5 simple steps towards a UX portfolio

Here are some ideas about what I’ve learned about making a UX portfolio so far.

1. Know yourself
Every successful pitch starts with good self-knowledge. What is it that you want to achieve by making your portfolio, what should be the idea that you want to install in the mind of the viewer? Why are you applying for this particular job at this particular company? Do you know the direction in which you would like to develop? What makes you so much better than all the other candidates? Those questions should be answered in your portfolio. A portfolio is not meant to be a perfect reflection of your past career, it’s a sales tool that you use to steer your future. Therefore it’s perfectly fine to put a spotlight on those projects that you are proud off, and to show off your skills in the areas you’d like to develop yourself in.

2. Know your audience
It’s hard to decide what you should do if you don’t know your audience. Every hiring manager and every job is slightly different and this should be reflected in your portfolio. Try to gain as much information as possible about the (kind of) person and the company you are addressing. Are you being hired as the only person or will you be part of a large design department? Will the hiring person view your portfolio on the road on her iPhone or look at it at her 30” iMac? Or is she more likely to print it at the very last minute so she can look at it whilst walking to the interview room? The answers to these questions will define the kind of information, the amount of pages and the size of pages (A4, A3, 1980*1200, etc) that will best fit your audience.

3. Tell a story
Make sure you take the lead. Based on your goal (get the job) and your audience (the hiring manager) you can create a visual narrative supported by text. Roughly your portfolio could be structured like this:

  1. Top-level view. Show that you understand UX design: show user research, idea generation, idea implementation and testing.
  2. Zoom-in. Build up trust by demonstrating that you are an experienced professional: show the different design phases of several projects, make sure you mention the goal of the project, your role and the outcome.
  3. Team-player. Gain some browny points by demonstrating your obsession with UX: were you involved in organising an event? Did you write an interesting blog post? Or did you give a presentation? This is your chance to show it.

Through text and visuals you can make clear that they simply have no other option than to invite you for an interview.

4. Sweat the details
Think once more about your goal and your audience and make sure they align. Crop your images so only the essential is shown. Remove words until only the necessary are left. Tune your case studies. Maybe you can use a quote from a happy client. Perhaps you can illustrate your statement about card-sorting and workshops with some photos. Have a look at some great portfolios out there and try to find their nifty little details; speech-bubbles, consistent heading or using an interesting font. And finally put your contact details on the first and the last page.

5. Test and iterate
Print your portfolio, show it to a friend, show it to a mentor, look at it on your mum’s old laptop. Does it stand all these tests? Read through your text, ask a friend to read through the text, make sure there are no spelling errors, no page errors and no wrong images.

6. Learn from others
Here’s a collection of discussions, blogposts and portfolios from around the web. It’s always good to know what the competition is doing.

How to make a good portfolio:

Examples of UX portfolios:

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