In today’s design world, it’s a common saying that portfolios matter more than degrees. That’s due in large part to the gap between theory and practice. No matter your level of formal or informal education, the best indicator of your skills is your portfolio — the quality of your past work, and the way you present it.
In this piece, we’ll give you some real-world advice based on DesignLab‘s experience helping hundreds of designers.
A good UX portfolio is more than just a set of screenshots. It should demonstrate the depth and breadth of your abilities as a designer, showcase your thought process and approach, and give potential employers insight into what it might be like to work with you.
But putting together a portfolio might seem like a challenge. Don’t worry. Here’s a set of guidelines that’ll help you tell your story and get the job you’re looking for.
- Demonstrate your problem-solving abilities — Ultimately, design is about problem-solving, and anyone hiring a UX designer is hiring someone for their ability to systematically figure out the best way to solve their users’ problems. As you describe different pieces of work in your portfolio, make sure you tell a clear story about what the problem was, and how you went about solving it. What were you designing for?
- Display your process and train of thought — Related to the previous point — as a UX designer, you’ll be judged in large part by your process. As you describe the problem and eventual solution, walk people through the process you took to get there. Talk about any user research or competitive analysis you performed, demonstrate your understanding of product/user requirements, show the wireframes you sketched, and so on. You want to convey your understanding of the UX design toolkit, and your ability to apply the right tools and process to solve a problem.If you’d like to learn about different stages of the design process, check out the free Guide to UX Design Process & Documentation.
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- Demonstrate your visual ability — Especially if you’re looking for a UI/UX role, you want to showcase your aesthetic skills in addition to your process. Pay attention to detail on your portfolio, and take care to make sure it looks good visually.
- Show the results of your work, if possible — Describe how your designs led to company success. If results exist, make sure to detail them! Talk about the ROI or outcome of implementing your design work (e.g. users spent X more time on the app, or core metrics went up X%)
- Focus only on the visuals — A common criticism nowadays is the “Dribbbleisation of Design” — many product designers seem to focus more on work that looks pretty, without any thought given to functionality or actual usability. Stand apart from the pack by making sure that you demonstrate your understanding / consideration of usability details, even when you showcase UI work.
- Ignore the visual presentation of your portfolio — At the same time, you don’t want to completely ignore the visuals in your portfolio. Especially if you’re looking for a UI/UX role, it’s important to demonstrate your visual design skills.
- Get bogged down on details, without context into problem-solving — As mentioned above, you want to tell a great story about your work. This means providing the proper context into each portfolio piece, and describing the approach and solutions with just enough detail. You don’t want to get overly complex, though, and lose your readers by sketching out every single iteration of a wireframe.
- Emphasize quantity over quality — it’s better to choose 2 or 3 projects, where you can describe the process end-to-end in detail, than to throw all of your design work in your portfolio. You’ll probably be judged by your weakest work — so make sure everything you include speaks well to your abilities.
If you’d like to brush up on fundamental design skills, feel free to check out the mentored courses on DesignLab.
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Brilliant Examples of Strong UX Portfolios
For some inspiration, take a look at a few great portfolios below.
1. Zach Kuzmic
2. Ed Lea
3. Marc Thomas
4. Simon Pan
If you’d like to improve your UX design knowledge, feel free to check out our 109-page e-book Web UI Design Best Practices. You’ll find practical advice along with 33 analyzed examples from top companies like Evernote, Fitbit, Skullcandy, and others.