How to build your very first UX portfolio
One year ago I started supporting the design recruitment team at Mercedes-Benz. After screening dozens of portfolios and interviewing several designers, these are the tips I shared with my mentees in the Women in Tech Global Movement.
1. Plan ahead and pick the right tools
You are a UX designer, so you should have a good digital portfolio. You don’t need to overcomplicate it. Research which tool best fits your needs, streamlines your portfolio development and allows others to easily access and experience your work. I recommend Carbonmade — it’s low maintenance, easy to use and comes with pre-made modules which you can personalise.
Define which projects you want to have in your portfolio. Planning it upfront will help you understand how your work fits into your wider portfolio. After that, define the structure, and its storyline. Now you can prepare all the assets and information for each section.
2. Let your work take the center stage
Although it is important to present yourself in your portfolio, make sure your work is also part of your landing page. Highlight just 3 to 5 projects on the front page since most people will not have time to check all your work. Make sure these are the ones that best represent your skills and capabilities.
Visually present your work, make it easy to understand without too much time invested. A picture is worth a thousand words, and you are a designer. Most of the UX deliverables (user journeys, empathy maps, etc.) are visual and allow designers to communicate easily with other roles like developers and stakeholders. Use those deliverables to illustrate your work while leaving the text as side information for the more curious one.
3. Show off your strengths
Don’t describe all your case studies in the same way. Each case study should bring something different; a key skill which you used to solve a problem, a specialist feature which you delivered or maybe some innovative research methods you have applied. If you can bring out a variety of skills it will add multitudes of value to your portfolio.
It is always good to demonstrate you can apply a UX process and that you know the right methods to do it. But, in the real world, you need also to be flexible to adapt to business, time or budget constraints. Tell me what was your contribution in each project instead of describing the perfect UX process by including all the methods and buzzwords of the industry. Show me what was your impact on the project and how you made a difference to the overall picture.
4. Speak for a larger audience
Build your portfolio in a way that is easy to understand by non-designers. Sometimes your portfolio can be scanned by recruiters or other roles that are not so familiar with UX jargon.
Connect the outcome of your projects with the research you did initially. For some people, it would not be clear why you make a specific decision in your work process. Allow the reader to understand what the result was and what is the connection between these two elements without effort. Avoid sentences like “to make it easier for the user” and explain why a specific decision will make it easier for the user and what research supports that decision.
5. Tell me something about yourself
People want to learn more about you and they will appreciate some creativity on your “About” page. Avoid all these fancy sentences like “I enjoy creating user-centric, delightful, and human experiences” because, well, all designers enjoy it.
Nowadays, cultural fit plays a huge role in recruitment. I would rather have a junior designer with a great cultural match in my team, even if I need to invest more time and resources to make that designer proficient.
Tell them something unique about you, that helps them to understand why you will be a good fit for that team. Let your personality shine! Show them who you are as a person.
I hope this article will help you to start your first portfolio (or improve up on your existing one). I would love to hear from you!
Please let me know which of the tips above you consider to be the most useful here, or if you are an experienced UX professional what be your pointers to a junior UX designer in the comments below.
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