If you’re just getting started in User Experience (UX) Design, then there are a couple of things you need to get hired — a portfolio that wows and a resume that makes you look your best.
But how do you get this done when you don’t have a lot of experience? It’s a vicious cycle. Potential clients and recruiters want you to have experience, but you can’t get experience till somebody hires you.
Luckily, you don’t have to face this problem alone. In this guide, we provide tips and examples for creating a killer UX portfolio and resume, even if the ink isn’t dry on your design degree. We’ll also share advice from UX professionals like Andy Budd, Mike Kus, and others on getting it right.
The guide will cover:
- Why you need a portfolio
- What to include in your UX portfolio
- How to present your portfolio
- Good practice examples
- What to include in your UX resume or curriculum vitae (CV)
By the end, you’ll be able to create a resume and portfolio to help you land your dream job.
Why You Need a UX Portfolio
Let’s start with a question some people wonder about: Is a design portfolio still important in 2019? The answer: Absolutely! Here’s why.
First of all, you’ve got to put yourself in the recruiter’s shoes. For any UX design job vacancy, that recruiter could get dozens or even hundreds of applications and they’ll likely only spend a few seconds assessing which ones make the cut.
If you want your application to be part of that select group, you’ll need to make it stand out. And a UX design portfolio is a great way to do that. With a UX portfolio, you’re not just telling recruiters what you can do, you’re actually SHOWING them. Plus, people are wired to remember visual information. So, a well thought out portfolio can get you to that all-important interview stage.
Senior UX recruiter Tom Cotterill points out, “A UX design portfolio is arguably even more important than your CV. It acts as a meet and greet before the hiring manager actually gets to meet you.”
In other words, it’s a key way to differentiate yourself from other applicants, and showcase your personality and design flair.
What to Include in a UX Portfolio
So, what should you include in your UX design portfolio? When choosing content to include, remember that the aim is to give a holistic picture of your skills and abilities so you get hired.
Even if you’re applying for your first paid UX design job, you can create a job-winning portfolio. Work you did as a student or intern can show your creativity, and can be a good starting point for your UX design portfolio.
Show Your Process
Once you’ve chosen what you want to include, here’s our top tip: show projects, not just pictures. What do we mean by that? Instead of simply showing the final design, include a gallery that shows how you got from the start to the finish. If you work with a team on visuals for a project, Slickplan is a great collaboration system to share your mockups and design sketches.
Expert UX designer Andy Budd says, “The best UX portfolios tell the story of a project, including the decisions you made, and why you made them, rather than just showing the final product. Or as my old math teacher used to explain, ‘You get half your points getting the right answer, the other half from showing your workings to prove you understood what you were doing.’ ”
Highlight Your Contribution
Most designs aren’t created alone, so be sure to highlight any meaningful contribution you made in a narrative about the overall project.
Andy Budd adds, “These days projects of any meaningful size are group endeavors, so I want to know who worked on the project with you, what your involvement was, what you contributed, the biggest challenges you faced, how you got around those problems, and what the outcome was.”
When you do your resume, you’ll be making claims about your skills and capabilities. Your portfolio is your chance to show that off, and it’s a must, says Andy Budd:
“As well as showing a diverse range of relevant case studies, a great UX portfolio needs to provide evidence for all the skills you claim on your CV.
If you say you know Information Architecture, I want to see content audits, site maps, and control of vocabularies. If you say you do ethnography, I want to see extracts from diary studies, field trips, and interviews.”
He adds, “It’s super easy to claim expertise by sticking a few words on a CV when what you really mean is you read a short article about the subject and reckon you’d be able to give it a good go if you had the opportunity. So if you really have done the things you claim to do, show me the evidence.”
Show Your Best Work
Portfolios are not intended to be a complete collection of everything that you’ve done. When considering the work you want to include, think about:
- Which are the projects where you were delighted by the final outcome?
- Which projects presented a technical challenge that you overcame successfully?
- Which projects made you happiest?
Use these questions to refine your final choices for your UX portfolio.
UX design expert Mike Kus adds, “Include your best work but make sure it’s work you’d like to do more of. It’s the work in your portfolio that clients will hire you for and this will steer the direction of your future projects. Include work that not only shows design flair, but work that demonstrates your understanding of the user experience.”
Portfolio Presentation Tips
When choosing images for your UX portfolio, be selective because, you’re using these images to tell a story. Muddy, fuzzy images won’t impress anyone.
Pick a stellar image or two for each stage of the UX design process. Make sure these images are crisp, clear, and detailed so they show your work at its best. Mike Kus says, “Overall, try to create a wow factor. You want to blow people’s minds when they see your portfolio.”
It’s not enough to add images; you also have to add some notes to help tell the story. This means potential recruiters and clients will easily understand what you did, and why. Keep it simple, though; this isn’t supposed to be a manuscript.
Consider including video as part of your design portfolio. For example, you can make a series of design photos into a short animation. That’s easy to do for free with Google Photos. Or you could simply record a video introduction to your work to help potential clients and recruiters match your name to your face.
Whatever you include, make sure that your portfolio is easy to understand and navigate. Anyone who sees it should be able to quickly identify key projects and key skills.
Where to Upload Your UX Portfolio
Now that you know what’s in your portfolio, it’s time to decide where to put it. We’re going to make this simple — the first place to show off your work is on your own website. That’s because it’s the hub for your web presence and it’s where anyone you’re in contact with will go to check out your professional presence.
Whether you turn your whole site into a portfolio with a portfolio theme or simply have a page showing your latest and best projects, this is a must-have.
That said, there’s nothing wrong with having external UX design portfolios too. When it comes to helping people find you online, more is more. There are plenty of websites where you can create an appealing UX portfolio fast. Here are some free options:
Add your portfolio to any of these sites (or heck, use them all) to make yourself and your work even more visible online.
UX Portfolio Examples
Now you know how to create your UX portfolio, here are a few examples for inspiration.
Liz Wells uses her portfolio to tell a story. In this national parks project, she first shows the final product. After that, she walks you through the steps and challenges, showing sketches and mockups.
In this portfolio item from Naim Sheriff, he introduces the company and outlines his role. Then he moves on to the design exploration phase, followed by ideas for type, patterns, icons and more. Anyone visiting the portfolio can easily see every part of the project from start to finish.
Husam Elfaki shows the work he did for a design challenge, which is something a new UX designer could easily do. He begins by briefly explaining the challenge, then shares some of his favorite designs.
Jason Yuan’s portfolio features work done when interning for Apple, Sony, and others. It’s proof that even beginner UX designers can create stunning showcases for their work.
What to Put in Your UX Resume
While your UX portfolio visuals and story will make a strong impact, you still need a resume. As Nikhil Yadav says, “While portfolios are able to show the depth of your skills, Resumes help to know the breadth of your skills. A resume is a short crisp tailored version of your portfolio.”
Here are some tips on creating a job-winning UX resume, even if you’re new to the business.
If you haven’t done a lot of UX design jobs, include information on relevant work experience and design jobs. As we saw with Jason Yuan’s portfolio above, even work done as an intern can show you have the right skills and experience for a UX design job.
You can also beef up the education section with courses in UX design or similar niches. The point is to show that you have relevant background that will encourage recruiters and potential clients to talk to you.
List the skills you have (like wireframing, prototyping, and so on) and the software and apps you use in the design process. This will help recruiters assess whether you have the right knowledge for a particular opportunity.
Once you get some work experience under your belt, you can start to tailor your resume to different UX design jobs. Always include the achievements most relevant to the role you’re applying to.
Include a link to your UX portfolio, says Ray Sensenbach, who recruits for in-house UX and UI design positions, “I’m not doing an in-depth review of your work, but I need to know if you’re a general fit for the type and level of position that’s being applied to.”
Once you’ve completed your resume, there are a few places you can put it to work for you. First, use it to fill out your LinkedIn profile. Since recruiters look there, it’s best to be consistent. Don’t forget to get recommendations for companies you’ve interned with and design professors to make your profile even more appealing.
Add your resume to your website, either as a page or a PDF, or both. You can also use your resume to fill in details on any UX portfolio sites you use.
Here are some UX resumes from interns we liked, found via BestFolios.
Karen Song puts her education and experience right at the top. For each entry, she includes a couple of key highlights. The breakdown of the skills section also makes it easy for recruiters to see what’s most relevant.
When you see Min Zhou’s resume, your eyes are drawn to the middle of the page. That’s where this designer has put Facebook and Instagram intern experience. This is a good move, as it’s a strong career selling point.
Jessica Nip’s resume has enabled her to get more and more internships, and she lists them all in her resume, showing the top skills used.
That’s it! Now you know how to create a UX portfolio and UX resume to help you win more design gigs in 2019. Don’t forget to check out Slickplan’s mockup sharing tool to easily share your UX design work.
Written By Sharon Hurley Hall
Sharon Hurley Hall is a professional writer and blogger. Her work has been published on Jilt, OptinMonster, CrazyEgg, GrowthLab, Unbounce, OnePageCRM, Search Engine People, and Mirasee. Sharon is certified in content marketing and email marketing. In her previous life Sharon was also a journalist and university journalism, lecturer! Learn more about Sharon on SharonHH.com or connect with her on LinkedIn.