UX/UI Case Study: My Portfolio

UX/UI Portfolios are a different beast from typical design portfolios. So, I am sharing the process of how I made mine so that others can use what I’ve done to help them with their own portfolios.

Start by choosing the right audience.

Knowing your audience and what they’re looking for will naturally lead to a goal.

My initial inclination was to do what I know, which is to focus on designers. However, that didn’t align with the end-goal I wanted: to get a UX/UI design role. So, my focus shifted to hiring managers (who might come from a design background) and recruiters.

Never reinvent the wheel — analyze it instead.

Next, I researched what successful portfolios look like and what hiring managers and recruiters want to see. If you’re designing for a business, this is the market/competition landscape analysis. So, I found top UX portfolios and analyzed their strengths and weaknesses. Research was easy with lists such as this, this, and this.

Worship the process.

Overwhelmingly, there was emphasis on the design process and presenting a few projects as case studies. My initial thought was that I had to try to fit my projects into formalized design processes and point it out bluntly. Or, choose projects from my undergrad years that focused on learning the d. school design thinking process. Both ways seemed forced and too easy to fake. I realized was missing some key information.

I live for the “Wait, but why?” moments.

Knowing what your audience/users want is an excellent start, but it is not as important as knowing why. Figuring out why unlocks the motivations behind an idea, which is key to understanding and empathizing with your users.

Therefore, I went on Quora to ask actual hiring managers (who work as designers) why they care about a process that people can easily fake.

The answers were exactly what I needed. To me, their reasons are similar to why programers are asked to whiteboard algorithm problems: to see if they prioritize the right things to solve a loosely-defined problem. It is to make sure that you are a curious, persistent, and empathetic designer. You question and analyze assumptions instead of going with the first things that pop into your head.

Speak to real people, too.

I also spoke with a couple hiring managers (one was a technical program manager and the other a startup co-founder with UX design background) and a recruiter. The take aways from the meetings where what they look for from a UX designer and that I should differentiate myself with my programming skills. This led to my portfolio having more of a personality and a mobile app that I designed and developed.

With that knowledge, I developed user personas that I kept in mind throughout the entire development process.

Development is only a part of the entire process.

I’m going to be brief here because, unlike other design roles, development of the final product is only a bullet point in the list of things that makeup a UX designer’s process. Make sure you can use the industry standard tools to work smoothly with your team mates who might be developers or visual designers.

Building my website started with sketching wireframes and then building a draft in Sketch. I used coolors.co to pick a color palette, and Unsplash for images. The website is a Heroku Ruby on Rails App.

Seek feedback around every corner.

Not everyone will give you the critical feedback you need. Sometimes they’re just too busy or don’t care, so you have to cast a wide net.

I started by asking for feedback from a UX channel in a women in tech Slack group, because people were open to giving me advice on how they got started. However, when I asked for portfolio review, I didn’t get any feedback. So, I shared screenshots of what I was working on to all sorts of people, including designers, developers, and technical program managers.

I also have meetings with a recruiter and a UX design manager to go through the details. I networked and was lucky enough to meet these people through connections I had. But if you’re just starting out, the Facebook group HH Websites and Resumes is a good place to post your portfolio for feedback.

I’ll be collecting more feedback for the next iteration. I’d love to hear from you, too. A change that I have already received is to create navigation buttons (that I initially left out for minimalism) to different sections in the page. If you have feedback on this article or my portfolio, please email (hello@isabelleg.me) or tweet (@isabe11eg).

Thanks and good luck,

Isabelle Giuong

Edit: After seeing the first version go live and watching someone trying to navigate it by clicking on unclickable things, I redesigned the site to be cleaner and easier to use.

See Designs Below:

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