How do I build a strong UX portfolio? UX Question #39

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Alex from London asks: How do I build a strong UX portfolio?

I love that question. Thanks for asking, Alex. This is UX Question number 39 and I am Ben Judy.

How do I build a strong UX portfolio? Back in episode five I answered, “What is a UX portfolio?” So I’ll assume you know what one is, and this is about making a good one. A strong portfolio.

Over the more than two decades of my career, I have blown up my portfolio and started over probably seven or eight times. Always in pursuit of a better presentation of my skills and the project work I have done.

Along the way, I’ve learned a few tips and tricks.

One, focus on quality over quantity. Only include your best work and put your best foot forward. If you include things you didn’t do well, briefly describe what you learned and what you would do differently now, but don’t spend a ton of time critiquing yourself. The star of the show should be the work you are most proud of.

Two, show the important parts of your process, but don’t present the same, rigid process for every case study. One of the knocks against portfolios of bootcamp grads is that every case study follows the same exact five or six steps that they were taught. It’s a template.

Any seasoned UX designer knows that no two projects follow the same exact steps. Back in episode 26, I said that UX principles matter more than process. So, make sure what comes across in your case studies is that you know how to skillfully apply UX principles. The process you used shouldn’t look cookie cutter.

Three, describe your collaboration with others. It’s relatively straightforward to present research and design work you did by yourself. It takes careful storytelling to describe how you coordinated your efforts with your teammates, but that collaboration is a critical skill that most hiring managers are looking for.

Four, make it scannable. This might be the most difficult piece of advice to swallow. You work so hard on your case studies, crafting your portfolio to perfection.

But—that recruiter and that design director will not read every word in your entire portfolio. They don’t have time, because they’re also looking at 50 other candidates, trying to fill that one open position. Your portfolio has to be scannable, so they get the most important information and a positive impression, in the smallest amount of time. Three minutes or less, I’d say.

A well designed portfolio should scan like a magazine rather than a book. Design it so the eye can float over it and I get the gist of what’s there. Use headings and callouts. A wall of text is not a good approach.

Keep asking your questions about UX. Next time, I’ll answer the question: What are the most essential UX skills?

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