Our UX Portfolio Reviews event kicked off as part of San Francisco Design Week with more than 130 participants, an expert panel of 9 incredible mentors, and more than 40 mentees whose portfolios were reviewed during the event.
It was an exciting opportunity to get insights into how hiring managers are reviewing designers’ work and what’s important to them when they decide if they want to move forward with a candidate.
In this post you will find 45 tips from our experts on what you can do to improve your UX portfolio.
Join more than 5,000 designers and researchers at IxDA San Francisco and be among the first who receive announcements about future events!
Tip #1: Good portfolio relates to the job description and shows that you would be a good fit to that specific role.
Tip #2: Tell a story: don’t just show ‘pretty pictures’ but demonstrate what you added to that project and what your specific perspective was that you contributed. What were the difficulties you overcame, what were your hero moments?
Tip #3: Demonstrate that you empathize with your stakeholders and the problem space you’re addressing.
Tip #4: Tailor your portfolio to the company you’re applying to — their culture, their priorities, their expectations.
Tip #5: Include your contact details!
Tip #6: Show what your specific take or lens is of how you solve problems and how do you back this up with life long learning and curiosity to build on it.
Tip #7: Treat the creation of your portfolio like another design project — it shows!
Tip #8: Show your thought process — how did you analyze the problem and arrive at a solution
Tip #9: Don’t just focus on the 9–5, but also mention interesting extra-curriculars you might be involved with.
Tip #10: Don’t just ‘blanket apply’ to any vaguely relevant job, but be thoughtful which ones might be a good fit.
Tip #11: For more vague job descriptions, consider filling in the blanks with your ideal version of the job in mind, and be ready to ask clarifying questions.
Tip #12: How to stand out from the crowd? Extra-special visuals and animations might make the hiring manager’s job harder, not easier: they will need to cut through the extra bells and whistles to see what’s underneath.
Tip #13: Don’t be afraid to add a personal touch — it makes you more relatable and shows more sides of you to the hiring team.
Tip #14: Give context of the projects you’re presenting — where these your student projects, or what was the team set up of the project you’re detailing here?
Tip #15: Highlight what you learned from doing the projects you’re presenting — e.g. what would you do differently given another chance.
Tip #16: Sign up as a mentor to other designers — a tremendous learning opportunity for everyone involved.
Tip #17: With the current pandemic situation — don’t despair and keep trying if you’re having a hard time finding the right opportunity for yourself. Many are affected. Turn to the community for support.
Tip #18: Hard design skills vs soft ones — actually getting your design built is hard, what skills might help you with this process?
Tip #19: Hiring managers don’t have much time to spend on each portfolio — they value portfolios that are concise and readily communicate what the candidate is about.
Tip #20: Guide the hiring manager through the portfolio visually and structurally — make it easy to scan and digest.
Tip #21: Communicate which ones are the most recent projects, or give an indication of roughly when each project was done.
Tip #22: If you’re still at the beginning of your career it’s ok to include your student projects in your portfolio, but make it clear that this is what they are (e.g. they might not have the technical constraints of a real world problem)
Tip #23: Include the 10,000 ft level summary of the project before you drill down into details.
Tip #24: Let thoughtfulness and attention to detail shine through in your UX portfolio.
Tip #25: Highlight special challenges you encountered and how you dealt with them, for projects in your portfolio.
Tip #26: Hiring managers might look for your specific uniqueness — what makes you different from other designers. Bring this to the fore.
Tip #27: Hiring managers might trend towards clicking on ‘recent projects’ first. Make sure these are the ones you want them to see, or else design around it, guide them to the projects you want them to drill down further.
Tip #28: What did you do to understand the problem space, what data or insights did you use?
Tip #29: Which stakeholders did you work with for this project, and how?
Tip #30: What were the goals + success metrics for your project? How well did you meet these?
Tip #31: Tie your design decisions back to research insights.
Tip #32: Don’t just use ‘process’ as a checkbox — use the process to your advantage, show where and how it helped.
Tip #33: If you can, bring in the business or market context, too.
Tip #34: Consider starting each project overview with a big bold problem statement. Something to set the context of the case study you included.
Tip #35: If you can, rework the project deliverables/artifacts in one coherent visual style across your portfolio, so individual style differences don’t get in the way of easy scannability.
Tip #36: Annotations annotations annotations! don’t just show the mock, but annotate what are the things the hiring manager should pay attention to when looking at it.
Tip #37: ‘Diagonal’ UI presentation in the portfolio — why or when has this become a trend? Does it help communicate what you accomplished in your project?
Tip #38: Consider showing “before” and “after”. Start off with the final solution, and then show what you worked off of.
Tip #39: Highlight transitions between process steps — e.g. from research into brainstorming into exploring design options — show when one process stage ended and the next one began.
Tip #40: Be fiercely intentional with the artifacts you decide to include in your portfolio.
Tip #41: Make it as easy as possible for the hiring manager to see the key nuggets you want them to see and take away from your portfolio.
Tip #42: Include A/B testing on your solution if it was done — highlight the hypothesis, results, and conclusions.
Tip #43: Bring things back to the problems you identified and described at the very beginning of the process, and how your work improved things.
Tip #44: Be like a journalist reporting only on the most interesting pieces you want to bring across. Your project description doesn’t need to be fully comprehensive, but it need to be most relevant to what the hiring manager is looking for.
Tip #45: “it’s an art to be as vague as possible (about confidential projects) but still communicate key work accomplishments.” Be very mindful not to break confidentiality.
Join more than 5000 designers at IxDA San Francisco and be among the first who receive announcements about our future events!
IxDA San Francisco Local Leaders
- Daniela Busse (Linkedin, Twitter, Medium), head of research at eBay.
- Anna Iurchenko (Linkedin, Twitter, Medium, Instagram), an interaction designer at Google Health.
Feel free to connect with Daniela and Anna via Linkedin or social media!