Last week, my portfolio site was featured on UX Mastery’s list of 10 Inspiring UX Portfolios. I was honored by the mention and thought it might be interesting to blog about my process and what I find most important in creating a portfolio.
Below, I’ll cover some of the most important points to keep in mind as you create your own UX portfolio.
Always start with your audience in mind
This is how I would start any project. Whether I’m working on something as small as a portfolio site or something as large as a redesign for a higher-ed institution, I always start with the same question: “Who am I building this for?”
In this case, your target audience is employers. More specifically, employers who are user experience professionals (or in some other closely related field). They are visiting your portfolio site to see if you would be a good fit for their organization. Think about the things that might determine whether or not they would hire you:
- Do you understand user needs and create quality work?
- Do you communicate well?
- Are you passionate about your work?
- Does your personality seem like a good cultural fit for the organization?
These are all things you want your portfolio to address in some manner. We’ll get into some of the details on how to do this below.
Less is More
In terms of the number of projects you should include on your site, quality is more important than quantity. It’s better to include three projects that you are extremely proud of rather than providing links to every project you’ve touched in the last year, big or small. From my experience being on the hiring side of things, employers aren’t going to spend hours on your site digging through your work to see if you are a fit. They just want to see what you’re capable of, and they don’t want to spend a lot of time doing it.
Describe your process
Employers don’t just want to see a list links to finished projects that you had some part in creating. A link to a website or app is worthless to a potential employer unless you provide some context. Talk about what parts you had a hand in, what your approach was, and what issues you encountered along the way. This is the stuff employers care about. They want to know how you work.
As an example, check out my case study for the Safetime iOS app.
Another way to describe your process is to blog. Write about how you approach certain problems, some of your favorite tools, or sites that inspire you. Write about anything that shows future employers that you have the necessary critical thinking skills to solve complex problems.
Thoughtful, well-written blog posts will also show that you are passionate about your work. The fact that you are taking time out of your normal responsibilities to create content about UX design will show that you legitimately care about your profession.
Add a personal touch
Don’t be afraid to show your personality on your portfolio site. Some might be hesitant to reveal who they really are online as not to scare away potential employers, but when you really think about it, would you want to work anywhere that would react badly to you just being yourself? I wouldn’t.
The biggest, most important part of making a portfolio site is that you actually launch it. Put it on the internet. It doesn’t matter how “finished” you think it is, you have to get something online. Start small. You’ll have time to iterate and improve it as time goes on.
When I started building this current iteration of my portfolio site, it was a mess. I was building it all from scratch, attempting to self-host the Ghost blogging platform for the first time, and it all needed to happen in a week or two (I was applying to jobs at the time and needed to get something online quickly). What I ended up with was a handful of static HTML pages with a mostly-unstyled blog appended to it. It was all I could get done in that amount of time. My developer pals would have cringed at the shortcuts I was taking, but that wasn’t important at the time. Now that I’ve got a new job and the pressure is off, I can take a little time to tidy things up on the back end and make all of the optimizations I would have loved to make from the beginning.
Don’t feel the need to build something from scratch, though. That’s the approach I took, but that’s because I have previous development experience. Feel free to use Wordpress or Squarespace to get something started quickly. There’s nothing wrong with taking a preexisting Wordpress theme, customizing it a bit, and filling in your own content. The technology side of your UX portfolio isn’t important. What’s important is that you have great content and that it’s actually online.
Good luck creating your portfolio! If you’re looking for feedback, feel free to send me a link or screenshot via twitter (@zkuzmic). I’d be happy to take a look.
Thoughts on this subject? Comment below!