The design industry has gone through rapid changes in the last few years. It will not be wrong to say that the demand for UI/UX agencies is currently at its peak, and it will only go up in the years to come. UI and UX designers are found among the top 100 best jobs in the US. Modern organizations have realized that design is not just about the appearance of a product or service. It is, in fact, about the entire experience of a user and, thus, needs a lot more attention. More and more organizations have dedicated design teams doing wonders for their business.
As the importance of UI/UX design has increased, so have the requirements of organizations. Recruiters are not just looking for people who are good with a certain set of tools or have an advanced degree in graphic design. They want to know that hiring a designer will actually bring value to their organization. Designers with multiple experiences - from research and case studies to real-world experiences and design projects - are preferred in the modern market. And it doesn’t stop here.
Having a number of projects under your belt is one thing but presenting these experiences in a convincing manner is equally important. If you have quality skills but you cannot showcase them, the recruiters will never be impressed. This is where a UX design portfolio comes into play. For all the designers out there, irrespective of the stage they are in their careers, a well-designed UX design portfolio is a ticket to success.
UX Design Portfolio
The term “portfolio” is used so widely, and often carelessly, that it often loses its meaning. It, therefore, makes sense to develop an understanding of the term itself before actually working on the portfolio. A UX design portfolio is neither a catalog of all of your projects nor it is a copy of your resume. A portfolio is, instead, is a tailored presentation of your top projects, picked with immense care. According to the Interaction Design Foundation, designers create and use UX design portfolios “to showcase their skills and knowledge” with the goal of advancing their careers.
A portfolio, therefore, is a carefully-crafted version of your skills and expertise. It is important to note that the quality of content in your portfolio is as important as its presentation. The way you design your portfolio has a huge impact on your prospective employers. Some other questions regarding a UX design portfolio are addressed below.
Who needs a UX design portfolio?
On hearing the term, it is logical to wonder whether you need a portfolio, or if you need one now. In the current job market, a designer needs an impressive portfolio at each stage of his/her career. Whether you’re just about to enter the market with only a couple of internships and a few projects you worked on during your college degree or you’ve been in the field for a decade with remarkable projects from leading organizations to back you up, you need a UX design portfolio to create an impact.
Since hiring managers are putting a strong emphasis on UX design portfolios, ui ux designers need a portfolio to secure a good job and be ready to answer on questions about UX design. It is not unusual for job applications to ask for your online portfolio. It is through the presentation of your skills and experience that organizations judge your design skills. On the other hand, individuals who have worked on a number of projects have all the more reasons to show the world what they’ve got and why they deserve a better role.
A UX design portfolio is something that complements your resume. If you send in a resume with your skills and projects listed on it, the chances of getting attention are not that great. However, if you share your portfolio with the hiring managers, you invite them to take a closer look at your work and to see for themselves what you’ve got. This personalized touch adds value to your resume, helping you stand out.
What to include in your UX design portfolio?
Think of your UX design portfolio as your design story. How would you tell your story? Wouldn’t you want it to be attractive, creative, and meaningful at the same time? This is exactly what you should have in mind while thinking about, and working on, your portfolio.
Some of the key elements to have in your portfolio are as follows.
A story doesn’t mean much without a protagonist and in your UX story, you matter the most. Include a brief, a little informal, introduction of yourself. Let the hiring managers know who you are as a person. Do not write a long essay. Instead, focus on things that make you unique. Talk about your interests apart from design, introduce your pets, or maybe throw in a guilty pleasure - anything that catches the eye.
Mention your technical and web development skills in your portfolio and feel free to boast about your expertise. The ui ux tools and software you’re well-versed in, the set of soft skills you possess, and the analytical methods you have experience of, all deserve a place in your UX design portfolio.
Pick the best projects to display in your portfolio. The projects that describe you as a designer and give a better idea of your work ethics. If you’ve not worked with big companies, feel free to refer to your class projects or the design practices you completed on the side. Make sure that you have at least something to show here.
If you’re someone who is interested in research, use your portfolio to show this side of yours. Remember, it is okay if research is not your strong suit. A couple of efforts here can give an impression that you’re versatile and can learn along the way.
Case studies form an important part of a UX design portfolio. Even in the real-world, designers have to work on various such studies. The best thing about case studies is that you can conduct these on your own, even if you don’t have prior experience. All you have to do is to pick a website or a mobile application, identify the issues, make it better, and then present it in a unique manner. Case studies can add immense value to your portfolio.
Certificates and licenses
If you have attained verified certifications and licenses, do not forget to mention those in your portfolio. Such certifications not only add to your credibility but also leave the impression that you don’t shy away from learning and are very much aware of the recent trends in the market.
Blog (always a plus)
If you have a professional blog of your own, no matter how small, add a link to that. Not every designer has to be a blogger, and that’s okay. But if you are, now is the chance to add a bit of flair to your UX design portfolio. If on the one hand, it will show a different side of yours, then on the other, it will also drive traffic to your blog - a win-win.
While adding all the details, keep the bigger picture and the end goal in mind. Your portfolio should present a holistic yet consistent image of your design journey. Do not add information just for the sake of it.
UX Design Portfolio Examples
Creating a UX design portfolio can be a little daunting and overwhelming. If you’re thinking to create your portfolio and feel a little stuck, we’ve got you covered. Leading designers, all over the world, put in a great amount of effort in creating their portfolios. There are a number of examples available online to get inspired from. Here are some of the best ones to get you started.
1. Daniel Autry
Daniel Autry is a product designer working at the Washington Post. His portfolio is unique in its presentation and the wide range of projects or case studies.
Consistency is one of the key takeaways from this portfolio. All of the projects in this portfolio have a similar flow where there is a brief introduction, followed by the problem and its solution. The personalized touch in all the projects is something that makes you want to read till the end.
In the entire portfolio, Daniel Autry makes sure that the content is not too much so you do not get lost in the words. He punctuates the content with relevant visuals to showcase his skills as a designer and to ensure that the reading experience is pleasant.
Working at Primer with quality design projects under her belt, Elizabeth Lin is surely someone who can inspire you in your UI/UX journey. Her experience ranges from the academic world to that of fashion, thus adding a lot of versatility to her work.
If we have to pick one feature from this portfolio, it will be the minimalist approach. The landing page of Elizabeth Lin’s portfolio is created in a way that gives you an overall idea of her personality as well as her skills. Each project is categorized so you know what to expect, without even clicking on the individual links and reading through the content.
When you talk about quality design portfolios, Olivia Truong’s is surely one to be on the list. The attention to detail and the care with which this portfolio is designed, give one a very clear idea of her attitude toward work.
There is a lot to take away from this portfolio. If one has to pick the three best features, those will be simplicity, aesthetics, and the inclusion of “Side Projects”. The portfolio uses colors and images (like the mini-laptop and food) that make you want to know more. Additionally, there is a section of her projects apart from her daily work that gives one an idea of her interests and her little, but significant, design gigs. The overall impression of the portfolio is one that is bound to stay in the mind for some time.
4. Kurt Winter
It is not unusual to see highly experienced designers only using a handful of remarkable projects on their portfolio. It is, indeed, an excellent approach but you must do it right. Kurt Winter’s portfolio is the perfect example of how to use few but remarkable projects and stand out in the market.
You’ll find only three projects in this portfolio but when you click on any one of these, you’ll see how detailed and careful the descriptions are. Each project covers the designer’s approach, key learning points, the final look of the product or service, and quality images to illustrate the process. If you do not have a lot of projects to include in your portfolio, make sure that you make the most out of the ones that you have.
Another little thing that Kurt Winter does in his “Profile” is the inclusion of the “Currently Learning” section. Looking at this section, one gets the idea that the designer is not just stagnant at his career but is eager to learn more. All employers love that attitude.
5. Zara DreiZara Drei’s portfolio is another example of little but quality content. A remarkable experience designer with quality projects, Zara Drei chooses the best ones for her online portfolio, making it clear that you do not need quantity as much as you need quality. Once again, you’ll notice a detailed discussion on each project page.
An interesting to note in this portfolio is the section “Creative” in the main navigation. This is where you learn a lot more about Zara Drei apart from her design projects. These things mean a lot in the market as recruiters get to know you as a person, thus improving your chances.
Austin Knight, a Lead Designer at Google, shows you how to manage a lot of content and present it in a way that looks appealing and fits in the bigger picture. If you look at the “Work” section of this portfolio, you’ll see a brief but comprehensive timeline that sums up the entire career of Austin Knight. From his first job to his current position, the entire journey is right there in front of you.
Another important thing to note is the variety of things this portfolio has to offer. Going back to our discussion on the things to include in your portfolio, you’ll see that Austin knight’s portfolio has almost everything in it, with some additional bits as well. The addition of essays and links to podcasts in the portfolio makes it more attractive and the viewers, whether hiring managers or other designers, are tempted to learn more.
Austin Knight also sets a very good example for experienced UI/UX designers by including testimonials in his portfolio. Words from his colleagues and past employers add to his credibility, making the portfolio unique and attractive at the same time.
7. Beth Duddy
If you talk about effective minimalist design, Beth Duddy’s portfolio is the one to get inspiration from. With carefully selected projects and a brief, yet comprehensive, introduction to go on the landing page, the portfolio meets all the basic needs in a compact manner.
When it comes to individual projects, this portfolio ensures a consistent approach where the information is organized in an understandable way. The portfolio is created with and hosted on UXfolio. This puts limitations on some aspects as compared to portfolios hosted on individual websites. There are, however, some pros of using such platforms as well - the ease of using set templates, for example.
There are numerous other examples to learn from. Modern designers put great emphasis on the practice of creating a UX design portfolio. Before you start creating your portfolio, it is always a good idea to look at some examples from the industry.
Creating Your UX Design Portfolio
Once you’ve realized that you really need a UX design portfolio and after going through leading examples in the market, now is the time to get to work. Creating your portfolio is a frustrating process but it can be made much easier if you focus on the end result. Your portfolio needs a UX strategy of its own which can make it daunting. The entire process, however, can be simplified to a great extent by following the six steps described below.
1. Audit and select projects
One aspect regarding a UX design portfolio that cannot be overstated is that it is not a directory of all your projects. Just like you have to tailor your resume and/or cover letter while applying for a job, you need to be very sure what to include in your portfolio so that you get the most out of it. It is also the phase where you might want to pick new projects to work on. You can seek inspiration from some of the projects displayed by leading UI/UX agencies.
It, therefore, makes sense to conduct a comprehensive audit of your design and research projects. This is where you need to be critical and objective. Focus on the projects that tell your story as a designer and a person at the same time. In all the examples discussed above, you’ll notice that all the projects are described with such care and detail that you feel the presence of a connection between the designer and his/her work. Your case studies and projects need to be scrutinized before you start creating your portfolio.
2. Learn from the best
Look at the work of leading designers and experienced professionals in the field and learn from the way they present their work. A simple search will give you dozens of quality portfolios to see how information is organized and presented by UI/UX designers.
Another way to get more insights into the task of creating a portfolio is to follow the blogs with the content on best design practices. UX Collective and UX Planet are good resources of articles on creating a portfolio. Similarly, leading designers and researchers have covered this topic on the websites of Nielsen Norman Group, Interaction Design Foundation, Semantic Studios, and Prototypr.
3. Pick a platform
Once you’ve done some brainstorming and got some inspiration, the next step is to look for tools at your disposal. A designer, both while working on a project and creating a portfolio, needs some tools to work with. When it comes to a UX design portfolio, there are various resources that you can use.
Here are some of the most common and effective tools that you can seek help from.
- WordPress: If you’re planning to create a unique portfolio, with more room for customization, WordPress is an excellent platform.
- Wix: Just like WordPress, Wix gives you a lot of freedom to create and host your portfolio. From already available templates to the option for creating your own, Wix is a powerful tool.
- Behance: Behance is more of a social networking channel for designers. You can use Behance to create and share your projects and host them on your profile, thus serving as your portfolio.
- UXfolio: UXfolio is similar to Behance in certain ways. The platform gives you carefully curated templates which you can personalize to showcase your projects and/or case studies.
Irrespective of the tool you pick for your portfolio, remember that each platform has its own pros and cons. So, you should be flexible to make some changes to your initial idea and let it all fit together in the bigger, impressive, picture of your UX design portfolio.
4. A consistent format
The first three steps will leave you in a good shape to work on the structure of your portfolio. This is where your skills as a designer will be tested. One of the key areas where designers struggle, particularly the ones working on their first professional portfolio, is the layout of the end product.
The golden rule here is to focus on consistency. On hearing the word, one might think about the presentation alone, but that’s not it. Consistency in your UX design portfolio means that the entire look and feel, the aesthetic aspects, the use of tone and voice in the text, and the layout of individual projects all follow a proper format. Take great care while choosing the words and images so as to not give your portfolio a highly informal appearance and also create a connection with the viewers. Once again, refer to the examples listed above to get a better understanding of this principle.
5. Design the portfolio
A UX design portfolio, like any other website, application, product, or service, is highly dependent on the UX. The user experience of a UX portfolio is used as a yardstick by many hiring managers and team leads in the industry to judge your expertise.
You have stated in your resume that you’re a good information architect or you know how to design webpages and mobile apps, but the hiring managers want to see these skills reflected in your own portfolio. In other words, along with all your projects and case studies, your portfolio itself is a design project.
Bring all your knowledge of UI and UX together, spend a lot of time on designing your portfolio, and then come up with an end product you can take pride in.
Remember to apply all the design principles in your portfolio - from usability to accessibility - to stand out in the market.
6. Get feedback
The last but one of the key steps in the process of creating a UX design portfolio is of getting feedback. Surely you’ll have some design experts in your circle or a friend of a friend will know a designer who can help you out. If not, it is never too late to use the power of LinkedIn, other social media, and mentorship programs to seek help.
Getting feedback from professionals can help you understand the shortcomings of your portfolio and also leave you with valuable suggestions for improvement. Additionally, such practices can help you build a network, know more people in the job market, and thus advance in your career.
With the help of the examples discussed above and the steps laid down, the task of creating a UX design portfolio will get much more streamlined. To make sure that your portfolio is unique and comprehensive, it is always a good idea to focus on the following best practices.
- Market yourself: In today’s design market, your portfolio is nothing less than a ticket to a good job. Use your design skills to market yourself and to stand out in an industry that respects innovation.
- Focus on the UX of the portfolio: Your UX design portfolio is a design project that needs immense attention. Think of the hiring managers as your target audience and make sure to give them a better user experience when they interact with your portfolio.
- Use generic information: Do not use any confidential information regarding your past projects to be safe from any legal issues. Only use credible content that is available in the public domain.
- Link your resume: Do not forget to provide a link to your resume in your online portfolio. Oftentimes, the hiring managers want to look at your resume along with your portfolio. Providing a link, therefore, will make their job easier.
- Make it aesthetically pleasing: The look and feel are important for any design project - the same holds true for your UX design portfolio. Try to use colors, fonts, and design elements in a consistent and professional manner to add value to your portfolio.
Above all, keep the end goal of your portfolio in mind. If you want to have better opportunities in the design industry, win more projects, and be one of the leading designers out there, give due attention to your UX design portfolio.
One of the key factors of success in the design industry is the quality of your portfolio. You can have the experience of dozens of projects but unless you showcase them in an attractive and informative way, the value will be diminished, to say the least. Your UX design portfolio can help you progress in the industry and serve as a key to many doors.