How to create a UX writing portfolio
If you’ve been doing UX writing for a few years and are ready to showcase your work, there are a few ways you can build a portfolio that stands out. A portfolio is a great way to share projects with prospective employers, as well as make an impression with your UX skills.
Not all companies give the same title to UX writers. Some other titles include Content Strategist, UI Writer, Content Designer, and Product Writer. The point of this blog post isn’t to tell you what UX writing is. If you’re unsure, these recent articles can point you in the right direction.
What we love to see at Dropbox
When we review portfolios, we want to see your best work, presented in a way that shows us you know how to write for the web. But some portfolios are hard to navigate or lack context, which blocks our ability to best understand your writing.
The most helpful UX writing portfolios we see showcase a variety of samples across different types of UI copy. This includes:
- Landing pages
- User onboarding
- Product-generated emails
When we’re checking out a portfolio, these are a few things we look for:
- Are your samples easy to navigate?
- Is it obvious which parts you actually wrote?
- Does your writing sound human?
- Is your writing clear and succinct?
- How do you treat errors, empty states, and other sensitive topics?
- Does your writing show the user what to do and how to do it?
To help you create a killer UX writing portfolio, we’ve gathered some tips and guidance from our UX Writing team’s combined experience hiring writers.
Have your samples online
You don’t have to hand-code a website, but your portfolio needs to be on the web. If you want to show us you can work in UX and write UI copy, your website is a great way to demonstrate that.
It’s fine if you copy and paste your screenshots into a PDF — but they can sometimes be hard to navigate. Also, being prompted to download any kind of file gives us pause. It’s often a lot easier to click through pages and zoom into images on a website, which means we might be able to spend more time reading your samples.
Free websites + no coding required
You can get a basic website on a free hosting site like WordPress or Squarespace. These sites use templates that are easy to navigate and display screenshots of your work.
Another plus to having a web portfolio (instead of a PDF) is the ability to track your visitors. WordPress and Squarespace have simple analytics built in. You can see the number of visitors to your site, the pages they looked at, and how long they stayed. You can even use these analytics to improve your user flow and put your UX skills to use right away!
Showcase your words
It’s tough to know exactly what to include in your UX writing portfolio. Finding the balance between too many projects and too few requires a thoughtful approach and depends on the amount of material you have. Once you’ve decided what projects to include, there are a few ways to show your words in context.
Use screenshots, not live links or text files
This is probably the most important piece of advice in this whole post.
UX writing embodies the ability to use the right words in the right interface context (web, mobile, voice UI). Sometimes we get links to live websites without any other information. We don’t know if you wrote the headlines, the error messages, the blog posts, or if you just changed a few words from what somebody else wrote.
When you copy and paste your writing into a text file or plain text, we see your words (good) without context (not good). For a blog writing position, that might be OK. But for a UX writing position, we need to see your words in a user interface context.
Screenshots help us understand navigation, flow, and clarity of action. When we have context to get inside the user’s head, we can learn how your words contribute to the user’s overall experience.
Highlight the parts you wrote
Using arrows or other highlighting tools, point out the exact copy you wrote. If you screenshot a page but don’t give us any context, we’ll assume you wrote every word on the page. If we interview you, we might ask how you came up with that fantastic headline and subhead. If it turns out you wrote the settings, not the headers, we’d rather know upfront. The point of a portfolio is to showcase your work — so make it clear which words are yours.
Even better: include before-and-after screenshots, so we can see where you started and where you landed.
Go beyond the basics: case studies and themes
Screenshots let us see how your copy works with the overall flow of the project. But if you want to take your portfolio above and beyond, you can offer a glimpse into your process and work style. To show your teamwork and your ability to work cross-functionally, there are two great ways to do this: case studies and grouping by theme.
Create case studies
With a case study, you showcase your storytelling abilities along with your best UX writing samples.
A basic case study answers these questions:
- The project:
- What was the problem and what was the goal?
- Who were the main stakeholders?
- What was your role?
- What constraints were you working with?
- What was your timeline?
2. Your UX process:
- How did you make decisions based on user research?
- How did you collaborate with other teams, designers, and PMs to learn as much as possible about user needs?
3. Your creative process:
- How did you iterate on copy?
- Why did you choose the words you did?
- What were other explorations that didn’t succeed?
- How did you make final decisions on copy?
4. The final product and results:
- You don’t need to share confidential information, but we need to know how you measured success. Did you use analytics, testimonials, reviews?
- How long did it take?
- What were the main lessons learned?
Don’t feel like you need to create long-winded copy for a case study. Make it easy to read and scan, using subheads and bullet points.
Group projects by theme
You can show a bunch of projects within a theme, with a summary for each project.
For example, show ten landing pages for various clients or a series of onboarding emails with information about the project, scope, and process. Bullet points work fine here! We just need to know the basics, so we understand how the words you wrote appeared where they did and why.
Here’s an example of information you can include, either with each project or as a group:
- Project: Landing page redesign
- Scope: Create new headline, subhead, and 1-paragraph descriptive blurb
- My role: Lead writer
- Stakeholders: Project manager, lead designer
- Goal: Redesign started in Q3; ship redesign by EOQ1
- Challenges: How can we get more users to sign up for the newsletter when they sign up for our product?
- Basic process: User research > Plan > Design/Copy > Prototype > Test
- Results: 45% increase in newsletter sign-ups over the following quarter
Protect sensitive work
If the work you’ve done is publicly available, you should be able to share it publicly, too. If your work hasn’t launched, that’s “sensitive material.”
If you want to include projects that haven’t shipped, you can create password-protected pages. This feature is free with WordPress, Squarespace, and other sites. You can share the password with a hiring manager in a confidential setting.
If your work is under an NDA and you’re not sure if you can include it even on a password-protected page, the best person to ask is your company’s lawyer. Some employers let employees show their work in a confidential setting. Some might require hiring managers to also sign an NDA. Others might not allow it at all.
Check the details
Finally, your portfolio offers the opportunity to advertise your attention to detail. Typos are a huge red flag when you apply to any writing position, but especially one where you’ll be revising and editing other people’s work. Double-check, triple-check, and use spell check. Also be sure to proofread your resume and LinkedIn profile.
Before you share your portfolio with the world, use this checklist:
- Proofread it.
- Make sure all your links work and go to the right places.
- Make sure your contact information is correct and current.
- Get rid of any unnecessary social media links.
After you pull together your portfolio and proofread it, consider having a friend test it out. Then make sure your resume is polished, and get out there and sell your best self to the world.
Every company’s hiring process is unique. During your job hunt, you might be asked to submit your portfolio with your initial application, before a phone screen, or before an in-person interview. You might be asked to walk through each page during an in-person portfolio review or over the phone.
Whatever the process, know that if you follow the tips we’ve laid out here, you’ll drastically increase your chances to get that much-awaited call. Thanks for reading, and best wishes on your UX writing job search!