‘How do I build a UX Design Portfolio?’ & ‘How to build a portfolio if I have no experience?’ etc are some of the most common questions Designers ask us. We attempt to answer this in a systematic approach.
1) Why is having a UX Portfolio important?
UX Portfolio is a medium through which designers showcase their skill sets, thought process and their personality. They are essentially the key to landing a successful interview. It is common knowledge that the field of User Experience Design is constantly growing with its importance being realised in every industry. The number of UX designers are also in parallel increasing with professionals migrating to this domain in the later stages of their career as well.
Recruiters are looking out for competent designers and the best way to please them is by having a UX portfolio topped with the right ingredients to make yourself stand out in the crowd. In this article, we not only cater to experienced or practising designers but also to those of you wondering How do I build a portfolio if I have no experience?.
So stay with us while we answer your questions in this systematic approach.
2) How to create a UX design Portfolio?
There are different platforms you can use to create their portfolio. You just need to make some consideration in terms of –
- Type of Job you want
- Type of Projects you have
Are you willing to make an investment for the sake of hosting your UX Portfolio?. Different websites allow you to create your portfolio in different manners. Some are free, others are not. There are pros and cons to using any of these options, hence it is best to consider other options like your need and job specifications before you choose your space. Here is a comprehensive list of all your options free and paid options:
Behance is a widely used free, online platform not just by designers but by the entire artistic community. It lets you easily upload your projects, customise them and create your personal information section.
WordPress is a website builder tool that offers free hosting and domain name – yourwebsite.wordpress.com for your UX portfolios. A paid subscription will remove “WordPress” from your domain name. They offer extensive themes and customizations for your flexibility.
Dribbble is the leading destination to find & showcase creative work and it is home to the world’s best design professionals. They also have a community-based ideology where you can learn from fellow practitioners. The only disadvantage here would be, you will only be able to share small screenshots of your projects and take the full process elsewhere.
Simple old PDF
Creating your own PDK filled with your best projects is a great way to customise projects for the role you are applying for. You can build this with any tool you are comfortable with – Keynote, PPT, Photoshop etc.
It will be easy to edit, maintain and develop. At the same time, you will not have enough room to get into side projects and other jazzy elements that you can on a website.
If you’re wondering actually how a PDF UX Portfolio will look like, click here for a good example.
Wix is an online website builder tool with over 160M users worldwide. They provide the flexibility of choosing existing templates as well as building your own components from scratch and SEO benefits. Their prices start from 85 rupees a month.
Square space is a premium web hosting platform used by millions of users. Their price range starts from 12$ a month up to 40$ a month. They provide carefully designed templates for different types of website creation. It does not require any coding knowledge, just some investment in terms of money.
Webflow is a web-based website creation tool, which provides features for adding cool animations, your own code and CMS. It is a first of its kind, code-first tool, which allows you to create a responsive and professional website. The basic plan starts from 15$ which can be slightly on the expensive side.
b) Type of Job you want
Before you consider hosting it on expensive platforms, also look into the jobs you wish to apply for and the format of the portfolio they are looking for. Some organisations will make you submit a portfolio link while others will give you a space to upload your pdf file.
Now if you are just a new designer wishing to build your portfolio, the general advice would be to create one in a website and one in a PDF format to keep your options open.
c) Type of Projects you have
Evaluate the kind of projects you have. Take inventory of all the work you have done so far and choose the ones that showcase a variety of your skills. Now you might have some projects bound by NDA, you can use these projects in the pdf portfolio and showcase it in the in – person interview.
Make sure you do not send portfolios across the web which is under an NDA contract. ( Refer section 4 for more information ). Another predicament here might be, “Hey I am a newcomer to this field and I have no projects to showcase” Let’s deal with that in the next section here.
3) How do I build a portfolio with no prior experience or projects?
Many of the UX designers are migrants who might not have had formal schooling in design. Even those coming out of boot camps and small courses might not have enough content to create their strong portfolio.
So what do you do if you find yourself in this situation? You could any or all of these ideas:
a) Create your own case study
There are plenty of products in the world, some that you use on a daily basis. Use these products as your starting point and create your case study around it. You could redesign the product based on popular shortcomings faced by regular users, you could create a new product with a similar concept.
Be a problem spotter, and spot the problems around you that could use your help. Make sure you are writing stellar case studies to grab the attention of the recruiter. A good case study will contain:
- Project Context – Trying answering questions like – Why and what problem are you trying to solve through your design expertise? What domain does your product fall under? If you imagine a fictitious client, give them some depth and characteristics.
- Your role, project timeline, team – It is crucial that you include a short description of the timeline of your project, your team structure and your major roles in that team. Recruiters love to see this information
- Problem statement – What is the problem you are trying to address and why? – a comprehensive design brief will work well for this section
- Design Process – Highlight all the important steps you took to reach your solution but do not make it highly extensive. Recruiters do not have the time to get into the details here.
- Solutions & Testing – Talk about your solutions and how it tested with the users. You can mention some failed ideas as well, it makes you more relatable.
- Impact – Provide some metrics to add that final impact. How many users vouched to use the product due to your added features?
- Learnings & Future steps – This is probably one of the most important steps in the case study. You need to talk about the various experiences you had working on a project and what you intend to do next with your solutions and testing results.
b) Look for freelancing jobs
Look for real clients in the market who need help with their business and products. You could try your luck at Linkedin Jobs, Upwork and other such forums. Pitch yourself to them and ask to work for them.
The payments won’t be good for a beginner designer without any experience but the clients who don’t have much budget won’t think twice before hiring you for freelance work. These real-time projects can easily go into your portfolio, with their consent.
c) Fictional Client/Design Contests
There are several design forums that post problem statements regularly such as Uplabs. You could work on these statements, imagining your client and other specifications, managing your own timeline to create concrete projects for your portfolio.
d) Look out for internships
Internships are a great way to learn new skills and abilities needed in that field. Several Design Studios employ Interns at their agencies. As an intern you can enter into some of the top most companies and learn the skills of the trade. Getting into these companies as Interns is far easier then getting in as a full time employee.
If you perform well, your internship may well turn into a full time employment.
4) How do I add a project that is under NDA in my UX Portfolio?
The problem of NDA’s is a general scenario that every designer finds themselves in. Do not worry, because everyone has been there and they understand.
When you find yourself stuck with an NDA you can do one of the following things to still showcase your work:
- As we mentioned before, you can add the project title with a small description in your portfolio and talk about the rest in the in-person interview
- You can also change the names and personal information to a fictitious company persona and write your case study. Be sure not to reveal even the smallest thing that may be covered under NDA.
- Your process & learnings are the most important. Apply the same learnings to a fictitious company
5) What makes a good UX Portfolio?
Now that we have covered all the small hiccups you might face while trying to create your portfolio, let’s get into all the information that goes into your actual portfolio.
Remember – this is what actually matters! If you have a fantastic looking website with great animations only to fill it up with content that is not interesting, it would be very anti-climatic. Ensure that you address these topics in your portfolio:
- About yourself – Your portfolio should let recruiters see who you are as a person both in a professional environment and outside. Starting the website with a small introduction, maybe with a personal picture can form an instant connection between you and the reader.
You can get into your full story in a separate page – About me – Try adding personal information like your hobby, your design journey (how you came into this field), and some other small tidbits about yourself. They can act as good conversation material in your interviews too.
- Your top 3-4 projects – It might seem like a brilliant idea to include all your work in the get-go, but it is actually not. Recruiters only have a limited amount of time to go through each candidate’s profile. So, they are probably skimming through your website.
To them, seeing your top 3 projects can seem like a mature decision on your part of only including what matters most to you. So add your top 3 project case studies and yes we understand it is going to get changed from time to time, but that is part of the process.
- Your Resume – Add a link to your resume or have a page dedicated to it, to add credibility to yourself and your work. Your resume should ideally contain your work experience, your educational background and some achievements you might have gained along the way.
When it comes to highlighting your skills – both soft and technical, we would advise you to tailor it to suit the job descriptions you are hunting for. You can even write a sentence or some words to describe yourself. Add in links to your portfolio, and other professional handles.
- Show process, not just beautiful screens – It is a common misconception that placing your HD mockups will wow your readers. Literally every portfolio will have great mockups since they are easy to generate. What recruiters want to see is how you arrived at that mockup/screen.
What challenges drove you to find the solution, any unique insights you might have discovered along the way. WOW them with your mind, not just your software handling capabilities.
- Focus on Usability – Your portfolio will always be treated as one among your projects. Hence, showcasing your empathy skills here is critical. Make your content readable, well recognisable and navigable. Follow the rules of colour contrast and test it with normal people to see if your message is getting across.
You can even show detailing to the point of keeping all your projects consistent in style, animations and structure.
- Contact Information – Readers need to know where else they can reach you. Add links to your LinkedIn profile, your work email id, your medium profile if you have one or even if you have an Instagram account dedicated to your work. Refrain from adding too many if it is just your personal account.
Making a portfolio is never an easy task. It takes a lot of time and effort and planning – just like any other project and then some to put up one. But starting the process of creating your portfolio can be very helpful in the long run, when you see that golden opportunity for a job or trying to impress an interviewer.
So get cracking, and start making your portfolio now!