Why Proper Project Documentation is Important for Building Your Portfolio

Jennifer Andrades
Jan 3, 2020 · 3 min read
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Photograph by Glenn Carstens

One of the hardest things you will ever do as a UX designer is build your portfolio. You have to represent yourself gracefully and find a compelling and aesthetically pleasing way to lay out your case studies to show employers who you are and what you can do well as a UX designer. That’s already pretty stressful, but if your deliverables aren’t organized and easy to sort through before you begin the portfolio process, it will be a bumpier experience. How do I know this? Well, I’m currently building my portfolio and am learning this the hard way.

Everyone making progress on their portfolios while I struggle with mine

At my last job, I was praised for being extremely organized. I made lists, took a lot of notes, used sticky notes for reminders and also created calendar reminders to keep myself on top of things. I genuinely enjoy being organized, but I’m finding that it’s much harder to keep a project organized when working in a group because deliverables are handled by more than one person.

I am currently in the process of fleshing out a case study for a student group project. We got along great, had open communication with each other, and worked really hard to create a product that we were all very proud of. The one thing we failed at was documentation. I don’t have the best memory and sometimes I forget that. It’s that bad. When sharing findings, some team members gave an oral summary of the things they learned while saving audio and video files that could be referenced later.

It seemed organized at the time, but it wasn’t. It is taking me a while to create the case study for that project because there were a lot of important deliverables that were not documented correctly. Now I have to listen to long audio files, watch screen recordings of the competitor apps that were analyzed, and do more research to get a fully fleshed out case study. Basically, I’m in hell.

So what could we have done to prevent this? After kicking myself many times, I thought of two ways.

1. Set Documentation Expectations as a Group

When you form a group for the first time, it’s important to discuss preferences for communication styles, approval processes, conflict resolution methods, etc. So, why not add documentation to that list? You could have a meeting about it or do affinity mapping with your team to figure out which deliverables must be documented and how they should be documented. This way, everyone is on the same page and knows what really constitutes as a successful deliverable. It may seem like more work in the moment, but it will pay off in the end.

No, we’ll ALL do it.

2. Look Out for Numero Uno (Then Share)

So, you’re part of a team that refuses to document findings in a proper way. You’ve tried explaining why it’s crucial and they still think it’s not a big deal. What now? Well, the only thing you can do is take care of it yourself.

Have a notebook that is dedicated to jotting down your team’s finding, write everything you think will influence the design of the project, and use bullet points to keep your notes easily scannable. Make sure to carve some time out of your day to type the notes up so you can save them digitally. You could just take photographs of your notes, but it’s important to type them out because when creating a case study, it’s really helpful to be able to copy and paste information.

The next step is to share it with your team. Doing this will demonstrate how necessary documentation is during the design process. A team member might need access to information they can’t remember and grabbing it from saved documentation could make them realize how important it really is. You might even have a positive impact on the way a teammate works in the future if they actually end up using it.

Don’t wanna say I told ya so, but…

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Jennifer Andrades

Written by

I am a UX Designer previously employed by Visa. In my free time, I like to listen to comedy podcasts, travel, and hang out with my cat, Scratchy.

The Startup

Medium's largest active publication, followed by +752K people. Follow to join our community.

Jennifer Andrades

Written by

I am a UX Designer previously employed by Visa. In my free time, I like to listen to comedy podcasts, travel, and hang out with my cat, Scratchy.

The Startup

Medium's largest active publication, followed by +752K people. Follow to join our community.

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