How To Create a UX Portfolio [2022 Career Guide]
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There’s only so much you can talk up your UX design skills before you’re going to be asked to demonstrate them. The right way to show off your chops is with a UX portfolio, a repository of your past work and projects. Portfolios serve to get recruiters interested and also as a way to track your own evolution as a UX designer.
In this article, we’re going to take a look at how you can create an impressive UX portfolio that can get you hired. Before we dive into that, let’s learn a little more about the role that it plays in advancing your career.
What Is a UX Portfolio
A UX portfolio is a showcase of the work that you’ve done as a UX designer and by extension, a demonstration of the skills that you have in the field. They contain snapshots from projects that you’ve completed and case studies that describe the tools and design thinking that you’ve employed in creating your work.
The most obvious role a UX portfolio plays is in the hiring process. A cover letter can create a good first impression and establish your desire to be part of an organization, but in the field of design, letting your work speak for itself has the most impact. That’s where your UX portfolio comes into the picture.
A good UX portfolio will, of course, carry pictures and videos of your work. Along with that, it should also include information on the process that you use to come up with your designs. It is your process that shows your capacity for design thinking, understanding the environment you’re designing for, and so on.
A portfolio is also a compass for your career. It shows you where you were as a designer and the trajectory that you’re headed in. If you want to head in a particular direction as a UX designer, like in data visualization or digital products, then your portfolio needs to reflect that.
Remember that you have a small window of time to make an impact with your UX portfolio. Most recruiters spend three minutes or less looking through a portfolio. For that reason, you need to be concise and make your portfolio easy to scan.
How To Create an Online UX Portfolio
An online UX portfolio is a dynamic version of your portfolio available on a webpage. Here’s how you can go about putting together an online UX portfolio that recruiters will love.
Begin With the Homepage
Every great interaction begins with an introduction. In the case of your UX portfolio, that introduction is the homepage. This page needs to quickly give recruiters an idea of who you are and why you’re suitable to be hired as a UX designer.
There are a few key pieces of information that you need to cover here.
Name and Contact Information
This is the most basic descriptor of who you are and how recruiters can reach out to you if they like your work. Make sure to mention your name at the top of the webpage and have your email ID and phone number easily available for recruiters to contact you. If your online portfolio is on your own website, then you could put the contact details on a separate contact page for easy access.
These are both pieces of information that will be included in your resume, but it helps to briefly include your education history in your portfolio.
List the college(s) you graduated from and coursework that you took that’s relevant to the UX field if you’re early in your career. You can throw in details on any UX bootcamps or online courses that you’ve taken. If you’re a more senior designer, then you can stick to showcasing your work and leave out the educational details.
Recruiters will be able to glean your skills from the work that you put on your portfolio but you still need to mention them explicitly in case they don’t catch all the details. List out your skills in your portfolio in areas like wireframing, visual design, UX research, coding, etc.
One way to make this information easy to digest is by grouping your skills into a few categories. Below is a list of categories along with examples of a few skills you can put under each of them.
Technical Skills: Wireframing, prototyping, interaction design, information architecture
UX Design Tools: Balsamiq, Webflow, Invision Studio, Sketch
Soft Skills: Collaboration, communication, flexibility
The ‘About Me’ section of your portfolio is an opportunity to put all the basic information on your homepage in the context of your goals as a UX designer. This is where you convey your passion for the field and tell the story of how you got into UX and became skilled at it.
Answer the following questions when giving recruiters context through your ‘About me’ page.
How Did You Get Into UX?
Create an origin story that gives a compelling argument for why you’re interested in UX design and how you went about acquiring skills in the field.
What Are Your Passions?
Talk about the specific aspects of UX design that you enjoy and the disciplines within the field that you’ve pursued. For example, you may want to describe why you enjoy interaction design and the work that you’ve done in that area.
What Makes You Unique?
Design is a field where your personality and interests can enrich the work that you do. Talk about what you bring to the table that is unique to you or is a strong part of who you are. That could include things like the designers you look up to, your style, and even seemingly extraneous details like the kind of movies you enjoy or hobbies that you have.
Add Your Best UX Projects
Now it’s time to showcase the best UX projects that you’ve worked on, the emphasis being on ‘best.’ You might have a lot of projects to show, but you really want to include one of the most impressive ones, depending on the quality and the kind of UX job that you’re applying to. As we saw earlier, recruiters give portfolios three minutes or less. You need to make an impression quickly with UX design pieces that really stand out.
Always include large, high-resolution images of all your work. Since this is an online portfolio, you can spice things up with videos. GIFs are also a great format to use to show interaction design and app interfaces.
You should accompany pictures and videos of your UX design work with additional context. Here’s what you should include.
This is where you cover the basics of the project. Talk about the purpose of the project, the brief you were given, and your role in the team. Finally, include a link to the website or app where that work is published.
This is perhaps the most important section because it shows how you go from interpreting a brief to creating results-driven designs. Go over things like the research you carried out, ideation, wireframing, and design iterations. You can include screenshots of how the work evolved at every stage of the process for added impact.
Create Intuitive Navigation
Since you’re creating an online portfolio, people are not going to scroll through it page by page. They may need to dart around between different sections, so focus on making the navigation simple to use.
Start by giving the menu items the appropriate names. Have separate ‘About Me,’ ‘Portfolio,’ ‘Resume,’ and ‘Contact’ pages. Within your portfolio, follow the same format for different projects where you list out the overview, screenshots, and details of your approach one after the other.
Close With Learnings
To cap off the portfolio section, talk about your learnings from each project. Talk about how you applied your skills to solve a particular problem, the obstacles you ran into, and the ideas that came to you during different stages of the project.
How To Create an Offline UX Portfolio
An offline UX portfolio is a static document showcasing your projects, usually in PDF format. A lot of the information that you would mention in an offline portfolio is the same as you would in an online one, so stick to those pointers. The only thing that will change in this case is how you present that information.
Here’s the format you should follow while putting together your offline UX portfolio.
The cover page is where you introduce yourself. Start by writing your name and then your contact information. Include links to your LinkedIn and online portfolio on sites like Behance or Dribbble.
Follow that up with your educational background if you’re an entry-level UX designer. When talking about your education, include classes that you’ve taken that are relevant to the UX job that you’re applying to.
This is where you go into a little more detail about your background in UX design. Lead with a few sentences about why you’re passionate about the field and the areas that you’re most interested in. Follow that up by listing your skills in the same way as you would in an online portfolio, which is by categorizing them under technical skills, tools, and soft skills.
Since you’re sharing an offline portfolio, you can use this page to convey to recruiters that the information in the document needs to remain confidential. You can also state that they can reach out for any information that’s masked in the PDF.
UX Case Studies and Projects
Make sure that you list only the best projects that are most relevant to the job that you’re applying to. Talk about your process and the problems you solved through your designs in the same way that you would in an online portfolio.
The one limitation, in this case, is that you can’t include videos or GIFs in a PDF document. If required, include high-resolution screenshots from videos in your offline UX portfolio.
There are a few additional things you can include to stand out with your offline design portfolio. That includes:
Any recognitions that you’ve received for your work from companies that you have worked at or design magazines, etc. will look good on your portfolio.
UX design projects are usually research-heavy. Any papers that you have published in journals or presented at conferences can be included in your UX portfolio.
There are now various scholarships available in the field of UX design. We’ve mentioned a few grants dedicated to women in the field here. Listing your scholarships is a sure-shot way to stand out on your UX portfolio.
Keep It Concise
The rules of good copywriting come into play when you’re creating your UX portfolio. You want to lay a real emphasis on brevity for any text that goes in the document. Always mention only the information that is relevant to the job that you’re applying to. If you find that you’re writing walls of text, format them into lists and categories wherever possible.
Make It Visually Appealing
Because you’re a UX designer, you’re going to be judged on how you design your portfolio. So choose fonts, colors, and layouts with the same care that you would in a professional project. Use only as many font styles as necessary and ensure that the color scheme is consistent across pages. Most of all, make sure that the content is easy to consume and is laid out logically.
UX Portfolio Tips
We’ve covered a lot of the best practices that go into creating an impactful UX portfolio. Let’s condense some of that information into the most important things you should keep in mind when putting together your portfolio.
See It From the Recruiter’s Perspective
In this case, your user is a recruiter and your portfolio is a product that you’re creating for them. Eventually, you need to see the portfolio from a recruiter’s eyes and fill in the gaps that emerge from that vantage point.
So what are recruiters looking for? When it comes to the portfolio, they want you to display a variety of projects and talk about the process that you used to create your designs.
Another important aspect of optimizing your portfolio for recruiters is making it readable and easy to scan. Recruiters don’t have a lot of time, so organize and articulate all of the information in a way that’s easy to quickly consume.
Tailor It for the Role
Are you applying for an information architect role? In that case, you need to showcase projects where you’ve charted user journeys, executed content audits, and created information architectures. The work that you’ve done as a graphic designer won’t help a lot on such a portfolio.
Tailoring your portfolio for the job that you’re applying to does two very important things. First, it shows that you’ve got the experience and skills for the exact role that recruiters are hiring for. Secondly, it shows recruiters that you understand the nuances of the job, which recruiters value in candidates.
Choose Projects Wisely
It can be tough to whittle your oeuvre down into a few projects but it’s something that must be done. You have to curate your work so that recruiters only see the best projects and have enough time to go over your entire portfolio.
A good way to find your best projects is to ask yourself which ones you’re most proud of and which ones you would want to create the same way if given another chance. The projects that come out of that process are your strongest ones and should make it onto your portfolio.
Lay Out Your Process Succinctly
It is possible to talk about the design process in excruciating detail but that’s not what you want to do in your UX portfolio. Give recruiters an insight into your design thinking using bite-sized paragraphs and quick bullet points.
Another way to make the process talk more palatable is by outlining the story behind each project. What were the problems you were trying to solve? How did you come up with your ideas and how did you execute them? These stories can elevate your project section.
UX Portfolio Examples
We’ve talked a lot about UX portfolios but let’s take a look at a few examples and see what we can learn from them.
This UX portfolio is noteworthy for the level of detail that it goes into describing the design process. Each project’s visuals are accompanied by details about defining requirements, user research, iterative prototypes, and final results. These descriptions are a clear demonstration of her level of expertise in the field of UX design.
The only thing that one might change about the portfolio in the job application context is making it less verbose. The project details are long and heavy on detail. That can be made shorter for a recruiter who doesn’t have a lot of time to read all of it.
Source: Aurora Shao
What immediately stands out about this portfolio is the striking visuals. Each project uses different design elements, but they are all listed on the homepage using a coherent design language. The projects are tagged based on their goals, like “rebranding” and “responsive website,” which is a nice touch.
Another big win on this portfolio is the ‘About’ page. It tells the story of how the designer went on an urban planning studio trip and came away with an appreciation for how UX design can have a social impact. That’s the kind of unique framing that can instantly have an impact on recruiters.
Source: James Mitchell
Here we see the UX portfolio of a designer who’s in a more early stage of their career. The portfolio does a good job of quickly listing all of the projects this designer has worked on. That said, the portfolio is not easy to navigate. The navigation menu is missing and the portfolio lacks an ‘About Me’ section to establish some context.
The details of the projects are succinct. It’s easy to scan the brief of each project and the resulting solution. However, the visuals accompanying those details are not high-resolution or large enough. It’s important to use quality pictures that show off your designs in your UX portfolio.
To summarize, here are a few things we’ve learned from looking at real-world UX portfolios:
- Provide an insight into your design process without being too wordy.
- Use high-quality images and a coherent design language in your portfolio so that recruiters can fully appreciate the work that you’ve created.
- Use good storytelling to your advantage. Talk about your personal journey in the world of UX and what inspires your work.
- Make your portfolio easy to navigate and put the appropriate content in each section.
UX Design Portfolio FAQs
How Do You Present a UX Portfolio?
You can present your UX portfolio in either online or offline form. Choose the online version for a more dynamic multimedia version. Offline portfolios are easier to customize based on the job that you’re applying to since you can fire off individual PDFs to each recruiter. You might not have the same flexibility with a portfolio website.
That said, always have both ready to go when you’re job hunting. Have the best version of your portfolio on your website. And whenever recruiters require it, send them an offline portfolio in the form of a PDF that you’ve tailored to the job.
Do UX Designers Need To Code?
UX design is a broad field and not all UX designers need to code. You can work on things like UX research and interaction design without actually coding elements. That said, there are UX designers who code and it can be a useful skill to have if you’re working on things like product design.
Is UX Design a Good Career?
Yes, UX design is a good career choice if you enjoy results-driven design backed by research. It is also a field in high demand. LinkedIn ranked it as one of the most in-demand skills of 2020 and it is projected to grow by 18% in the decade between 2015 and 2025.
Should You Include a Resume in Your UX Portfolio?
You don’t need to include your full resume in your UX portfolio. Instead, simply link to your resume so that recruiters who want to take a look can access it separately.
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