If you’re looking for a UX job, recruiters and hiring managers need to confirm you have fundamental UX skills like researching, sketching, workshopping, writing, and prototyping. They also want to see your impact on the business because they want you to help them make money. Did your designs lead to less customer pain and support calls? Did they make the company more revenue? Design skills and their application (impact) make for great designers. I’m a Design Manager and I often look at design portfolios to determine whether or not I should reach out.
Things to consider
Assuming I’ve convinced you of the value of a UX portfolio, here are 15 things to consider when creating one.
- Display your work with minimal to no clicks: When work is hidden or behind multiple clicks, it takes hiring managers longer to review. They also use this experience as a signal for how you design for discoverability. If they can’t find your work in your portfolio, can your users find what they need in your designs?
- Avoid grey text: When managers are hiring, they’re looking at many resumes and portfolios a day. Their eyes are often fatigued so focusing on images and words takes more energy. When in doubt, avoid grey text. It makes it hard to quickly scan your content.
- Avoid small text: This has the same impact as grey text. Makes it hard to read.
- Avoid more than 3 text styles: This is similar to 2 and 3 but it isn’t because of legibility, it’s because a hiring manager’s brain has to do more work to take in more font variations.
- Avoid changing text and image alignment: This makes it harder to scan your work. A hiring manager’s brain has to find a new and different starting point if your content moves around.
- Avoid center aligned paragraphs: Same as 5. This is hard to scan because of the changing starting point. 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 are all applications of the Unity Design Principle.
- Include subheaders or H2s: This helps managers scan your projects and design process.
- Include text: This helps managers know how you think. Are you succinct? A good story teller?
- Avoid paragraphs with more than 100 words: Hiring managers really want to get a quick take on your work and your process. When there are large blocks of text, it makes it hard to do this.
- Avoid animations and autoplaying videos: When things are moving around or flashing, it makes it hard to focus on the rest of your portfolio content.
- Mention who you’re solving for: This lets managers know who your persona is and that you understand the importance of personas.
- Include a problem statement: Keep it short and sweet. What are you solving for? This will help hiring managers validate your process and designs as they go through your work.
- Use data to define your problem: It’s really important that you’re curious and critical. When you use data to prove your problem is real, it shows you’re taking ownership over how you prioritize your work. You’re not just taking work you’ve been given.
- Include images or artifacts from your whole process, not just final designs: This is the best way for hiring managers to see if you know how to design. Do you start with persona definition, sketches, flows and wireframes to ensure you understand the problem and your users’ critical paths before putting lots of time and energy into high fidelity mocks? Are you comfortable leading workshops and meetings? Seeing this in action will help managers assess your design thinking and leadership skills.
- Surface the research you did to validate your design solution: You’ve sketched, created user flows, wireframed, and now moved onto high fidelity prototypes. When you show hiring managers you’ve done user interviews to validate your sketches or mocks, it helps them know you put in work to ensure your solutions are viable.
If these items are still too abstract (totally get it-most things were when I was starting out my career), here are some portfolios that take these 15 things into consideration. See if you can point out all 15 characteristics.
A way to test out your portfolio
Another way to ensure you have an effective UX portfolio, is to user test it. Ask a family member, colleague, or friend to look over one of your projects in 10 seconds. Close your laptop. Ask them what they just read about. Can they describe your project clearly and accurately? Can they tell you why you’re designing and support it with qualitative or quantitative data? Can they talk about what steps you took in your UX process? Can they tell you if your designs succeeded or failed and why? If the answer is no to any of these questions, revisit this list of 15 things as a guide and iterate, then test again. If your Aunt Lavinder can answer these questions, a hiring manager probably can too.
If you don’t have a UX portfolio, these guidelines, examples, and exercises are here to get you started. If you do have one, consider auditing it with these things in mind and let’s talk!