Create a stellar UX UI design portfolio in 5 steps
min video //
min read //
January 27, 2023
The thought of sending your UX UI portfolio out to hiring managers is enough to turn any confident, budding designer into an emotional, insecure mess the second they press send. And if you still need to start to put it together, the task can feel like navigating a wild rainforest with no guide, compass, or rain gear.
So how do you start building a UX UI design portfolio that will dazzle hiring managers and impress prospective employers? And how can you navigate the dos and don'ts of UX UI design portfolios with your confidence as a designer in check?
Well, that's what we're here for. So let's get into it.
What is a UX UI design portfolio?
Even if you've heard of portfolios, it's best to start from the beginning. And the Interaction Design Foundation couldn't have said it better.
"UX portfolios are used by designers to showcase their skills and knowledge to get hired. They contain case studies of past projects that demonstrate what they have done and how they work."
What matters in a design portfolio?
So if it's your first time putting a portfolio together, what generally matters? What should you be highlighting?
- Brand names: Big-name clients you've worked with.
- Diversity: Different kinds of projects you've worked on.
- Design-thinking: Your process and unique way of thinking.
- User research: Outline any research conducted with personas.
- Skills balance: Flex your UX/UI muscles in your portfolio to show a breadth of skill.
How do I put together a portfolio if I need more work experience?
Of course, if you're a little more junior, you may have a limited selection to choose from. This is one of the toughest things about putting together your first portfolio.
The good news is that you have a few options:
- Take on freelance work: Freelance work is a great way to develop your skill set, make money, and create portfolio-worthy cases. But freelancing can be tough and may only be for some. (If you're interested in learning more about freelancing, you can check out Re:Coded's Intro to Freelancing course!)
- Take on free work: If you need more time or setting up a freelance business on the side is not an option, you can consider taking on select projects in your network for free. Of course, it's only ideal to do work with pay. But if your options are limited, it can also be a great way of generating both a case for your portfolio and testimonials for your work. You might even earn a future client in the long run.
- Create imaginary scenarios: Your only limitation in this situation is your imagination! If you're short on cases, you can dream up your very own case with a brand or business that you admire. All kinds of imaginary cases boost your portfolio.
How to build a UX UI design portfolio in 5 steps
Alright, so at its core, your UX/UI portfolio is all about showcasing your skill and ability in UX/UI. But putting it all together is a complex task. Here's how we'd break it down:
- Collect your cases: Collect and review all of the documents from the cases (projects) that you'd like to include in your portfolio. If they were from a client or employer, you should check that you're allowed to share them publicly and that you are not violating a non-disclosure agreement (NDA).
- Decide on your format: In the past, portfolios were primarily shared as PDFs. However, with newly accessible website builders, creating your portfolio as a website is now possible. Unless you are also a developer, these website builders may take time to learn and/or limit your design potential. PDF is still perfectly acceptable and will allow you to better tailor the experience (by selecting only the most relevant cases) for each hiring manager.
- Structure your process: hiring managers often look for your process to come through in each case. Structure and consistency are key! Make it easy for the reader to understand the main points and the problem you've solved. You can check out some inspiration for structuring your portfolio here.
- Gather peer feedback: Feedback is critical to the role of a UX/UI designer, and your portfolio is no exception. Ask your peers what they think and what they would improve or change. Ask them to focus on the structure and process of each case.
- Run a quick spellcheck and link check: There's nothing worse than sending out a PDF only to notice a typo on the first page or a broken link. Even if it's a website that you can easily change, do a last-minute run-through before you click send.
How many works should my UX UI design portfolio have?
There's no specific rule on how many cases your portfolio should have. But it's certainly a Goldilocks balance— not too few, but not too many either.
If you're just starting, three to four cases should be enough to showcase your skills and abilities. But if you're more experienced, consider including up to six, as long as they are relevant to your application.
As your experience grows, so will your portfolio. Consider creating different portfolios for different niches, client types, or industries.
5 tips to make your UX UI portfolio stand out
It's one thing to create a portfolio and another to create a really great one. That's why we asked a few hiring managers who review UX UI portfolios regularly to chime in with some advice.
1- Presentation should be pristine
"Yes," Malek shares, "we judge a book by its cover." Malek Zalfana, founder of Bold Studio, a digital agency, says that the presentation is one of the first things he notices.
And if you're creating a website for your portfolio, Rania Gharaibeh, UX manager at Jawaker, says, "A well-designed website is a definite plus."
Of course, it's not everything, but you certainly don't want to turn a hiring manager off with a sloppy presentation.
2- Go beyond the standard screens
"I want to see the hard parts," Malek stated.
In his experience, he sees many portfolios with almost standardized onboarding flows. These don't really excite him. "I don't look at the sign-in, sign-up, you know, all these typical screens. They are almost low-effort, even if they look nice. I just skip them, and I look for the hardest screens."
Malek is looking for the screens and changes that most impact the user: small changes to navigation, search bars, and buttons. "It means they have put a lot of thought into something that they think will bring a lot of value to the end user," Malek explains.
3- Focus on the content, not just the design
"We are looking for somebody who understands the process, not just copying examples they saw on the internet," Rania explains.
It's easy for "inspiration" from Dribble or Behance to meld into an actual template for your portfolio. But Rania warns that if you've seen it, chances are they've seen it before too.
"It isn't about just pictures and Photoshop," Rania insists, "We want to see that they actually put thought into the process and his decisions."
4- Consider adding video
Is your portfolio getting too long as you balance the process descriptions and screens? Malek might have a solution for you: embedded video.
"When someone has a video to explain their project, this is very impressive," Malek says, " I will see genuine talk. I want to see someone explaining their project, so I know they did it."
Video can be a great way to express your enthusiasm for the project and give detailed information and expertise that compliments what's in your portfolio. But remember: stay structured and on topic!
5- Share your work on social media
"If you're in the tech market," Amr Kh. Hamad explains, "You're always looking for good UX/UI designers."
As the co-founder of Miswag, a rapidly growing e-commerce app in Iraq, Amr often looks for talent for his product team. This means he looking for talent beyond just applications to open roles.
"Usually a person with a good work portfolio, they post it on social media— this is how you find out if there's a good UX/UI designer out there."
There is no simple formula for creating the perfect UX/UI design portfolio. But there sure is a lot of advice out there. Take what's most relevant for your situation and… well, do what UX/UI designers do best: iterate, iterate, iterate!