As a designer, your portfolio is everything. If you want to enter UX design, you'll need an impressive portfolio to land your first job. Even if you have prior expertise in the sector, it is critical to maintain a polished and current portfolio.You might think that your well-put CV has you covered, but a UX recruiter will hardly look at it. The first thing they'll do is open your portfolio because they would like to know how candidates present themselves. And that's what a portfolio does: it presents the areas in which you specialize, your strengths, your process, and your design style. Think of a portfolio as your visual resume that showcases your skills, creativity, and experience in a compelling way. It can make the difference between making a strong first impression that gets you the interview or getting lost in the shuffle.That being said, creating a UX portfolio that really shines can be tricky. Since it's the first thing hiring managers want to dive into, you really need to invest time, effort, and know-how into crafting something that really pops. Lucky for you, we've put together a list of 6 tips and other useful information to help you build the best UX portfolio possible and land your dream job. So, let's get started with our guide on how to create a UX portfolio that wows the recruiting managers!
What's a UX Portfolio?
In the competitive world of UX design, a killer UX portfolio can make all the difference. But before you can create a standout portfolio, it's important to understand what's a UX portfolio and what to include in a UX portfolio.A UX portfolio is basically a collection of your finest UX projects that show off your UX and design skills. A good portfolio should showcase your best work as a designer and may include case studies, design projects, and other visual artifacts that highlight your design process, problem-solving abilities, and decision-making skills.A variety of UX and design elements can be included in a portfolio to present these aspects effectively. These may include wireframes, user flows, user personas, user testing results, visual designs, mockups, conducted research, and more.
Why Making a UX Design Portfolio to Showcase Your Skills to Hiring Managers Is Important
If you're keen on developing your UX career and find UX jobs, simply having a well-written CV might not cut it. To really stand out and grab the attention of hiring managers, you'll need to put together an impressive UX portfolio that showcases your skills, experience, and creative flair.So, why's a UX portfolio such a big deal for recruiters? Simply put, it provides a more detailed and comprehensive view of your work than a standard CV ever could. A top-notch UX portfolio offers potential employers a better sense of your level of quality and creativity in your design work. With a well-put UX portfolio, a hiring manager can quickly see that you've got what it takes for the job, significantly boosting your chances of landing an interview. That's why a good and clear portfolio is so important.
First UX Portfolio: Building a Portfolio with No Experience as a UX Designer
Putting together a portfolio can be challenging, even for senior user experience professionals. It's even more daunting for newbies to the UX scene, who might have zero professional experience to draw from. But don't stress – with some passion and hard work, you'll be on your way to creating your UX portfolio that makes your talents stand out.One of the best solutions is to create your own projects. Design apps or websites from scratch that solve real-world problems or improve upon existing designs. You can even showcase any projects you worked on in a UX design course, if you took one. This approach will not only help you refine your UX skills but also demonstrate your creativity and problem-solving abilities.Another option is to volunteer for non-profit organizations. Non-profits may need the help of UX designers to create websites or apps that cater to their unique needs. This offers an excellent opportunity for you to gain valuable UX design experience, build your portfolio, and give back to the community. Volunteering for non-profits will also allow you to practice your UX design skills, collaborate with other professionals, and potentially create a network of contacts in the UX community.
Where to Host Your UX Portfolio to Show Your Experience in UX?
UX portfolio websites are a popular choice among UX designers. A web-based portfolio is a website showcases your design process, projects, and achievements to potential clients and employers. It presents everything you need to show the recruiting manager.UX designers often utilize website builders like Wix, Squarespace, or WordPress to host their portfolio online. These platforms offer templates and easy-to-use drag-and-drop interfaces, allowing you to create a professional-looking portfolio site without needing any technical expertise.Portfolio platforms like Behance, Dribbble, or UXfolio are also very common and excellent options. These platforms are specifically designed for designers to showcase their work and connect with other professionals in the industry. However, using these platforms means sacrificing some control over the design and branding of your portfolio.Alternatively, a portfolio based on a PDF file is also a popular choice among UX designers.
How to Create a UX Portfolio: 6 Tips for Building a UX Portfolio & What to Put In Your UX Portfolio
If you want to stand out from the saturated pool of UX designers, you need to put in some work and know how to create a UX portfolio that impresses! Here are 6 essential tips to help you make a portfolio that stands out from the crowd by understanding what to include in a UX portfolio.
1. Present What Matters
Your portfolio should provide a comprehensive insight into your UX design experience and work. So, you must create a portfolio that is not only top-notch but also relevant to the job you are applying for.To achieve this, you need to customize your portfolio to showcase why you stand out and what makes you suitable for the job you're applying for. Highlight the area of UX design where you have experience, such as visual design, UX research, or other areas. Prioritize and select the projects that align with the job responsibilities of the position you're applying for. This will help the recruiters quickly determine if your experience matches what they are looking for.That said, it's not a must that all projects you choose should align with the job. You shouldn't set aside projects that don't align with the position entirely. Instead, a good portfolio should also demonstrate your adaptability and versatility as a UX designer. The key is to highlight the relevant projects first and then showcase a few projects that display your expertise in other areas.
2. Show Your Process
By that, we don't mean a typical design process that one can find just by searching online. In your portfolio, you need to show the recruiter YOUR process, regardless of how good or bad, right or wrong, that process is. Own up and present a process that feels like you! Don't be afraid to let the recruiters to see the messy process. They aren't there expecting a mere polished UI or timeline, but to see what you do.Your portfolio should tell a story, walk the recruiter through the context, and let them wander into your mind to observe why you decided to design the part of a UX element the way you did, how you did it, and what impact it carried.Use case studies to break down your process. Your case studies must show:
- The problem(s) you had to solve or the hypothesis you came up with for solving it: Clearly define the problem you were trying to solve and provide context around why it was important to solve it. This could include research findings or business goals that the project aimed to achieve.
- Your specific role in the project and how you collaborated with others: Clearly define your role in the project and describe how you collaborated with others, such as stakeholders, designers, developers, or any other relevant team members. Ensure to credit others when due and highlight the teamwork, as it shows an essential insight into your capability of collaborating, an important aspect of UX. But also be sure to highlight your contributions to the project and any leadership, communication, and design thinking skills that were essential to achieving the project goals.
- How you came to your proposed solution(s): Detail the process you followed to arrive at your proposed solution(s). This could include conducting user research to gain insights into user needs and behavior, ideation to generate multiple design concepts, wireframing to establish a basic layout of the interface, prototyping to test and refine the design, user testing to validate the design with real users, and more. Each step in the process should be documented in detail, with clear reasoning behind the decisions you made.
- How your proposed solution(s) solved the problem you were trying to solve to create a better user experience: Demonstrate how your proposed solution(s) addressed the problem or hypothesis and created a better user experience. Use quantitative and qualitative data to demonstrate the impact of your design on key metrics, such as conversion rates, user engagement, or task completion times. It's important to provide evidence that the design solution was effective and contributed to the success of the project.
- Challenges you faced, including design concepts that were ultimately not pursued: Discuss any challenges you faced during the design process, such as technical limitations, stakeholder objections, or budget constraints. Be honest and transparent about any design concepts that were ultimately not pursued and explain why. This will demonstrate your ability to iterate and adapt to changing circumstances and show that you can make sound design decisions based on data and user feedback.
- How the project affected the users and the business: Provide evidence of how the project impacted the users and the business. This could include testimonials or feedback from users, increased revenue or engagement metrics, or other measurable outcomes that demonstrate the success of the project. Be specific about the impact of your design on the business goals and objectives of the project.
- What tools you used during your design process: List the tools you used during the design process. Introduce the tools that went into your work. Explain why you chose to use each tool, what you used it for, and how it contributed to the success of the project.
- What you learned: Reflect on what you learned during the project, including any new skills or insights gained. This will demonstrate your ability to learn and grow as a designer and show that you're committed to improving your craft. Be specific about the lessons learned and how they will inform your future work as a UX designer.
3. Get Creative
Many UX designers try to break down their work experience and processes in their portfolios, striving to do an excellent job. However, their presentation may lack creativity, innovation, and craftsmanship.If you want to pursue a career in UX, being crafty and excellent at executing a job is essential. So why not showcase these skills in your portfolio, the very tool that enables employers to form a perception of your creativity? Think of ways to present yourself in an outstanding way.For example, don't shy away from creating a video to showcase yourself and your work. It's an excellent means of creating an effective impression. Although it may take a few hours and takes, the person who is hiring you will notice that you took the initiative and attempted to present something new by putting yourself in front of the camera. This also demonstrates that you can be a great communicator! As a designer, your primary responsibility is to communicate, exchange ideas, and collaborate with others.
4. Make It Easy to Navigate
Regardless of how great your case study is, if the content isn't easy to read and follow, and it's all squashed together, how will the recruiter be able to learn about that project and your skills? And of course, how can they tell that you have the capability to provide a good user experience when you don't provide it even to your hiring manager?Your portfolio must be easy to navigate. So take up space! Give generous margins between components and let them breathe so that your audience can follow you from the beginning to the end very well. Use headings and subheadings to break up your content and make it easier to scan. This will help recruiters quickly find the information they are looking for. Make sure your portfolio is easy to navigate by using intuitive navigation.Consider using a table of contents or a menu bar that allows visitors to jump to different sections of your portfolio quickly. A clean and simple layout will help recruiters focus on your content rather than getting distracted by flashy design elements. Keep in mind that recruiters are usually short on time, so the easier your portfolio is to navigate, the better.
5. Avoid Low-Quality Images
When it comes to creating a great portfolio, the quality of the images you choose to represent your work is crucial. Low-quality, pixelated images can immediately detract from the impact of your portfolio and make it seem unprofessional. Therefore, it's essential to ensure that all the images you use in your portfolio are of high quality and easily viewable.This might be an obvious point, but it's certainly not a rarity in portfolios. As a designer, you need to know all the different formats that are possible to present your work and make sure that all the images you use are high quality and easily viewable.
6. Don’t Overdo It
Don’t make a super long page that nobody can get to the bottom of. Be precise! A good rule of thumb is that a recruiter should be able to review your portfolio in 5 to 10 minutes. If it takes more than 15 minutes, then you've already lost your audience.Quality over quantity is the best rule to follow when putting together an easy-to-navigate portfolio. This means you should only pick out the best of the best, the most relevant of the most relevant.Since hiring managers don’t have a lot of time to dedicate to each UX designer’s portfolio, it’s best to choose a few of your best projects to showcase from the prioritized list you made in the previous step. Avoid repeating yourself many times. Try to be respectful of your audience’s time. If you think you can shrink your portfolio without jeopardizing the content, do it!
Maintaining Your Portfolio in the Long-Term
Once you've created your portfolio after hours of hard work and head scratching, are you done with it for good? Absolutely not! Your portfolio will always be a never-ending project that should evolve as you grow your designer career. It's not just a one-time task but an ongoing process that should reflect your new experiences and skills.As you take on new projects and challenges, you'll want to showcase them in your portfolio to demonstrate your ability to learn and adapt. As you gain more experience and expand your horizons, update your portfolio to reflect your growth in this rapidly evolving field of UX. You may want to add new projects, remove old ones, or update existing projects with new insights or design iterations.Keeping track of projects you carry out is essential for updating your portfolio. This can be as simple as maintaining a list of completed projects or a spreadsheet to track your progress.
If you want to break into the UX world, then the importance of creating a portfolio that showcases your strengths can't be stressed enough. A web-based or PDF portfolio is a collection of your previous experience, projects, strengths, skills, and style. It showcases your UX experience to recruiting managers, allowing them to get a sense of the level of quality and creativity you bring to your design work and what part of UX you excel at.As such, it's important to understand how to create a UX portfolio and what to include in a UX portfolio that leaves a positive impression upon recruiters and know what to include in your portfolio that effectively presents you as a designer.Presenting UX work that's tailored to the position, highlighting problem-solving skills, demonstrating design thinking, and telling the story behind the projects are all key elements of a killer UX design portfolio that can make a strong first impression and increase your chances of landing your dream UX job. It's also important to use the right elements like wireframes that give clear insight into your past work. So take your time to build your UX design portfolio and nail it!You should also remember that maintaining and updating your UX design portfolio is crucial for your career growth as a designer. Your portfolio should be a living document that is never truly complete but always evolving as you gain new experiences and hone your skills. By keeping your portfolio updated, you can showcase your growth and development as a designer and demonstrate your commitment to the field.Note: This article was originally published on February 2022 and updated on June 2023 reflect the current status of the market.