What exactly is a UX portfolio and what are the core elements that every UX designer and researcher should include in it? Springboard UI/UX Design mentor Rylan Clark breaks down what employers and recruiters are looking for in today’s UX portfolio, and the common mistakes every UX professional should avoid. Learn tips for making your UX portfolio stand out in the remote job search, plus more on how Springboard successfully navigates students through their job search.
Meet the Expert: Rylan Clark
A portfolio is a showcase of your experience and skills in the field as well as an opportunity to brand yourself. A portfolio can also include a catalog of your offerings. Whether you are a business owner, freelancer, or looking for a salaried position, a portfolio allows you to pitch yourself to investors, partners, clients, recruiters, or hiring managers. You are not only describing who you are and what you can do, but also what you can do for your target audience.
Every serious designer has a portfolio. A portfolio is usually on a website, but pre-COVID-19, many people would bring a high-quality printed version for in-person meetings. If you are speaking to a potential client or employer in-person, consider bringing a printed portfolio with you because it's not always convenient or comfortable to use a tablet.
What’s the difference between a portfolio and a degree?
Remember, if you’re short on paid experience, then consider drawing on projects you did throughout the course of your education in your portfolio. That's a common practice if those fields are in the same practice. If you received a degree in anything related to UX, there will likely be things you can include in your portfolio. When you attend a UX bootcamp like Springboard, you will graduate with a ton of work that you can add to your portfolio.
When pulling together your portfolio, keep in mind that every page needs to have the same look and feel, use of colors, and font. All of your job hunting material should be consistently branded. Potential clients and employers will recognize and appreciate that branding consistency.
1. Visual and text-based descriptions of your past or ongoing projects.
2. Some level of storytelling is good to humanize the work.
3. Contact information in your portfolio is key, but not personal information.
4. Include your resume.
5. Portfolio free of spelling and grammar errors.
6. UX design work – free of errors.
How can you highlight your experience and skills without coming off as boastful?
Focus on the message. A portfolio is not about boasting or bragging; it's about helping people make an important decision about you. That said, make sure that you aren't exaggerating anything in your portfolio. Simply tell the truth of who you are as a UX professional, what you have accomplished or built, and what you can do. Tell people what they need to know about you.
Apply your UX skills when designing your portfolio. UX is a field focused on empathy and understanding users, meeting their needs and expectations, which is why you should apply UX to your own job applicant materials. Empathize with your end user by seeing your portfolio through a potential client, recruiter, or employer’s perspective. What do they want to know? What are their needs and expectations? Make sure to include the pieces that will compel your audience to take the action you want them to.
Some of my students even take their portfolios through a user-centered design process. They create the layout, fill it up as a rough draft, and present it to people they know who work in the field for feedback. Then they will iteratively optimize their portfolio over the course of weeks or months.
Springboard’s UI/UX Design Bootcamp is self-paced to accommodate our students’ lives and responsibilities. We want our students to stay focused on the curriculum, so we suggest that students hold off on assembling their portfolio until they are mostly through the bootcamp and are prepared to begin their job hunt. There is so much to cover in the bootcamp and students will work on a real-client project and several capstones that will eventually be portfolio-ready, so we want our students to keep the momentum going by trusting the Springboard process.
The amount of projects in your portfolio may vary depending on where you are in your UX career, but you want to have over three projects. You want to highlight the projects that are most important and then list any that are of secondary importance. Consider what recruiters and hiring managers are looking for, and then focus on building your portfolio to appeal to them. I advise any new UX designers to check out other UX designers’ portfolios to get an idea of what to include.
It's a better problem to have many projects to choose from than too few. Graduates of Springboard's UI/UX Design bootcamp will have over 50 projects to choose from as well as dozens of skills to highlight. If you haven't taken a UX design bootcamp and don't have many projects, you can turn your resume into a portfolio by including more visuals and listing your experience and skills in a visually compelling manner.
If you are applying for design jobs in different industries, should you create different portfolios?
It's rare to have different portfolios for different industries, but it depends on your level of experience and how focused you are in a particular industry or part of UX. It's more common to have one master portfolio organized by industry or fields. If you are going after research jobs as a UX researcher, highlight research jobs. If you are going after design jobs, highlight design projects. If you are interested in both UX design and UX research roles, divide your portfolio to showcase each field separately, but be sure to demonstrate your understanding of their symbiotic relationship.
Any set of eyes other than your own is going to make your portfolio that much better. You can start with friends and family, but the best feedback will be those in the industry, even if they are someone you met online or in a meetup. Springboard students receive portfolio feedback from mentors like me. If you are going through a job hunt, you should be getting good feedback from your interviews. You should use that to make tweaks and improve on your portfolio. Any feedback you receive from people working the UX field should probably be incorporated into your portfolio.
How often should you be updating your portfolio?
As often as you can! If you are doing it right, you are constantly tailoring your resume, cover letter, and portfolio all in unison.
Springboard’s UI/UX Design Bootcamp students can expect:
I spent many years when I was freelancing and consulting trying to find the golden goose of remote UX jobs boards and I never found one. I advise my mentees to check the major job boards like Indeed, Glassdoor, and SimplyHired and use the filters to show only remote UX jobs. LinkedIn lists quite a few remote UX jobs, but I like to point people to the well-established job boards first because they have the most listings.
Now is the best time to do a bootcamp. I don't know why anyone would wait! From all my years of mentoring, I’ve found that the number one thing holding back people is simply a lack of action. Some people spend months or even years talking about their desire to make a career change, but they never follow through. At any given time, there are tens of thousands of UX jobs on the market in the USA alone. You can look at any of the major job boards and see that there is a lot of opportunity in the field. You need to make your own future and invest in it. There is nobody who should care more about your future than you and it is 100% your responsibility to own it.
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