When looking for any creative or design-based role, a strong portfolio is the single most-powerful marketing tool you have. And in a job market which is seemingly becoming more competitive each year you really cannot afford to slack on this front.
So, with this in mind, here is a short guide on how you can create a striking portfolio to help you land that next big UI/UX job or role.
What should your portfolio include?
We recommend including no more that three of your strongest projects, and in some cases just one will be sufficient.
These should be the projects which be best demonstrate what you have to offer, whether that is beautiful design, in the case of UI work, or highly effective problem solving, for UX designers.
If you are producing a portfolio for employers as opposed to clients, it is imperative that you don’t fall into the trap of simply displaying the end-product. Take care to set out each stage of your workflow, including the problem you were tasked with resolving, the team you worked with, the tools you used, your process, the challenges you faced and the solutions you came up with.
Finally, you can display the end result. Consider also including any data you may have at this stage to demonstrate the value which your work brought to the client.
It is important that you ensure that this workflow is set out logically and in a way that creates a narrative. This makes the experience easy for the end-user; a point which is particularly important for UX designers as it offers the chance for you to demonstrate the very skills you need for the role.
We suggest that you approach the design of your portfolio in the same manner you would were you designing a checkout system for a client’s online shop.
How should your portfolio be displayed?
Your portfolio should be just as visually pleasing as it is logical and flowing. Ensure colour pallets match and avoid screenshots or jpegs of your work.
The projects which you use should be varied to avoid viewers getting bored, but at the same time you should consider if they are consistent in style and if they best portray your personality and way of working.
Portfolios can be web-hosted on platforms like Dribbble or Behance with easy to remember domains such as yourname.com. Alternatively, you could prepare a PDF document which makes for easier distribution to employers and clients; this approach also allows for more tailored portfolios for different firms.
(This leads us nicely to an important sidenote: always, ALWAYS tailor your portfolios to the specific firms or industries that you are looking to work with or in. This is time consuming, we know, but you must consider the culture of the firm, and the specific skills and styles necessary for a particular industry. It is well worth the time investment here, trust us!)
Lastly, your portfolio should be concise and capable of reviewing in under 60 seconds. Most employers spend an average of less than 10 seconds looking over a CV; a portfolio, whilst possessing the advantage of being more interesting than a CV, still has very little time to impress, so keep it short and sweet.
Finally, once you have completed your portfolio, test it out on friends and family. This is a key stage in the process as the everyday person should be able to review and understand your portfolio just as easily as an industry expert.
Here are some example portfolios if you are in need of inspiration!
Keep the objective in mind
Much like the work involved in UX or UI design, this process should always have the end-user at the forefront. Think about what your prospective clients or employers will want to see.
This study surveyed hundreds of UX recruiters to find out what they valued most in their applicants’ portfolios. Some of the points that they raised included demonstrating the value that you created, showing what you left out as well as what you left in, and including your entire process, especially any challenges you faced and the solutions you came up with.
So, do your research into what your target market want to see and make sure that you consider this when designing your portfolio.
A brief but important point is the issue of data protection and NDAs when producing a UI/UX design portfolio. It is always worth consulting with your clients to see what they are happy with you including. However, in most cases you can blur or redact sensitive information, or even just change certain elements in order to anonymize the work.
As with most things, there will be a solution which allows your client to maintain their competitive edge whilst also permitting you to display your best work. You may just need to get creative…
Limited or no experience
If you are just starting out in your career this task of creating a portfolio may seem a little daunting as you are unlikely to have an extensive foundation of work to draw upon.
If this is the case, then it is crucial that the work you do display is highly effective in demonstrating your specific style. If you have absolutely nothing to include then consider building your portfolio through voluntary work for friends and family, or even university/college clubs and societies. There are also a number of course available which will help you to build your skillset, CV, and portfolio.
It’s tough starting out but at least you don’t have to face the struggle of choosing between 100 of your past projects (we’re looking at you, senior designers!)
So, in summary, start with the end (user), and consider who will see your portfolio and what they will find most valuable. From there, choose your best projects and design a concise and appealing structure which sets out the narrative of your work. Finally, test it out on your friends, family, and peers, before sending it to the market.
As we said at the start, a strong portfolio is essential to getting ahead in this job market so invest some time and you are guaranteed to see results.