When we start building the portfolio, many questions invade us: Where to host it, what info to put into it, how to structure each project, etc. We feel overwhelmed and start procrastinating, and when we want to continue, we face the same questions again and again.
Because I wanted to update my portfolio, I’ve been gathering information that has helped me clarify how to do it and set down the content, which I’m pleased to share. I hope it is helpful for you, too!
Where to build your portfolio?
- There are many platforms. The more known are Behance, Dribble, Squarespace, Wix, Adobe Portfolio, WordPress, etc. I’ve also seen some portfolios on Notion and Figma, but there are no restrictions. Some prefer a PDF, but most applications ask for an online portfolio, and PDF is kind of obsolete. You should research the different platforms and choose the one that best fits you.
What to have in a portfolio?
- You need to show 1 to 3 projects. I’ve seen portfolios with up to 5 projects, but I don’t recommend more.
- The order should be from the most recent to the oldest or the one you feel proud of or with more impact. Usually, recruiters look at the first project, so you must choose which will take that place.
- The projects should focus on the role you want to work. If you want to be a UI Designer and not a UX Researcher, you shouldn’t put research projects.
- Don’t mix projects with other hobbies or careers you have; it can be not very clear. The idea is to focus your portfolio on the area/role you want to work. If you have other projects you want to show, separate them into another category/section. But mix them just if it’s necessary.
- Write a little intro at the beginning of your portfolio, and then show your case studies. A definition of who you are as an overview in 1 or 2 lines is enough, and if recruiters want to know more about you, they’ll go to the “About me” section.
- A section called “About me” where you can explain who you are as a professional, how has been your design journey, etc.
- Remember to put your social media links. Every social media related to your role as a professional is welcome. For example, LinkedIn, Twitter, Medium, Instagram, etc.
- Your portfolio has to be legible and have a consistent visual style. You can use your UX knowledge to build it. Who will see your portfolio? And make it based on that.
Key elements for a successful case study
- Maintain Conciseness. Recruiters take between 1 to 3 minutes to check a case study. Some people say it is just a few seconds!
- Document everything from the beginning of your project until you finish it. This will help when you have to do the case study. It’s always good to ask if you can add the project to your portfolio to avoid any legal responsibility.
- Give only a few details about the project. Recruiters want to check if you have the skills, know the process, your communication skills, and what you did to call you later and know more about it. Save the details for the interview, and surprise with new info!
- It has to be storytelling. Tell a story end to end, and try to keep it interesting. It has to be easy to read, with a friendly tone but professional.
- Please keep it simple and avoid technical words and slang.
- Check typos and grammar. You can read it aloud or ask for feedback.
- Use chunks of text. They’re easy to read.
- Highlight words. This makes it scannable and helps others if they have a short time to read your case study.
- Include visual elements to complement the text. Add your low or high-fidelity designs, the final product, something you discovered during the research, etc. “Show more than tell.”
- Also, remember to use blank spaces for legibility and to guide the lecture, rest the eye, separate sections, etc. They are useful.
- Check that all your links, social media, prototype, and any links work.
- Not only check your desktop version. Check also your mobile version. Many people check portfolios from different devices.
What is the ideal structure for a case study?
- To start, a cover image related to the project. Showing the final product is a good idea. The recruiter can have an idea of what the project is about.
- Client name, project title, and context. It can be a short paragraph telling the problem and the result as an overview. The details can come later. This section is to attract attention and keep reading your project.
- What was your role during the project, year, duration, and the tools you used? The last ones can be the perfect match for companies looking for people using a specific software. Honesty beforehand; don’t say you use tools you don’t.
- With whom you worked on that project. It’s always good to say you worked in a multidisciplinary team and give credit to your colleagues or say the roles within the team.
- The problem: Describe the problem and why it’s essential. You can add some insights from your users as general info or explain some business problems and which questions/hypotheses are related to them.
- Project goals: What are the business goals, what do you expect when finishing the project, what metrics do you expect as a result, how would you define a successful project, etc
This depends on what you have done. If you started the project from the beginning, at half of the process, or were in charge of a specific area. But as an overview, a complete UX project covers problem discovery, research, designs, solutions, and metrics. The process is very important, and how you show it, is more!
- Research: You can use 1 or more research methods: surveys, interviews, benchmarks, etc. I recommend the book “Just Enough Research,” where you can read about different research methods.
- Explorations: Here, you can show your user flows, ideas, sketches, paper prototypes, wireframes, mockups, etc. The idea is to show how you have explored the different options and how/why you have iterated. You can add the results from your usability testing and show the iterations. It helps to understand if your users understand your designs and if you keep in mind the users when iterating.
- Final Design: It’s always good to show the final design to see and understand the result of the process, where you explain the decision taken and how it covers the objective you discussed at the beginning of the project. It’s unnecessary to show the whole final process; a couple of screens are enough. It can be an image, prototype, video, gif, etc.
- Learning: You can add a section with a retrospective of your obstacles while doing the project and how you overcame them. If the project had to change at some point, why, what did you do, etc.
- Results: You can share the metrics. How did the results align with the project objectives, what was the impact, what did the stakeholders say about your design and the results, how did your users react to your product, etc. KPIs are key.
It’s good to know that using all the steps, tools, or methods in just 1 case study is unnecessary. Take the useful ones to explain how and why you did it that way, but remember to tell the process.
When you finish, please share it and ask for feedback; it’s always welcome. Remember, in our process as UX, everything is iterative, and so is your portfolio.
As a last tip, a blank file is a great help. Write your whole process there, add notes, and then organize it. After that, you can add visual elements to whatever platform you choose. The most important thing here is the storytelling.
If you have more tips, please share them in the comments!