Everybody and their uncle knows that UX design is having a bit of a moment right now. As job opportunities in the industry are on the rise, so are the number of people enrolling into UX courses and wanting a piece of the action.
With the competition for UX roles getting hotter everyday, your portfolio is a key way to stand out to prospective clients and employers. Luckily for you, we've studied more than 500 stellar portfolios to extract the most valuable insights so you won't have to.
Here are our top tips for creating a UX design portfolio that's hard to ignore.
This might sound like a cheesy pick up line, but it's really the best way to humanise yourself to a hiring manager who's just skimmed through 50 other portfolios.
As a UX designer, it can be tempting to focus too much on the aesthetic value of your portfolio. While it's important for your visuals to be on point, it's even more important to tell an engaging story about each project. The key here is to show the reader how you approach challenges.
Abdus Salam's portfolio is a fantastic example of this. While describing his work with TV Guide, he carefully guides the reader through every step of his experience, including anecdotes about how tackled any new discoveries in the process.
For each project in your portfolio, try describing the following:
Ultimately, this should help the reader get an insight into how your mind works and your overall workflow. Think of it as a movie - develop a full fledged plot for each project. Outline the challenges, the key conflicts, your discovery phases and the ultimate conclusion.
If you're not the best writer, you can employ the STAR method of storytelling to showcase your journey to structure your work.
Think extensively about who would be looking at your portfolio. Consider these two scenarios as an example:
a) You're applying for roles within design agencies. You can expect the audience for your portfolio to be quite technically adept when it comes to UX design. They might prefer your portfolio to focus on your technical skills and would be able to digest any design-related jargon.
b) You're applying to be a UX designer within a small to medium sized business. Here, you can mostly likely expect your audience to be a recruiter or hiring specialist. There's a chance they might have little to no knowledge of UX design as a vocation. In this case, they might be more responsive to a portfolio that is able to break down complex design concepts into simple, anecdotal stories.
Additionally, you should also consider the industries within which you're applying. Think about this: As a food services startup, who would you be more likely to hire?:
a) A UX designer with experience across a multitude of medium sized businesses.
b) A UX designer who's worked with a range of startups, including one in the hospitality industry.
Option B would be right.
Whether it's hiring managers, CEOs, design professionals or recruiters, your portfolio needs to be targeted and customised to suit its audience. Same with industries, think about who you're hoping to work for and carve out the personas and use cases you're targeting. Based on this, refine the projects you want to showcase in your portfolio and keep them as relevant to your target audience as possible.
You might be wondering - what if you have multiple target personas or use cases? Or what if you're a beginner with no preferences at all? We have a tip for you...
This might go against every single portfolio guide you've ever read, but it's a crucial hack, especially for UX designers who are just starting out in the field.
As a beginner, you're most likely in an exploratory stage of your career. At this point, it's difficult to own a specific niche as you probably haven't developed a deep expertise in any.
When the personas you're targeting are so broad and could contain any industry, a single one-size-fits-all portfolio can be too generic.
In order to combat this, creating multiple portfolios that target a few different personas can help you stand out above the crowd. This will help you cater to the wide variety of people who might be assessing your portfolio and establish you as a specialist no matter what industry you're applying in.
Your portfolio is ultimately a selling tool. Your messaging needs to be different depending on who you're selling to - whether it's an HR professional within a SaaS company or a Design Lead within a digital agency. The two audiences are not likely to respond in similar ways to the same portfolio - so produce two different landing pages to target them differently.
This might seem time consuming, but there are tools out there that can help you get a stunning portfolio landing page up and running in less than 30 minutes. You can even use beautiful templates to fasten the process and customise them with HTML, CSS or your own designs as needed. Jump into the Paperform editor to see how easy it can be.
Almost every marketing medium is rapidly adopting videos, and with reason. Internet video traffic accounts for 80% of all consumer internet traffic.
There's even more of a reason to use videos in your UX design portfolio. Since UX is an inherently visual field, using videos and movement can allow you to take users through your work as intended.
Apart from product demonstration videos, you can also use videos to showcase your personality by having an introductory video in your portfolio that lets your audience put a face to your name. To showcase your workflow, you could record yourself conducting a user test and interacting with users.
The potential to engage with videos is so much higher, especially considering most recruiters only spend around 30-60 seconds viewing a portfolio. By embedding a video in your portfolio, you can convey more with less time and ensure that those 30 seconds are as memorable as possible.
An unsolicited redesign is when a UX designer chooses to redesign an existing app or website without being asked or paid to. They're a great to include in your portfolio for a multitude of reasons.
If you don't have a panoply of work to display in your portfolio, unsolicited redesigns are the perfect way to showcase your skills and passion for your craft. Choose a small business that interests you and redesign the UX for their app or website. It'll give prospective employers insight into your skillset and add some meat to your portfolio.
Pro tip: If there's a company you really want to work for, you should consider doing an unsolicited redesign for one of their products, apps or website. It's a great way to show them what they're missing out on by not having you on their team.
There's still some value in doing unsolicited redesigns once you're further advanced in your career. Being candid - there aren't as many. However, they can be a great way to show that you work in the field due to a sheer appetite for creating better user experiences.
You test all your designs, so why not test your portfolio too? Testing your portfolio on different people can help you find any potential issues early on and allow you to see it from a different perspective.
Try to test it on people who might be similar to your target audience. A quick way to test your portfolio is by sharing a feedback survey on Facebook groups like The Give Good UX Company of Friends or a Slack community like Designer Hangout.
The great thing about these communities is that they exist for this very reason - for UX designers to discuss best practices and provide a friendly space for feedback and advice.
And there you have it. Creating a UX portfolio may seem daunting, but as long as you remain authentic in your messaging, it will resonate with your audience. Above all, make sure you explain your workflow with clarity, let your personality shine and remember the reason you're doing it all in the first place.
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