What makes a great UX portfolio?
17 April 2022
5 min read
What makes a Great UX Portfolio?
As a design and product specialist recruiter, I come across hundreds of portfolios. Most of them fail to impress hiring managers. As a former designer, it pains me to see talented designers lose out on opportunities because their portfolio doesn’t showcase their strengths or how they have made an impact with a product they have designed. The first thing a recruiter or hiring manager looks at when reviewing a Product Designer is their portfolio. It is the single most important thing – even more important than the resume! Your portfolio should get me excited so that I want to talk to you!
Also, designers should have a separate, more detailed portfolio to share with a recruiter after you get the interview. The steps below are meant to help you create that body of work after getting the interview. Hiring managers get inundated with hundreds of portfolios and don’t have the time to look at a detailed case study. Hence save it for when you do have an interview - that’s when you can really walk them through projects where you have made the most impact. Bottom line: If the portfolio doesn’t tell the story, it’s a real deal breaker! Your portfolio is a tool, know how to use it.
Design for the job that you want. If you are focused on UI or Visual Design, let your portfolio communicate that. If you’re frontend-focused, display your coding skills on your website. If you are UX-focused, emphasize case studies and user stories.
Set yourself apart. About 80% of the portfolios that I come across are a bunch of screenshots thrown together on a Behance or Dribble site. They have a cookie cutter approach that does not highlight the designer’s specific abilities, personality or style. Ultimately, these portfolios don’t inspire a hiring manager to invite the candidate for an interview.
Start with the story. Select a project that allows you to tell a well-rounded narrative. How did you move the project from idea to execution? Before you touch any pixels, write out each project like a case study. It doesn’t need to be a dissertation with dozens of paragraphs. Golden rule to remember: Keep it simple. Hiring managers and recruiters like myself want to scan a portfolio and see the beginning, middle and end of a body of work. Some of the things hiring managers are looking for – do you have raw hand concept sketches, wireframes, and end-state UI?
Be sure to:
- Highlight your role (Were you the only designer? Who was in your team?)
- What was the challenge you were solving for?
- Did you leverage research or data?
- Which solutions did you explore?
- What made you choose the delivered solutions?
- How did you validate the solution? (user testing? experiments?)
Here is a great example portfolio from a product designer: https://michelvanheest.com/paste-by-wetransfer.
Another great resource to see how showcases are done www.uxfol.io, but keep in mind that there is no need to go to this level of depth for a portfolio. This just illustrates how to use the tool correctly.
Find your inspiration. Work smarter, not harder. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Study the work of designers you admire. What are some of the companies you would like to work at? Look at how their product designers are showcasing their body of work.
Here are some well curated portfolios:
Seeing the work of others is a great way to getting your creative juices flowing!
Stay up to date. Too many designers don’t have updated portfolios. Remember that a hiring manager will go to your portfolio first!
If you’re putting off updates, and you would like to start job hunting, it can be daunting. To make it more manageable, start with the most recent project that you are most proud of, and work backward. Set a reminder on your phone to update your portfolio every 6 months. (*Note that this may not apply to a seasoned designer with 10+ years of industry experience.)
Showcase your best work. Many designers can’t openly share their best work because of a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA). They can only talk through a case study during an interview. A great way to work around this obstacle is to password-protect this kind of work to limit who can see what.
Share it. If you’re early in your design career, show more. Make your portfolio accessible. Share it on as many platforms as possible so people can find you! When you are more established, you can share less.
Always save your files! It’s become much easier now, with tools like Figma that auto sync all the time. But whichever platform you are working on, always save your files! Not everyone reading this will be working on Figma.
- Design for the job you want
- Set yourself apart
- Start with the story
- Find your inspiration
- Stay up to date
- Showcase your best work
- Share it
- Save your files!
Bonus tip: Don’t be afraid to use your portfolio to share some of your other interests (such as music, photography or anything that excites you). It gives a glimpse into you as a well-rounded person and it’s a wonderful opportunity for your personality to shine through. Here’s a great example: https://tonioalucema.com/Vanilla
Finally, your portfolio represents you to the hiring manager. Remember to keep it simple and follow these tips to be sure your portfolio shines!
For more inspiration, and further reading check out this article: https://bootcamp.uxdesign.cc/10-ux-ui-design-portfolios-that-will-inspire-you-f0e6fc6aa570
For more insight and tips on crafting an effective UX design portfolio, watch this video by Kelly Stevens, who shares her top tips for design portfolios: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dKzMVeu9rpg&t=57s
By Amreen Rahman, Senior Recruiter at Halian
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