In 2022, I chose to rebuild my main website and portfolio and danielboyle.net. At the time, things at Amazon seemed incredible stable (a recent promotion, solid core business fundamentals, and a good team). I, like thousands of other Amazon employees are now staring down a suddenly the possibility of being one of thousands of employees laid off in the next week. While I wish I could claim some special bit of insight that lead me to start working on this nearly a year ago, the reality is that:
- Portfolios take a long time to build. This is a major criticism from the people who want to see portfolios removed from the hiring process. They effectively discriminate against people with full-time jobs, or multiple jobs, or family responsibilities, or something that reduces their free time. It’s a fair criticism, but as a person with family responsibilities, a full-time job, and hobbies, my free time is precious. I spent months gathering artifacts, working on content or design updates a bit at a time, between other commitments, in order to avoid a single large period of crunch.
- I began to dislike the content architecture of my previous site. All of my UX work was divided into two cases studies, which were overly long and awkward to read.
- One of my goals for the year had been to learn a modern JS framework and modernize my front-end development skills.
As mentioned, my previously portfolio organized all of my UX work from eBay into two case studies – one for Advertising, and one for Recommendations. This made them awkward to read – important information was removed from each project in order to keep them at a reasonable length for the overall page. Because I rarely retain the more ephemeral work – post-it notes, whiteboard sketches, and the link – this lead to the perception that I was only creating the UI.
I decided to split each project into its own case study in order to find the space to better tell the story of each project. Each project leads with results and outcomes, before diving into the details that are organized in a common structure, focusing on scan-ability. As a hiring manager, the odds that I read a full case study right away are tiny – I’m looking for key words and signals to inform my decision to dive in to the details of your work. Treating myself and my managers as the customer for this content, I’m focusing on results first, with a strong hierarchy of headers and imagines to show process, iteration, and final delivery.
My previous website was a home-brewed PHP-based templating system. It worked quite well for what it was – it effectively separated the content from the presentation logic, so I was able to easily create and edit content sections. It was, however, still difficult to create an entirely new page from scratch, and the templating logic was more complex than it could have been. I wanted to explore a modern JS framework as an alternative to this, and settled on Next.JS. I had explored a few other options, but Next.JS was fast, reliable, and the getting started guide actually produced working code, unlike several frameworks I tried.
In the end, I don’t know that this will perform better or worse than my previous portfolio, nor would I even know how to measure that. There are so many factors that impact a potential job search.
At the very least I can say:
- I was able to learn to use a new technology.
- That technology has made it easier to develop multiple case studies.
- I think those case studies are more readable and better represent my capabilities and contributions.