Taking your portfolio to the next level

Following up on the UX Portfolio workshop we ran in Brisbane.

We recently ran a portfolio workshop for Ladies that UX Brisbane, for the designers who are new to the game (or that aren’t so new, but, like me, can be a massive procrastinator when it comes down to our own portfolios).

Showing a beautiful high fidelity design makes a great starting point, but it’s not enough. If you are trying to position yourself in the market as a User Experience Designer you may need a bit more than beautiful deliverables. The idea of the workshop was to inspire people to prepare a portfolio that shows that they are able to design thoughtful, purposeful and meaningful experiences.

We discussed ways to ‘explain’ your design process and ‘sell’ your skills through your portfolio and shared some tips, methods and examples. The attendees worked with a hypothetical briefing, discussed and presented the process, then we discussed what a portfolio project page might look like.

It was the first time that our Brisbane chapter had a hands-on workshop format for a meet-up. We are very happy with the turn out of passionate ladies that UX and the results were great. It’s pretty rewarding seeing everyone so engaged.

The deck can be found here. This article is just a summary of what we discussed.


Treat it as a deliverable

Whenever you’re designing something, you have a budget, a due date, a particular type of user you’re focusing on, constraints, etc. Your portfolio shouldn’t be different.

  • Consider your user: in this case, your future employer.
  • Focus on the goal: communicate your skills.
  • Set yourself a deadline and stick to it.
  • Consider the constraints: don’t publish client information that can’t be disclosed.
  • Maintenance: When in production, keep it updated.

Process matters

  • Walk them through your journey: Make it clear how you got to your solution. Explain the process you’ve gone through, methods you’ve chosen, research insights, wireframes, etc.
  • Give them context: Explain a bit about the brand, the product/service, the user, what was your challenge, if it’s a re-design, a new portal, intranet, app, etc. Mention your role and always give credit to your colleagues.

Constraints: privacy and NDA

We often can’t publish certain things to protect our client’s privacy. It’s usually fine once it’s in production, but it all comes down to your legal team or whatever paperwork you singed.

Some workarounds (depending on what is in the contract):

  • Protect the page with a password.
  • Remove the all branding elements (logo, name, colour, fonts that relate to the brand, everything). Call it something generic like “mobile app for Company X”, “journey mapping for XYZ” — and put a disclaimer explaining that it’s unbranded for privacy reasons.

Platforms. Or not.

We briefly mentioned some of the most popular platforms to publish portfolios and discussed if designers should bother to code their portfolio or not. Usually, in a UX design role you don’t need to code. I’m not even starting, but you can read more about it here. It comes down to the role that you are aiming for.

  • Using a platform: It’s often a good option because they are easy to use and maintain. There are a lot of different templates these days. Have a look on Squarespace, Behance, Wordpress, Dribbble and Adobe Portfolio (Adobe Portfolio is paid, but it’s a free service if you are paying for Adobe creative cloud). There some are others — if you have a suggestion, please mention them in the comments.
  • Coding your own: If you know front-end enough to code your own, or at least to put something together with Bootstrap, then why not? It may give you more flexibility.

The bottom line is: choose what works for you. If you are aiming for a role that includes Front-End Development, you should code your portfolio (and do it well, they will inspect it).

If you are that person (me?) that when editing a code, delete a dot and the whole thing blows out, and you will take ages to figure out what the hell you’ve done… You’re better off to just use a platform. Save time and get it done.

It all comes down to your goals, as we said at the start.


Recap:

  • Tailor it to the job that you are looking for (different levels and roles, require different information);
  • Have a realistic plan — and get it started;
  • Pick your favourites;
  • Show your processes;
  • It’s a deliverable (remember the user, the due date, etc).

Thank you Angelica Bäckström for co-hosting the workshop with me :)
And Renee Mellish and Nicky Watson for co-organising.