Building a winning UX / UI portfolio
Building a strong UX/UI portfolio can be overwhelming. But when done well, it should convey your brand, your personality, your areas of expertise, how you approach projects, and how you work with others. These are important pieces of information for potential employers or clients who want to see how you will fit in with their mission, culture, and clients. We’ve found that by taking a focused step-by-step approach, you can create a UX/UI portfolio that tells a compelling story about what you’ve done and where you want to go. This post will give you tips and tricks on how to do just that.
Start with an introduction
Before building out your portfolio, it’s helpful to spend time thinking through how you want to present yourself to potential clients and employers. What are your values as a professional? What kinds of projects do you enjoy the most, and what kinds of work would you like to do more of? If you’re not sure, think about when you were most engaged in a project. What was it about that enterprise that excited you? What are your professional values and philosophies and did they intersect with your work? As an example, you may be passionate about work that promotes equity and helps underserved populations. Use this information to (a) help craft a short bio for yourself and (b) inform the kinds of projects you include in your portfolio.
It’s also important to prominently display your title and a brief description of what that means in the larger UX/UI process.The world of UX/UI is broad; it encompasses designers, researchers, product designers, and more. While some recruiters may know instantly what you do based on your title, others may think they need a UX researcher when in fact they need a designer! Help guide and educate them by giving an overview of what you do and where that lives in the larger UX process (see below).
Source: Interaction Design Foundation
Curate your projects
Now that you have a clear idea of your professional brand and values as well as what kind of roles you want, you can use this information to select projects for your portfolio. Take inventory of all the projects you’ve worked on over the past three to four years and ultimately narrow them down to three to five. Here are a few questions to help narrow down the possibilities:
- What kind of job are you looking for?
- Can I tell a compelling story about this project?
- Is quality the priority?
Craft a compelling project description
Once you select your best projects, think through each one and provide an explanation of your role, the process, what you learned, and how you thought through your decisions. You probably already started doing this during the project selection process, but now is the time to refine the story behind each project. Here is an example of elements to include:
- What was the problem or task?
- What was your role in the project?
- How did you decide on your approach?
- What insights informed your work? How did these inform future iterations?
- Share images of the work in progress to talk through your changes
- What was the final product?
As a general rule, keep your prose jargon free. Your portfolio should be easy to understand for a general business audience.
Pick your portfolio format
As a designer, you know that content and messaging inform design. Many people have digital portfolios either on a personal website or free platform, which can easily be shared through social networks. Websites can also be useful since you can add another layer of branding by picking a personalized URL. Plus, you can easily make updates and publish them in real time. PDF portfolios, however, give you the flexibility to create different versions of your portfolio depending on the type of job you are applying for. Just be sure you don’t send an out-of-date version!
Once you’ve built your portfolio, be sure to share it with a few trusted mentors and colleagues to get their feedback. You can ask for their general impressions or ask them to pay particular attention to certain areas. Once you’ve incorporated their comments—now it’s time to share your work and get hired!
Of course, it’s always difficult to design something with yourself in mind. And you may be tempted to delay building your portfolio until you want a new job. Or assume that a resume is all you’ll need. But we recommend being proactive. Designing and creating a portfolio takes time, especially one that provides more detail and context to what is on your resume. So give yourself the space you need to build a professional portfolio before you need it. Your future self will thank you!