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Portfolio Review Takeaways – ADPList Coffee Hours #1

In this article we will summarise the key takeaways and action points discussed during ADPList UX Design Portfolio Review.

What is Amazing Design People List (ADPList)?

Amazing Design People List | Team Members | Felix Lee | Tridz | Winona | Volunteers

ADPList, a.ka, the Amazing Design People list, is a global community, led by designers Felix Lee and James Badur to help designers and the design community as a whole find each other. The ADP community revolves around designers, where the aim is to help budding designers find the right kind of mentorship, to help hone their skills, from renowned practitioners in the field, and land the kind of jobs they are looking for. At the same time, they help the startup community find the right talent they are looking for immediately. It is a wholesome community, filled with love and respect for designers coming from any part of the world.

ADP conducts regular events starring the mentors of the community, who provide expert portfolio reviews, career advice, interview hacks and more for anyone looking for it. You should definitely check them out if you are looking to get valuable opinions on your portfolio or any other career advice. https://www.adplist.org/

Portfolio Review Excerpt Edition 1:

This was the first UX Design Portfolio Review in the coffee hours series hosted by ADPlist. The session was moderated by Felix Lee and Wendy and the design experts giving their valuable feedback was William Ntim, Senior Designer at Home Depot and Kasey Randall, Senior Interaction Designer at Sirius XM.

5 Key Pointers from this session:

We have summarised the learnings from the hour-long session into 5 short & actionable points below. Feeling too lazy to read? You can skip to the Key Takeaways section for the concise actionable points. With that done, let’s dive in.

1) Bring your own WOW factor

Anything you can do to add little moments of delight is appreciated and can set you apart

Both the mentors were keen on elements catching the viewer’s eye at the beginning of the portfolio skimming process – something to “wow” them into looking for more information

William and Kasey had immediate feedback about the first visual they saw of a portfolio. Some made them really happy, excited and evoked conversations about typography and personality of the designer while others did not.

Meenal Jakatadar had the only dark UI in the selected pool of portfolios which broke from the monotony of white. She even had a code to re-write her abilities which really stood out to the mentors as it was a bold move to go dark.

Meenal UX Portfolio Dark UI | UX Design Portfolio Review
Meenal’s Dark UI portfolio with simple interactions – https://www.imeenalj.com/

Panhan also had a website which was memorable – with his simple hover-responsive animation at the header section and Jacquiline’s had a cool brand logo which stood out.

While all the portfolios had different areas which shined, the mentors emphasised that creating a jaw-dropping first impression is only great if it lives up to your personality. Kasey pointed out an important truth, “Get creative but be true to you and then you can add your own  wow factor”

Feedback is the way we grow. You do not need to implement every feedback given to you, but your ability to be receptive to them is going to be a big part of your UX skill

 William Ntim

2) Give affordances to use your website

Help your readers interact with zero difficulty

Almost all the portfolios had some sort of interaction that a viewer could have with their components like prototypes, videos and so on – which really made the mentors appreciate the extra effort designers took to add them.

But most of them were missing key affordances (how to use the component) which evoked a response that,”if you are going to add a component, make sure it is top notch”

They pointed out that having embedded prototypes is wonderful, but it has to come with buttons to show how to move through the pages, captions that let readers know it is a clickable prototype and easy to recognise instructions on how to play around.

If photographs of project outcomes have been added, providing a small caption of it’s context significantly adds value to that piece of information.

3) Translate your design knowledge into your website too!

Use all the principles and theory you know to elevate to your website

Most designers tend to forget that their websites are also considered as their work. Having done great work for clients and not having that come through because of issues like spacing, choice of fonts, structuring and reliability issues really works against you.

The mentors were really keen on font choices and aptly so – just a break from the monotony of regular fonts to Ubuntu greatly excited Kasey in Panhan’s portfolio.

Panhan's UX Design Portfolio Review
Panhan’s Portfolio with a language translator –https://panhan.com.br/en

They mentioned that looking at such smart choices for your website helps recruiters understand your command over your craft.

Simple details such as fitting your prototype in a nice mobile mockup, creating hierarchy in your content and adding small touches of accessibility like a language translator show you strive to provide a top-notch experience.

There is a fine balance between figuring out what your story and style is but also following the best practices

Kasey Randall

4) Embrace your background, no matter which profession you are from

The design community is filled with people from diverse professions. Kasey himself was a Graphic designer turned UI/UX designer with front end experience. William is a web developer who turned into UI/ UX design.

Both mentors were flag bearers of highlighting previous background skills to help boost your UX skills.

William said that his knowledge about web design helps him craft a UI that is easily transferable into code because he knows what is happening behind the system. This sets him apart from his competition as he has an ace up his sleeve.

But they also mentioned that it is important to pick your route of career. Having 2 legs in 2 things at once only makes it seem like you are half invested, which is never enough.

5) Craft your content well

Oftentimes case studies can end up being really long. So getting the gist of the project across to new readers is important in making an impression. Remembering to design for the time managers do not have would be the key, said Kasey.

Kasey asked designers to “use every tool you know to your advantage”. He often sees the main page of a portfolio website filled with wonderful static mockups and questions why no one uses their stunning prototypes to lure users into the case study.

Another portfolio had both the mentors awe struck because of its striking mockups and visuals but it did not have enough context and process to justify those visuals which was a big no from their side.

They mentioned that sometimes really lengthy content is forgotten amidst excellent storytelling and breakdown of information. Recruiters would have spent a really long time on a portfolio without having realised or felt that it was too long.

So the key is to add the right amount of breaks, give breathing room and just make the content easy to understand and consume.

Keep it simple. Simple things always work, because it gets the work done

Kasey Randall

Other General Questions

1) As a product designer who has worked in packaging, graphic design wants to work in UI/UX what type of work should I highlight?

It is about how you take a problem solving approach to any brief that you are trying to fulfil. UX is all about solving problems, working with clients and showcasing you have a clear thought process to approaching your brief

2) Is it possible to structure a great portfolio with very less visual design skills?

A big yes!. The secret is to keep it simple and it is a great way to learn the basics of web design, colour theory and typography. Get inspired by other portfolios and learn. Start black and white and then get into the flair. You could even reach out to your network to help you with whatever skills you lack.

3) UX is focussed on user goals – But for businesses it’s about balancing user goals with business goals. Do we serve them both?

Yes, Hybrid is the way to go. As a designer, you need to do right by your users as well as your business because they enable you. We have the skill to solve problems, so why not solve for both? – William
Compromise is key in any company. You need to combine good UX with good business. You can choose your battles and fight for those ideas that you want to take further. – Kasey

4) I am a UX/UI designer, who comes from a UI development background. And I am keeping my options open for both careers. How do I craft my portfolio?

First off you need to choose your career path. Being proficient in both will add value to whichever role you choose but you need to stick 100% with one option. Having a UI development background is a bonus, so highlight it

5)  In UX schools we are not fully taught about the business side of things. Where do we find the exposure needed to tackle both users and businesses?

Start supporting startups and NGO’s – they will teach you a lot about what happens in a business. Angel.co is a great place to find startups.

Reach out to startups via mails, (most of them do reply back to you) and mention how and why you want to help them. This is a great way to gain experience and learn. – Felix

6) How do we stand out among hundreds of portfolios and candidates in a job profile? Do recommendations work?

“Yes, I look at recommended work, known work first because I know their credibility. It is sadly also about who you know in the industry. So focussing on building relationships is crucial in the design community.” – Kasey

“Keywords matter in your resume and portfolio. So do connections with people in the industry. Networking with people is important to grab opportunities later in life. Keep your online presence great, leave breadcrumbs, react to posts, be active.” – William

“Try your hand at internships first from bigger companies which can convert to full-time jobs. (Although Apple usually does not convert internships into full-time offers)” – Felix

UX Design Portfolio Review Key Takeaways

UX Design Portfolio Review Takeaways | Action Points | Tips from UX Industry Experts
Don’t forget to save this checklist

This UX Design Portfolio Review session was immensely enlightening with Kasey’s constant jokes and William’s dog lighting up the mood. Gauging their reactions to portfolios alone give insights into what aspects were winners and what was not. Both experts also gave pointers about industry standards, how hiring managers have very less time to go through candidates portfolios and to put a lot of thought into what makes it into the portfolio. You can get the full experience in the video link here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lIvEM4hRvkA&t=646s

Author avatar
Anjana Ramesh

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