So, you’ve got some UX design experience under your belt and you think it’s time to try your hand in the big leagues (whatever that means for you). Whether you’re just looking to land some freelance clients or work for a reputable tech giant, you’ll need to prove there’s substance behind your style.

From newcomers to seasoned professionals, in the user-experience world, it is the portfolio that reigns supreme. Since the majority of UX job seekers have a substandard portfolio, getting this right will shoot you to the head of the pack. As a UX professional, talking will only tell part of the story. Your portfolio is how you present your skills to the world. A resume with an active link to a creative, simple, organized and informative portfolio is a must.

This all-important tool must showcase your talent, skills, experience and passion for your chosen field, when you want to open the door to an on-site interview. An active, online portfolio will give an insider’s look at your process, from an idea to project completion, and showcase all the stages in between.

If you are looking for a new UX role and are eager to build or refine your professional portfolio, read on. Below is a guide to help ensure that your UX design portfolio is a memorable one

But why do I need a portfolio? What’s wrong with my resume?

While your resume is great for outlining your education and past work experience, it doesn’t do much to differentiate you from the crowd. In fact, UX design employers don’t always require any prerequisite education or even specific work experience, because you can’t necessarily be taught creativity, ingenuity, and problem-solving.

Instead, your portfolio should showcase who you are and your unique approach to UX design. The samples you include should tell a complete story of the design process, including a beginning problem, the actions you took, why you took those actions, and the end result. Your story should be representative of your personality and show a “cultural fit” for your dream company.

How many pieces of work should I include?

Quality over quantity. If you’ve got the experience to show off, include three or four samples of quality work, but don’t overwhelm your portfolio evaluator with too much stuffing. Keep it simple, and include just enough to reflect a diverse skill set.

What if I’m just a beginner?

If you’re just a beginner and don’t have much professional work to showcase, don’t throw in the towel on an opportunity! Remember- the goal of your portfolio isn’t to present each and every world-changing tech solution you’ve created; it’s to demonstrate your creative approach to problem solving.

Include personal samples of projects you’ve messed around with and how you worked through a problem to reach a solution. If your choices are limited, consider including an example of a time that you failed to overcome a problem, because even if you didn’t reached a solution, you still had a thought process!

What belongs in your UX design portfolio?

If you’re now wondering how to construct the best UX design portfolio, we have a few tips to help you assemble all the necessary components:

Emphasize your process.

The most important point to remember when choosing work to include in your portfolio is demonstrating your thought process behind that work.

In terms of UX design, prospective employers aren’t so much concerned with the finished work, but they’ll take a hard look at what happened between points A and B, which means the samples you provide need to be well-illustrated and tell a complete story, including crucial details like:

  • What the problem was
  • Who you partnered with on the project
  • How you came up with the ideal solution
  • The technical process you used to overcome the problem (i.e. high/low fidelity wireframes, sketches, research, etc.)
  • End result, including how it was received and utilized by the client or employer

If images alone aren’t enough to tell a full story, include a written narrative with the work sample to fill the gaps and elaborate on the approach you took.

Keep it brief.

Prospective employers will want to see an overview of all the work you completed on the project before you arrived at the final product – for example, how you interpreted the goals of the project, initial sketches, research completed about competitors in the space and so on. However, make sure you’re brief with this aspect of your portfolio. Hiring managers are likely looking through countless portfolios and don’t want to sift through pages of work and lengthy explanation to learn about you. The quicker you can portray this message, the better.

You don’t need reams of information, but you do need to provide a clear understanding of the flow, from the beginning to the end of the cycle. Provide information on your art of persuasion and explain how you sold it to the folks in your company.

Be distinctive.

Keep in mind that each company is going to have a unique culture and different ideas about what the right candidate looks like to them. It’s okay to adapt your portfolio to the specific needs and interests of the company you’re applying for, but don’t distort your actual personal image to get a foot in the door.

Not only should the company think you’re a great fit for their culture, but you should consider whether or not that company is a great fit for you.

Brand yourself.

Your portfolio is an important part of your brand. Decide who you are and how you want to present yourself. Use the same messaging in your LinkedIn profile and on social media. Include links to all the ways that you are able to showcase your brand while staying connected to the UX community.

Your versatility and specialty.

If you have a large body of work to draw from, make sure you’re highlighting your different assets with each entry in your portfolio. This way, you can make sure you’re hitting important points for a variety of employers. However, don’t try too hard to seem like you are a jack of all trades.

If you have only general knowledge in one skill but expertise in another, don’t be afraid to let your portfolio emphasize that specialty and own up to the areas you may not know as well. This can help if you’re looking for a job in a particular industry. In that case, employers may greatly appreciate your extensive knowledge.

Explain the problems you helped solve.

UX projects begin with a problem – how can a user’s experience be enhanced? What is it about the design of the client’s current website that is causing issues in terms of the customer-client relationship?

After all, the field of UX designs is essentially based on problem-solving, and that is one of the key attributes that all employers will be looking for when making a hiring decision, so don’t be shy about showing off your problem solving skills.

Provide evidence of success.

It’s important to show prospective employers or clients areas where you have truly succeeded. This means providing evidence of a return on investment for your client, whether it’s an increase in sales, a higher customer following and so on. If you can demonstrate tangible evidence of results your work has achieved, you’ll be more likely to impress.

Include testimonials.

Emphasizing the need to present evidence of success, including testimonials from pleased clients can give your portfolio a major boost. Testimonials help to give your work even more professional credibility and show off the range of clients you have worked with.

Keep it updated. Whenever you do a really great project – and it’s released to the public – immediately capture the information and post it on your portfolio. Everything you are proud of should be displayed. When you constantly update your portfolio, viewers will be able to see what you have learned and how you have stayed with trends.

Make it a great user experience.

Remember: You are a user-experience professional and your portfolio should reflect that. Use readable font and good-sized screenshots so that potential employers can get up close and personal with your work. Use images because user experience is a visual field. Check out your portfolio on all major browsers. Live-link a great resume to your portfolio, and check all links.

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