How to Create a Great UX Design Portfolio

Lizette Spangenberg, Practice Lead: UX & UI Design at DVT.

Designers design things. Law? It’s in the name: designer-er. And best of all, we’re UX designers. Experiment with designers. We create experiences. So why on earth wouldn’t you want to design and create your resume and portfolio experience? These are the first things employers or potential clients see about you. And if this is an uninspiring or confusing experience, why would they trust you to create experiences for them or their customers?

Why do i need a wallet?

Wallets can be used for different purposes. First, to find you a job, and second, it could be used to sell your skills to potential clients if you are working as a consultant or an entrepreneur.

The good news: You don’t need a formal degree to be a UX designer (if you need the resources to learn UX things, I wrote an article about it). You just need an awesome portfolio and show that you know what you’re doing. So I will present mine to you as a case study. Don’t get me wrong, I’m by no means saying mine is perfect, but it * got * hired a few times.

I’m writing this not only from the perspective of a seasoned UX designer myself, but also as someone who has been on the other side of the hiring process reviewing hundreds of portfolios.

So where do we start?

The cover page, you say? Wait a second. Remember, we don’t just design your portfolio, we design the * experience * of your portfolio. And the first thing people will likely feel about your portfolio is the email you send and the link you give to your portfolio. Yes, I know that in this day and age there are a myriad of different ways for people to connect with you, but bear with me, I can’t cover every possible scenario. Maybe you were wanted and they asked you to apply, or maybe you are applying on your own.

Either way, you should introduce yourself, give a brief overview of yourself, and explain why you are applying for that specific position at that specific company. Personalize your message to the company and even include something about the job you’ve seen. You would be surprised how many people apply for jobs without even being 100% sure what the company is doing. It instantly makes you seem a little hopeless and lazy.

Small note: do not start your email with “Hello, my name is Liz and I would like to apply for an XYZ job…”. It will probably be automatically flagged as spam (because so many spam / phishing emails start with “Hello, my name is X and I would like to give you some money”) and your email will probably never be seen. I actually tested this theory, and it went straight in the trash.

Now that you’ve introduced yourself, make way for the portfolio!

There are different ways to view portfolios. You can create online storefronts on Behance or Dribbble, create your own website on Wix or WordPress, or use an old-fashioned pdf. This list is by no means exhaustive; there are many other platforms that you can use. Use whatever works best for you.

My portfolio is a pdf with embedded links. While this might not be the most technologically advanced medium, I like having full control over the fonts, layout, and spacing, as well as how they are displayed on a screen. Also, I didn’t have the patience to figure out how to customize WordPress templates.

In the case of a pdf portfolio, remember that the name you give to the file is important. Often, recruiters / hiring managers / anyone can throw multiple portfolios into one folder and then send the link to the person reviewing the portfolios. If your portfolio is called Portfolio_Finalfinal & $ # final.pdf (don’t lie, we’ve all named files at some point), one, I can’t search your portfolio by your name, and two, you immediately have the looks unprofessional. Spangenberg_Liz_Portfolio_Feb_2020.pdf tends to be my format. Last name first for sorting convenience, and date for my own reference.

Let’s look at this cover page.

Name, what wallet it is and contact details. This is my general and condensed portfolio which includes four projects. It’s not all I’ve done (obviously), but it’s enough to give people a sense of what I’m capable of.

I always let people know that I’m happy to send an extended portfolio with more projects, or portfolios in more specialized areas if needed. For example, I also have an app design portfolio and could easily create portfolios for different media (Android / iOS / hybrid / web) or specific industries (fintech / medical / etc) if needed.

Because my portfolio is in pdf format, I want people viewing it to be able to easily see it in its best format (which is full screen). So I added shortcuts for the most commonly used pdf viewers on page 2. This is a small detail, but I received some feedback that I considered the to live portfolio, and not just the content of it.

What to put in your wallet?

The first thing I look for in a portfolio is HOW DO YOU THINK.

  • What was the brief or the problem you were trying to solve?
  • How did you approach it?
  • What methodologies did you use?
  • How did you solve it?
  • If possible, what were the results of the project; that is, did it increase sales by 5,000% or save 200 baby penguins?

Because of this focus on process and reflection, I find it essential to present HOW I work and devote an entire page to it.

The design of the experience is about your way of thinking and approaching problems. There is no one-size-fits-all, step-by-step process for solving the kind of issues we need to solve for customers. So it is essential for me to show the different types of methodologies that I am comfortable using to approach problems and briefs. It lets clients know that I am versatile, can think on my feet, and have used different strategies that have worked for previous clients.

I put a PARCEL of time and effort in this page. While project pages can be flashier, most projects are generally team projects. I was the team leader on most of these projects, but I can’t take all the credit for how they turned out. I have been fortunate enough to work with some awesome developers and designers to create these solutions. My process and my approach to projects are mine and what sets me apart. I find it essential to show this because I’m going to bring it to whatever I’m working on.

Now for the fun part: getting into the real projects.

I implemented a layout template for my project pages to make it easier for me to focus on the content rather than redesigning each page. The consistency of the layout also makes it easier for people to browse the content.

The first project in my portfolio is (in my opinion) the strongest: you want to start with a bang. I did a case study on this project which I presented at the UX South Africa conference in 2018, so this is also the project that I analyze in more detail.

I’m showing a few different screens of the app, an overview of the testing we’ve done, and the fact that this chatbot runs on three different platforms, each requiring a different UX consideration. The full case study of this project is posted on Medium, linked to an interactive button in the pdf (available here if you’re interested).

On the next page, I conduct an in-depth analysis of the different elements of an app screen to explain the process we went through to design the project. Each item has been carefully considered, and I discuss the rationale.

This is the only project I speak of in such detail. While I can perform this level of analysis for every project, it’s unlikely that a potential employer will read four different in-depth analyzes. I still have justifications for each project after that, but I keep it on a higher level.

Next comes one of the most recent projects I had worked on at the time of the creation of the portfolio (July 2019): a concept design for a client of a web-based dashboard. It integrates different modules which makes it a very flexible design. Rationale and responsibilities on the left of the page, and a few pages to show the outcome of the project.

This web-based marketplace concept was very interesting to work with as there were two main types of site users, and both had to be represented equally on the landing page.

Finally: a project for which I wrote the CSS and parts of the HTML, which makes it unique, and a significant part of my skills that I want to showcase.

And finally: it never hurts to thank people for taking the time to browse your portfolio.

And that’s it, guys! Hope this case study helps you a bit and you get some further guidance. Look for the next article in this series which will focus on frequently asked questions about UX wallets. Do not hesitate to contact us on twitter if you have other questions.

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Abdul J. Gaspar

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