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In a market that has shown tremendous growth over the past few years and isn’t showing any signs of slowing down soon, UX Designers really need to be best prepared to help land that dream job they’ve always been looking out for.
Let’s face it, a demand for more UX Designers also means an increase in competition out there, as more and more people look to move into the field. One of the most important, if not the most important ways of differentiating yourself from the competition is to have a killer design portfolio that showcases your experience and some examples of your work.
Having recruited Designers for the past 3 years in Dubai and spoken to a number of hiring managers around the world, I thought best to write this blog which I really think will help Designers impress in order to get them through the door to interview stage.
Here’s a quick overview of what I’ll be going through: -
- How to present your portfolio
- How to structure your case studies
- What type of platforms you can use
- What you need to do before putting your portfolio live
How to present your UX Portfolio
Firstly, we all know design is a very subjective topic. What looks good to me, might not look good to someone else. What I like in a portfolio, someone else might not like. However, after working with a number of Design Leaders out there, there seems to be a general consensus of what makes a good UX portfolio website which they all tend to agree on.
- Design portfolios should be clean.
- They should demonstrate your passion
- They should be brief. This doesn’t mean don’t include much content in your projects, it just means be concise and not long-winded.
- Each project you include should be well structured and should tell a story of what challenge you were working on. How did you manage to come to the solution you’re presenting? And what the final outcome and / or results that were achieved if possible.
They should showcase enough to get you to interview stage... You want to entice the hiring manager to find out more. You’ll need to be prepared with some other projects that you can walk through once you’re in the door.
Your portfolio should give an overview about you as a person, and not just your experience. Think of it as an extension to your CV, but a chance to go into a lot more detail about the real you. What kind of interests do you have? What do you like working on in your spare time? Do you like attending industry events? Talks? Write blogs? Be sure to try mention as much as you can to really get across your passion for Design. Do try to keep it relevant though, Hiring Managers aren’t particularly interested to see if you have 2 dogs, 3 cats or 5 hamsters at home and that won’t really to help you secure any interviews.
How to structure your UX Case Studies
Depending on the amount of experience you have, the number of projects your portfolio will include will differ. For a more seasoned UX Designer, your portfolio should include about 3-5 previous projects you’ve worked on. For Junior Designers, 1-2 projects should suffice. It’s understandable that juniors might not have as much work examples to show case. What Hiring Managers are looking for with juniors is much more about passion and potential, not so much previous experience.
As mentioned before, your UX work should be clear and concise case studies about projects you’ve previously worked on and they should always showcase your best work. At the end of the day, you’re trying to sell yourself and your work here so why wouldn’t you want it to be the best you’ve got?
Here’s some info on what these projects should contain -
- Define the problem you dealt with
- Discuss the process you went through in order to solve the problem (Discovery phases).
- Define what tools you worked with
- The final outcome and any results you can include (highlight the impact you had on the business not just final screens. Quantifiable results like statistics and data are so powerful and many designers forget to mention the business impact their design had on a product.)
It’s optional, because this can always be discussed at interview, but you can also include what you managed to learn and take away after completing the project. Perhaps things you found difficult and how you managed to overcome those difficulties as well. I know some hiring managers who really like to know what you managed to achieve in terms of personal growth and maturity.
In any case, you really need to include some evidence about the process and work you went through as well. Include images where and when you can, show how you got from start to finish, not just what the final outcome was at the end of the delivery. Andy Budd, a very well-established leader in the UK Design Community puts it perfectly when he says “‘You get half your points getting the right answer, the other half from showing your workings to prove you understood what you were doing.”
If you’re dealing with NDAs, it can be quite tricky. A couple of suggestions is to focus on process images and black and white wireframes rather than the finished project. Alternatively, blur out any material that can disclose who the client is or even password protect your work to at least try to manage who is actually viewing it. Definitely a catch 22 though as I’m sure you’d want to see some evidence of someone’s work before you hired them too, right?
No, I’m not referring to myself here. This is the part in your portfolio where you have a short intro which is vital to your portfolio. Here’s why and a few things you can include: -
- How you got started in UX Design
- Your education... If you have a degree or completed any design related courses
- Where you’re located and a bit about your interests
- Links to any social-related supporting material you have (LinkedIn/medium/behance etc.)
- Your contact details!!!
All of the above can really help to give great insight and get your passion for UX across… And the contact details for obvious reasons. Imagine going through all the effort of designing a killer portfolio but not being easily contactable. (You’d actually be surprised about how many people forget this!)
What type of platform to use?
Personally, I really believe that having your own website is definitely the way forward with this one. Especially if it’s easy to remember and easily recognizable. The most common and perhaps safest way to go is just to use yourname.com however, some people want to be a little more creative with the name which is their prerogative.
If you want something a bit easier simpler, there are loads of different platforms out there which you can choose from. Here they have some really good templates and different features you can add into your portfolio. The one’s I would recommend are
All of these are pretty straight forward to use and can definitely do the job. By all means, you can use other popular platforms to show case your work too, for example, the two most common are Behance and Dribbble. I personally believe though (and a lot of the hiring managers I’ve worked with) that these platforms should only really be used as supporting material for an actual portfolio.
Another popular format of a portfolio is PDF. Really and truly I think PDFs are great because they definitely serve a purpose. PDFs can be changed a lot more often and require a lot less effort to change. This really helps when if you want to change your portfolio based on the specific type of job or company you’re applying to. However, I don’t think there is a question between if you should use one or the other. Having a website allows you to build a brand around yourself and is far more easily accessible
compared to a PDF. I personally think a Designer should have both when applying for a job. A website with a few class case studies in order to attract attention and be contacted about jobs, and when really interested in the position, they can then send over a PDF which is a little more tailored to that company they’re applying for. Alternatively, use the PDF doc as a presentation deck to go through some of the work during the interview once you’ve managed to secure it.
The way your portfolio is presented is essentially a reflection on you and your work. If your portfolio represents you and it’s all over the place, the hiring manager might think you’re a bit all over the place too. It’s very easy to open up a portfolio and although the content of the work is good you get turned off by how it looks or things not quite being right. Even if you’re a UX Designer with absolutely no interest in graphic or visual design, your portfolio looking appealing and being easy to navigate is a must. Here are a few things you need to ensure it is: -
- Pay attention to color palette & font – Everything needs to be easily visible and consistent across the site. From the typography down to the spacing.
- Ensure all the images you’re using are clear across the site. Fuzzy or blurry images won’t reflect that well
- Triple check to make sure there aren’t a load of typos or mis-spelt words
- Make sure all the links / CTAs you have on there are working. There’s nothing more off- putting on a portfolio then when you’re trying to click onto / into things that don’t work.
- Make the content skimmable. It needs to be clearly presented so that someone who’s looking at your page can get a clear idea of what you’re talking about within 30-60 seconds. Use bullet points, make sure important information or titles stand out, be concise with your paragraphs
- Make the website responsive. You need to think that not all hiring managers will be reviewing portfolios from their desktop / laptop. If we’re talking UX here and you don’t have a responsive website, what impression will you be giving to the hiring manager?
On average, a hiring manager will spend less than a minute on a website before they decide if they want to dive in deeper or pass on a candidate. Recruiters will sometimes spend even less. That’s why it’s imperative to make sure all the content is relevant, consistent and appealing.
I’ve spoken to some amazing Designers who have been guilty of this, but don’t leave it 2-3 years before updating your portfolio, even if you aren’t actively looking for a new role or haven’t changed job. You never know when a recruiter like me is going to pop into your inbox with an amazing opportunity or when the time does come that you starting to look elsewhere, you will then have the tedious task of having to pretty much start updating your portfolio from scratch.
Again, your portfolio is a reflection of you as a Designer. You don’t want people to see your old / out-of-date work, do you? You want to ensure you come across in the best light possible and following the above steps to create a badass portfolio will definitely help secure that interview.
The rest is up to you!