grab the reviewer’s attention and convey the major points at the beginning, in case they don’t read through to the end.
My format preference is a brief description of the project that touches on the problem, the solution and the outcome (user and/or business), paired with a prototype. Because this is often not enough space to tell the full story, a “learn more” button or link to the full write-up is often necessary. But again, the hiring manager will likely not click that.