The world of technology changes fast and graphic design is no different. It needs to adapt to the new needs of the market. Such adaptations include the emergence of UX design, improving creative industries and making even more complex the work of designers. That’s why when creating a UX portfolio you need several elements to show your abilities… and to give you a hint, a resume is not enough today.
Why do I need a portfolio? What can I show if I have little experience in the UX design field? Don’t worry. These questions have solutions and we’ll give you the best tips to create a successful portfolio and start a career in UX design quickly.
In plain English, what is a UX portfolio?
A UX portfolio is the summary of your projects, and it is useful for showing your expertise. Nowadays, you can do it in digital format through a website. Just remember to show your best work with personality and professionalism, and regardless of the format of your portfolio, make sure to highlight the following aspects:
- Who were your clients? If you worked for an organization; highlight them. Key: If it is confidential, you can only show your work if you have explicit permission.
- Who were your final users? UX professionals work for satisfying market needs, and showing how your users benefited from your work is a must.
- How would you summarize your UX experience? You should know the objectives and results of every project. In fact, without a doubt, showing the results is the most important part of your portfolio. It will show that you bring results to companies and that’s what most business people care after all.
Now that you have some background and ideas about how to build your portfolio, we’ll go deeper and show you specific tips and tricks to make a portfolio that brings results.
1. Reflect on who you are addressing
Decide who your portfolio is aimed at. Is it for a position in a corporate environment? Is it for an agency? What is the style they use? Depending on your answer, you must customize your portfolio. You can adjust, for instance, the tone of text and images or the medium you use to match your client’s needs.
In other words, customize your portfolio to every client. They have different needs and requirements. To illustrate this, hiring managers of a financial institution will ask for a different design than a tech start-up, and you need to choose your project wisely to match the style they are expecting according to their industry.
In addition, professionals evaluating design portfolios, and even people who simply stumble across your portfolio online need to understand the context of the project. So, your portfolio should respond to the following questions:
- Who was your customer, the organization or the industry?
- Was it a team effort or was it individual?
- Who were the final users?
- What problem did you solve?
You can consider many more questions, but your objective is to make your audience understand the project and outcome. Feel free to add a dash of personality, and tell the story about who you are and how you became a UX designer.
As a UX designer, one of the most important things is knowing how to explain your design decisions and tell stories. So it is a good idea to tell your own story about how you got here and why. Also, explain why they should hire you, especially, how you can contribute to your potential clients.
2. Websites to show your portfolio
Normally, creating your own website to show your work is a good strategy. Alternatively, you can use websites specially designed for creative portfolios, and here you have a list to get an idea of where to upload your work:
DeviantArt. It is a website where graphic and audiovisual artists can share their work, interact, participate in contests and show their art to the world. In DeviantArt each designer is able to display their work in a preset gallery, for free or as a premium profile.
If you choose the free version, it allows you to store up to 100 images and you’ll get a subdomain name compatible with most browsers, including those on mobile devices. In the paid version, you’ll be able to customize your domain name and you can upload as many images as you want.
In short, in DeviantArt, any artist regardless of their level has the possibility to exhibit their works and get feedback from other artists.
Dribble. Dribble is a virtual community for designers, and for being part of this community, you only need to register. Here you’ll find inspiration from the work of other artists and you’ll be able to show your creative work as well.
As a social network, you can interact with other users, “comment” or "like" posts to work as a community and get feedback. In the end, it’s a self-promotion tool and your Dribbble account is your portfolio.
By the way, using Dribble you can even get a job. Many companies use Dribble to post their job vacancies or recruit new designers, so it’s a good opportunity to stand out.
Behance. Behance works like Dribble and DeviantArt. After you sign up, you upload your projects and other users can follow you, comment on your projects and “like”.
At the same time, it has social characteristics that make it similar to LinkedIn, but putting visual appeal above everything else, which also makes it similar to Facebook, Pinterest or Tumblr, to name just a few social networks.
Behance also offers the possibility of looking for job offers. There are companies looking for designers to create their website or online business. Therefore, you must always have your account updated and with your best work in order to show the best of artwork.
3. Include case studies
Your potential employers would like to see how you solved specific problems relevant to their industries. As a consequence, showing case studies is also a good idea to demonstrate your capabilities.
This characteristic is what distinguishes expert UX designers from the amateur ones because it relates to specific situations only useful in particular niches. This will make you an expert in your particular industry or niche. In fact, solving real-life problems will position you above your competitors and it will help hiring managers make a decision too.
4. Show your process
A typical mistake of UX designers is to only show the finished product. However, this is not the best strategy.
You can show the whole process because the polished and elegant image does not allow hiring managers to understand your skills and the process or methodology you used. You should include examples, without going into detail, that provide context to help hiring managers understand what the project process was all about.
For this reason, you can take photos and screenshots during the process to show how you work until you arrive at the final product. In other words, you’re showing a behind the scenes process and your potential clients may like to see how you work from the beginning.
5. Good visual design matters
In a portfolio, the visual aspect is important. Delivering well-presented and well-designed UX work to the client is another fundamental aspect of our craft.
So, showing your work with videos, images, animations, infographics, illustrations, etc; will definitely help you stand out. Find out about graphical trends, consult reference web design pages and specialized sources. Think about what target audience you are aiming at and what feelings and values you want to convey with your brand.
This will help you choose colors, shapes and fonts according to your business or personal project. Explore graphic design websites that are attractive and, especially, listen to the recommendations of graphic and web designers.
And remember, a well-structured portfolio, with order and with very good taste will help you give an awesome first impression.
By the way, if you need more ideas for adding visual content to your portfolio, take a look at this article.
6. Customize to your offer
A horrible portfolio includes non-relevant projects to the job offer because hiring managers won’t spend too much time looking at all your material. So, don’t send 200 general projects. Instead, it is better to send 10 relevant projects highly relevant to the business you want to work for.
Some organizations accept the submission of organized PDF documents with specific projects for the job to which you are applying. Other companies, or hiring managers, have fewer flexible requirements and require the portfolio to be digital and available on a website. In this case, it’s harder to organize a specific selection of relevant projects for each job you apply to.
In this case, tell your story, how and why did you become a UX designer? Share some personal peculiarities, hobbies, idiosyncrasies, etc; the idea is creating some engagement and increasing your chances of building empathy. In the end, hiring managers need to see the human side and assess your point of view and your personal perspective.
7. Be honest
Many people when applying to jobs, lie or exaggerate their abilities. But the truth is that employers know when someone is lying, and if they don’t, they will probably notice it later.
Desperation to get a job can lead job seekers to make mistakes such as lying or exaggerating in a job interview. The lies are not sustainable in the long term and a good professional doesn’t need to lie. On the contrary, get abilities for a specific industry of niche, in which you are the perfect candidate. Develop your marketing strategy, and most importantly, take care of your professional brand.
8. Get to the point
If you are a UX designer, you know perfectly well that users don’t like to waste time, the same happens with your employer or clients. So, make navigation and links clear. They should easily navigate through your portfolio.
Many portfolios have confusing navigation and broken links. Keep in mind that clients, especially corporate ones, flee from modern designs that try to reinvent the wheel. They want things that work and increase ROI fast, not too much creativity if you’re not the best in your industry.
9. Put your best projects first
Some UX designers place their projects in chronological order, which is not bad. However, it is better to order them by relevance or quality, or simply select the ones that you think reflect your relevant skills. Choose the most relevant and exceptional projects,
Finally, don't forget to include testimonials, as these will help to convince your employers.
Show your portfolio… You have much a lot to gain and nothing to lose.
In short, a portfolio is the one marketing tool that you must optimize. It is the passport to better jobs and getting more clients. That’s why we encourage you to make a great portfolio and show your work to the world without fear.
Starting out is difficult. You have to compete against applicants who have more experience, but when the opportunity comes, give your best to show your quality. The value of your work will always be proportional to the quality of your work and if you want to make your competitors irrelevant, get more skills and show them in your portfolio. It is worth investing effort, time, and even money in building a portfolio that truly attracts clients who value you and pay you what you deserve.
Get down to business and start creating a professional portfolio to promote yourself now. Good luck!
And don't forget to tell us about your experience. Contact us. We’d love to hear from you.