I recently updated my UX portfolio. While there are a lot of “examples of portfolios” type articles out there, but most of them showcase the design of a portfolio site, or are a list of someone’s idea of the prettiest looking portfolios.
This is not one of those articles.
“It’s important to have a strong portfolio showcasing the kind of work that you want to be doing. This isn’t hundreds of sketches or half-finished pieces, this is a curated small collection of finished professional work.”
– Brookes Eggleston, Character Design Forge
Let’s talk about portfolios.
Creating Content for Your UX Portfolio
Today, I’m going to focus on the content of your UX portfolio, not the actual design. Because when I’ve hired designers, I’m not looking at the design of their portfolio, I’m looking at the content.
So let’s begin.
Step 1 : Choose Your Projects
For my UX portfolio, I chose 6 projects from the last 3 years. Anything before that, well to be honest I look at my older work and wince. If you’re lucky, you might have more work to showcase, and that’s great.
The important thing to remember here is that you should choose projects that show the work that you are trying to get.
For my portfolio, I try to get a range going : a few apps, a few responsive websites, a wacky projected touch-screen project that I killed myself making for my MA and a few side projects… Because I want to work on digital products but I also have an interest in experimental stuff too you guys.
It all counts.
If you are stuck in a toxic environment and you have been creating facebook banners and email marketing for 3 years, I feel for you, but don’t let this hold you back. Start a side project, take on a freelance side-hustle, redesign an existing website, or take an online course and showcase the course work.
Step 2 : Get the Material
Here’s something I wish someone had told me about years ago: take photos of everything. For each stage of the UX process – make sure you have some kind of evidence that it happened. Whiteboards with solutions, user testing sessions, user flow diagram or customer journey mapping – take a photo of your phone and keep it in a folder on your own computer. You can thank me later.
Also, round up your wireframes, sketches, and anything else you delivered, such as a style guide. You can frame them in an interesting way, like superimpose them onto the device you are designing for, or taking a photo of them on your laptop. This sort of approach would make things more interesting than just uploading an assortment of exported jpgs.
Step 3: Write about the Process
Now for the tough part – your analysis. What happened in the project, went well in the project, and what didn’t go so well.
What were the trade-offs that you made? How did you solve a particular problem?
For each project I work on, I keep a ‘Project Diary’. It’s not a daily entry thing, just a Google Document with some high-level notes about a project. That way, when I’m writing about the process 6 months later, I’ll have some notes ready to go.
Here are some links that might help inspire you to write great content.
The goal here is to tell the story. What did you have at the beginning of the project – was it a redesign? Or did you have a list of product requirements?
Show what you contributed to the project. What were the goals set out by the business and how did you address them?
I find it easier to arrange everything into groups that will eventually form the design process. Here are a few samples of the headings I use:
- Initial Product Research and Analysis
- Wireframing, Technical Feasibility and Early User Testing
- High Fidelity Prototype and User Testing
- Delivery and Developer Hand-Over
Step 4 : Choose Your Assets
Select the images to support what you’re writing about. No one is going to scroll through hundreds of wireframes if you’re just recklessly throwing them in. Put them in context. If you have dozens of mobile wireframes, arrange them into a flow diagram to show the interaction between them.
With tools like Principle and Framer it’s possible to export an animated gif of the interaction pattern you have designed. These make really nice embeds that you could use.
If you have a video of the product, that would be an interesting way to showcase the interaction patterns that you used.
Step 5 : Show Testing
In at least 1 project, you should talk about testing. Even if you tested it with your mum, you’re not really a UX designer unless you’ve watched someone try to use your product before launch.
I could write a whole article about why I think testing is the single most important part of the process. I’m just going to say that in my experience, designers who can’t sit through a user testing session are either graphic designers, or they are living in a fantasy land. Watching someone struggle with something you created will keep you humble and grounded, and we are all wrong from time to time.
If you don’t test your designs, you’re not really a UX designer. Carry out testing, and show that you did it. You don’t need to provide videos – just a photo or 2, and explain what you learned from it.
Step 6: Outcomes & Learnings
Tie everything together with a nice conclusion at the end. What did you learn? What would you have changed?
- Did you find something particularly interesting? Write it up!
- Did you have any unexpected problems? What happened, and how did you correct it?
- Did you have the opportunity to collaborate with a team? How did it go?
I’m always cautious about including business outcomes, such as mentioning the conversion rates. In my opinion, it’s better to talk about that in the interview.
Try to get inside the other persons head, and try to honestly evaluate your content to see if there is something that you could improve. While you’re putting together each project, always think:
“If I was a busy manager, would I be interested in reading this?”
“If I was in charge, would I hire this person?”
Keep iterating on it. A mistake I have made in the past is to not update my portfolio for 2 years, and I suddenly can’t remember what happened on a particular project. Keep your UX portfolio up to date if you can.
That’s it! If you have anything else you think I should include, why not hit me up on twitter and let me know. I’d love to hear from you.