Ultimate Guide

How to Make Your UX Portfolio Stand Out When Applying to Remote Jobs

Jess Feldman

Written By Jess Feldman

Last updated on December 28, 2020

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Springboard   ux portfolio infographic

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

What is a UX Portfolio?

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?

  • A portfolio is a visual showcase of your experience, abilities, resume, and actions. 
  • A degree proves past education. It’s simply a certificate of educational completion. 

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.  

The 6 Core Elements of a UX 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. 

  • These projects may or may not include UX-based methodology techniques. 
  • You can include past client work, but only if you are not breaking the confidentiality of a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA). If a potential employer or client believes you are breaking a NDA, they will put you in the "no" pile. I have passed up UX professionals from my consultancy because I could tell that they were not respecting confidentiality for their other clients. 
  • Your portfolio can include passion projects, pro bono work, and side projects. There is no rule that says that you can only share work from paid projects. 
  • Visuals! Get creative with your portfolio and see it as an internet collage of your work. Remain image and visual heavy accompanied with text descriptions.

2. Some level of storytelling is good to humanize the work. 

  • Storytelling helps the audience understand where you are coming from and what your driving UX philosophies are. It's as much about the work product as it is about the process. 
  • Everything in UX is part of a larger product development process, and it's important that you show that element of it. You're always working with a client, a business, or a product team. What's important is to demonstrate your approach and how these work artifacts fit within broader contexts.

3. Contact information in your portfolio is key, but not personal information. 

  • Your portfolio should include your email and phone number, and maybe the city and state that you primarily work out of. 
  • A common mistake I see amateur designers make is that they put all of their personal information on there, including their home address. It's smarter to use a work email address and business phone number. There are identity thieves, spammers, shady recruiters, and I've even seen candidates pretending to be other candidates just to get in the door!

4. Include your resume.

  • Make sure your resume matches the branding (font, color, theme) of your portfolio. A unified look and feel across all of your job application materials will make you appear much more professional than your competition.

5. Portfolio free of spelling and grammar errors.

  • Punctuation, grammar, spelling, and syntax mistakes are the easiest ways to fast track yourself to the “no” pile! It's amazing how many people submit resumes, cover letters, or portfolios with writing errors. They will never know why they are not getting jobs as quickly as they would have otherwise because it's almost too embarrassing to point out. You need to check, double check, and triple check your work. 

6. UX design work – free of errors. 

  • Hiring teams will be checking your candidate materials for UX and usability errors. They are looking to see that you know how to demonstrate good UX. When reviewing your portfolio, they are asking questions like, Is this candidate adhering to established design principles? Are they committing any usability 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. 

When to dedicate time to your portfolio

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.

How many projects should be included in a UX portfolio?

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.

Who should review your UX portfolio?

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. 

What kinds of career support can Springboard’s UI/UX Design Bootcamp students expect?

Springboard’s UI/UX Design Bootcamp students can expect:

    • Weekly calls with a mentor for the entirety of the bootcamp. Every student is connected with a mid- to senior-level professional for advice and feedback on their projects, resume, cover letter, job hunting strategy, and tactics for interviewing. I like to stay in touch with my students after they graduate to see who hired them and how they are doing. I love to see my students succeed!
    • Unlimited career mentor calls. Springboard has an entire team of career mentors that students can book calls with as often as they need to. Students can receive feedback on their portfolio, resume, and cover letter, as well as practice mock interviews. 
    • A real-world, industry design project. Springboard students get the chance to work for a real company on an authentic UX project. It's a practical way for them to flex their client management skills because they are providing UX services based on what they learned in the bootcamp.
  • Springboard’s job guarantee. Because we are so confident in our career services, we guarantee every bootcamp graduate a job within six months of graduating or their money back.

Which UX job boards do you recommend to your Springboard mentees?

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.

Is now the right time to take a UI/UX design bootcamp?

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.

Find out more and read Springboard reviews on Course Report. This article was produced by the Course Report team in partnership with Springboard.

About The Author

Jess Feldman

Jess Feldman

Jess Feldman is an accomplished writer and the Content Manager at Course Report, the leading platform for career changers who are exploring coding bootcamps. With a background in writing, teaching, and social media management, Jess plays a pivotal role in helping Course Report readers make informed decisions about their educational journey.

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