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I'm a developer with extensive work experience in Web Development and a few years experience with Iphone (IOS) development as well too. Most of my experience has been full time with big companies, but I also have a variety of freelance type projects including a couple devoted ones recently. I'm having trouble with how to present a portfolio or code sample set to potential future freelance projects.

For portfolio, I'm not a designer but a developer, so while I can show some screenshots of recent work-- they are mostly built to spec. I did not design them, but coded them. How appropriate is it to present screenshots as a candidate for a project as a developer? Am I being judged on the designers work in that case?

On the other side is the code sample. I don't have code samples from many past corporate jobs as the code was usually shared among many developers, and definitely private+proprietary. I've been able to post my most recent IOS projects to github, but how do I explain that I have many years experience but only share code from the past 6 months?

Also, is it appropriate to include a personal programming project I did for my own use (an iphone app), even though it was unpaid? I'm worried it makes me come off as ameteur, with lack of other projects to present.

How is best to present screens+code as a developer?

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    Most freelancing sites give you option only to upload design and put a live URL below. This helps your client see how quality did you convert a design into an app. This aspect of actual converting a design into an app is very important. If it's the same as in design, if the app is fast and responsive, then in 90% of situations the code is structured OK as well. You may add a note that you are ready to show your code via skype video conferencing or similar tool. – Peter MV Feb 25 '14 at 10:47
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I usually try to do it in the form of a case study instead of worrying about screen shots. My case study would include the following:

  • Overall goal of the application
  • How it helps the customer's business
  • Some interesting technical features
  • What technologies the application uses

If possible, I include the organization's name, but if not, I just say something like "Sales system for major construction company".

I may include a single screen shot, but you could also use a simple logo or nothing at all. To me, the important thing is that I want the potential client to see that I built something that improved my client's business, with as many specifics as is possible.

  • I try to convey the same thing in my 1 minute verbal description when it comes up in conversation, but it still ends up with request for code samples and screenshots, followed by no questions or much interest. How do you present this case study? A webpage, part of linkedIn type CV, or other? – Miro Feb 24 '14 at 17:28
  • It is part of my site. (I'd link there, but the site is currently unavailable.) Each case study has 2-5 paragraphs describing it. I don't do it for every project, just ones that tell the best stories. My customers care less about technology specifics, so code samples are not of interest to them. If code samples are relevant to your target market, then I suggest continuing to build up github samples, but don't worry about tying them back to specific projects. Everyone understands a lot of code can't be made public. – Avonelle Lovhaug Feb 24 '14 at 17:52
  • This is the approach I take on my Case Studies pages, but I actually prefer to leave out the technological details. It depends on what kind of jobs you are looking for, but often times the best clients don't care about what technologies are behind your solution, they just care about the results. – GSto Feb 27 '14 at 14:39
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A portfolio does need to be at least somewhat visual. My original UX design portfolio consisted entirely of text. (At the time, the portfolio site itself was also the only item in my portfolio!) Text is, not surprisingly, not the best way to communicate what I have done on my interaction design and visual design projects. When I met with the CEO of another design company, his first reaction upon seeing my portfolio was that I needed to build it around images.

However, your assumption that a portfolio of only screenshots would show off the work of only the designer is correct - at least as a first impression. Most people spend only a few seconds on a webpage, so that first impression may stay with them.

I've been a member of Behance for most of the time I've been in business. I notice that Behance's featured work is biased towards the visually stunning. People who are great artists or great graphic designers - and I am not - get great exposure on Behance. Information architects and interaction designers are less likely, because their work is like a developer's: the real magic is behind the scenes. (Within UX, there is a concept of emotional design - one tenet of which is that products that look nice are more likely to be perceived as user-friendly even if they are not. I suspect that's in play here.)

As a developer, code samples are important to show the quality of the code that you write. But there are other important factors:

  • You need to show that your code works. I would recommend linking to a live site and/or the app's listing in the App Store. If it is not available there, record a screencast video with a tool such as Jing to explain your process and how you worked.

  • You need to show that your code is of high quality. If you can share the code with people, I would recommend linking to a GitHub account. Let people see your process - what you do for changesets, what you do for unit testing.

  • Show that you are good at working with others. Have testimonials from clients and, where possible, others on your project team. If you can get a testimonial from the designer of one of your apps, that makes it clear that 1) you do good enough work for the designer to recommend you, and 2) you didn't do the design work for the app.

A lot of people think now that developers are designers. There is a lot of overlap in job descriptions on both sides now.

So to make it clear that you do not do UI or UX design work, I would recommend including a list of services rendered with each project. It can be as simple as "Design", "Development", "Project Management", etc. Or if you want to also include languages you worked with, that is probably fine for a development portfolio as well. (For a design portfolio, I haven't found that people care about which responsive frameworks I use - but if I were still a developer seeking dev work, people absolutely would care!) If your portfolio site is a WordPress site with portfolio capabilities, you may be able to specify categories and have a list of projects that can be filtered according to the kind of work you did.

Personal programming projects are fine to include in portfolios. You don't have to say that they were personal or unpaid. Just present them like any other project. I know of professional designers who have done design work as employees of Facebook, but they have still included personal projects in their portfolios. Personal projects show that you love what you're doing enough to spend at least some of your personal time advancing your skills.

  • Behance looks great for designers, but not really developers. Are you aware of any more general portfolio sites? – Miro Feb 25 '14 at 14:41
  • @Miro - Freelancing sites like Elance and oDesk generally do have some portfolio capabilities if those are the types of places where you look for work. In a quick search, it looks like Coderbits would be appropriate for a developer: coderbits.com. – David Feb 26 '14 at 19:10
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My advice would be to simply be up front. Note that you did not do any design work, and that you can only offer the last 6 months for the reasons you stated. The right kind of clients will be understanding, and may in fact respect that you are not disclosing old code because it is proprietary.

Often times when showcasing your work, you can simply put "designed by..." or add a small "tag" system saying what your involvement was on each project. As far as proprietary work, while you can't show the code I don't think there is anything barring you from saying what you worked on at the company so long as you didn't sign an NDA saying you wouldn't. I would suggest reviewing any paperwork you signed with those companies before posting what you have done with them.

  • Hi Brian, while this answers the question, can you give some more details? It currently seems like this is a comment. Thanks – Canadian Luke Feb 24 '14 at 17:02
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If you are a developer, and not a designer, then I expect that potential clients are really only after acquiring your ability to write good code. This is the exact same situation that I am in and I have had huge success with my blog where I regularly write small articles which solve specific coding problems in my main language (WPF/XAML/C'#). I also am a very active member of StackOverflow where I answer tough coding questions and have built up an impressive profile doing this. New clients get a link to my blog and stackoverflow page and that is usually enough to establish my credentials. Every client I have worked with has been happy with the fact that I cannot discuss or show other clients code. Any client that insists on seeing confidential client code should be avoided.

  • +1 for mentioning the confidential code aspect – Canadian Luke Feb 28 '14 at 18:46

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