Hotjar for design portfolios

What is HotJar?

Hotjar is a service that records all of your website visitors and let’s you see exactly what they are doing. They produce videos per person like this:

It’s a “freemium” service similar to Figma. You can have it for limited purposes for free, and they hope you buy it for work.

They have other features like surveys and feedback. (If you visit my site, you will notice the feedback link on the right of the screen)

Why you should care

Your portfolio is your single biggest tool for getting full time employment. Think of it as worth an entire year’s salary to you. Getting a great job versus a middling one can be worth many tens of thousands of dollars. How much effort are you putting into your site?

Secondly, you should treat your site the way you would treat any business website. You should monitor google analytics and watch videos of user journeys using hotjar. How can you tell what people are looking at if you don’t watch them? How can you tell what to improve? How can you design without seeing your visitors actions?

The hosting problem

Most portfolios I review are hosted on a small set of services. Squarespace, Wix, Webflow, and Adobe Portfolios represent 95% or more of all portfolio sites. The big problem is that they use templates that are not very flexible. Specifically, adding JavaScript for Google Analytics or Hotjar can often be challenging or impossible.

My suggestion to designers is to self-host WordPress.

Note: This means NOT wordpress.com. This means a real hosting service where you install WordPress yourself. It’s pretty easy though, no programming required.

I use A2Hosting personally. I have found them to be (so far) cost effective and reliable. I have a refer-a-friend link if you want it.

Is WordPress good?

Short answer: Yes. But here are some stats: 708 million websites are powered by WordPress worldwide. (Source)

Steadily increasing
Better than nothing!

Designing on WordPress with Divi

If I was a new designer, I would install Divi on top of my WordPress. Divi is basically like Webflow. It’s a design tool that let’s you style your site. You can see how it works for free on their site. Buying it costs $90 a year or a one-time lifetime license for $250.

Example of Divi UI

Notice how it looks similar to Adobe or Figma. This means if you master it, it is another skill you can use in your career. Designers are often asked to help with the public website.

Show off your work

I am often asked by designers if they should show photography, painting, or other artistic efforts on their site. My answer is always, “YES! Why would you hide that??”

In this spirit, I would suggest a section of your site where you experiment with Divi, Hotjar, and other design efforts. Do not make a full case study for these experiments. A single sentence or paragraph is plenty. Just show things you love. Show you are a designer and have taste. Don’t over think it.

Summary

Your portfolio is important and you probably haven’t made it special in any way. I am guessing the following is true:

  1. You haven’t watched or interviewed real users (hiring managers!)
  2. You haven’t really expressed yourself
  3. You haven’t designed all the details

Hotjar is a free tool to solve #1. Is there a reason you don’t want to see what people are doing?


Whatya think?