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Beginners guide to a great UX portfolio

In a world of creatives, talent and competition it is important to stand out from the crowd. Regardless of your education, the best way display your abilities is your portfolio – quality of your past work, and the way you present it.

A good UX portfolio is more than just a presentation of final mockups, employers want to see your approach and design-thinking for any given project, and more importantly, they want to see RESULTS.

There are plenty of tools out there that will allow you to showcase your work and make it look professional, however, the contents of the portfolio is what will help you stand out. Your portfolio goes on interviews without you– it represents you so, be sure to include your credibility (who you have worked for), experience (the work you have done) and accomplishments (the end results).

The most common problem that disqualifies most UX design portfolios is the fact they don't present the problem that was solved and the decisions that were made along the way.

There are 3 main topics that are evaluated in interviews:

1. Quality of execution
2. Clarity in decision-making
3. Results

Below, I go through a set of guidelines that will help you tell your story and hopefully land your dream job. The points below are gathered from the positive and negative feedback I received from job interviews and freelance pitches.

The design-thinking and research behind the solution are what employers want to know more about. It doesn't matter how incredible your UI skills are if the how and why you reached these deliverables is not apparent.

 

Portfolio Guidelines

When presenting yourself online – cut the clever intros. Employers want to see value from the offset and understand your ability to deliver business results. Employers and recruiters are scanning thousands of portfolio's each month, selling your value will be the difference between getting the call for an interview or being rejected.

For each individual project, employers would expect to see:

1. An Overview

This should come first, defining some basic information and limitations about the project. The viewer should be able to get an impression of what the product is about, what it looks like and how it functions.

  • Purpose of the project — why is it that you started this project
  • Group members —  who you worked collaboratively with
  • Your role — important when telling a story during an interview (how you contributed to the team)
  • Tools used —  what helped you achieve your goal
  • Links — download app, view prototype, data reference etc
  • Final product design— mockups, pictures/videos

Tip: Don't show designs that had no impact or positive results at the end. What is the point of good design if it doesn't solve any problems?

 

2. UX Process

This is key to a successful portfolio. If you followed a UX process, explain in more details the steps you took. I would advise these 5 steps:

  • Research — reviews, competitive analysis, interviews, surveys etc
  • Ideation — brainstorming, sharing ideas, user journey, persona etc
  • Wireframe — ideas, sketches, brainstorming, what worked and what didn’t, testing results, iterations
  • Prototype — user testing, iteration, towards development (if you did)

Tip: Include pictures of your workshops and team brainstorming ideas, this helps to give the employer a real insight into the way you work.

 

3. Results

This is a short description of what you have learnt from the project, the results it brought to the business and what you will be doing next. This shows your achievements and dedication to the project.

 

Additional tips

  • Curate the work to your strongest projects – the ones with the best results
  • 3+ successful projects are enough
  • Presentation is everything
  • Include a short timelapse of your team working on the project
  • Be Concise —you can talk more in-depth in the interview
  • Be Honest

 

"Having too many things in your portfolio hurts more than it helps."

 

By explaining the story behind your projects and being confident in your process, your portfolio already communicates so much more to people interested in your work.

I have learnt that companies won't only hire you for the work you have done, but for what you're capable of. They are going to invest in you and need to be confident that you can bring value to their team.

UX design portfolio inspiration
Dan Birman
Rachel Schmitz
Vax Liu

 

Other related articles:

Design-Thinking: Designers have become too reliant on surface-level visuals

7 UX tips in a world of ever-changing screen sizes

The top 5 UX tips to consider


eric_miller_uxkits

Eric Miller on how UX became a studio focus and the story behind his UX Kits

If you haven't heard of Eric Miller, you will most definitely have seen his work with UX kits on social media? Eric has over 20 years experience under his belt including working with large organisation, BMI.

Eric continues to share his own projects – like his recent website decks at UX Kits. We have been able to speak with Eric about how the UX industry has influenced his studio and the story behind the launch of UX Kits.

 

eric_miller_uxkits

 

1. Can you introduce yourself to our readers?

My name is Eric Miller and I am the Founder of and designer for our studio and shop, UX Kits (Shop now). I’ve been working on web projects since the late 90’s and started professionally as a designer for BMI and as the writer of the graphic design section of about.com. Our 2-person studio was launched as a full-time venture in 2008 and UX Kits followed in 2013.

 

2. We know you started out as a designer/developer for Broadcast Music Inc, but how did your career develop into UX?

While user experience design was a practice during my time at BMI, I’ll admit it is not something I was familiar with and “UX” was not such a common phrase as it is now. In theory, I was practising some elements of the UX process without knowing it, but it wasn’t until I launched our studio that I truly educated myself on that process. Over time, our work shifted from designing only traditional websites to more complex, web-based applications. That work naturally required us to be more involved in the entire process including discovery, research, information architecture, journeys, wireframes, prototypes and visual design. As we took on more of that type of work, we included UX as one of our studio’s main focus areas.

 

3. How do you put your ideas together? What are your tools to create?


Our initial ideas for a product generally start with notes and lists. Before anything visual, I just jot down anything I can think of, which might be done alone or with a client. I use a thick MUJI notebook for these notes (I love MUJI). From there, I usually move to rough sketches of concepts. My current favourite notebook is the Behance Dot Grid Book though like many designers I have many sketchbooks in all shapes and sizes. My pencil of choice is the Pentel GraphGear 1000. When designing a physical product, like our UX Kits Wireframe Deck, I’ll make physical prototypes from post-its or just cut paper to the card size.

Once a concept has been proven on paper, I’ll create documents such as flowcharts and wireframes (if a website or app), usually in OmniGraffle or Sketch. Finally, Photoshop and Sketch are my go-to apps for polished design, and we create prototypes in InVision. I also use a Wacom tablet and an iPad with Paper and Pencil by FiftyThree for digital drawings. That’s doesn’t cover our full UX or design process, but those are our favourite tools for getting the job done.

 

4. So, tell us a little more about the story behind UX Kits? Where did this idea come from?

The first products for UX Kits came from documents we were creating for clients over and over. If our process was benefited from pre-built templates for documents like user flows, then it would help others too. In 2013 we launched our Website Flows. I saw that product quickly being incorporated into the workflow of many designers on places like Dribbble, and being shared on social (in the case of Pinterest, over 100,000 times). It was immediately clear that we could build a brand around this, not just a product.

 

eric_miller_website_flow

 

We continued to build a small, thoughtful collection of digital products, along with our first physical product, the Website Deck. The Website Deck came from the idea that teams and clients benefit from physical, hands-on exercises, and most recently we continued that idea with the Wireframe Deck.

 

eric_miller_web_decks

 

5. How did you test your ideas for this, were you using the Lean UX methodology?

Our ideas were really tested through real-world use with clients. Seeing how clients related to more visual products was our proof-of-concept. Lean and Agile methods certainly apply to our client work, but less so with UX Kits. We do interview some designers and share product concepts and revise those concepts based on that.

 

6. Can you share some examples or a video of how people are using the UX kits?

This Dribbble gallery has great examples of how designers use our digital UX Kits in their projects.

 

eric_miller_dribbble

 

 

Thank you, Eric, for sharing your story with our audience at Together Incredible. Follow UX Kits on Instagram to keep up to date with Eric’s journey.

 

 

If you would like to become an influencer and share your story, drop us an email info@togetherincredible.com 

 

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