What Do Companies Look for in a UI/UX Portfolio?
These Experts Share The Biggest Mistakes They've Seen
So you need to build your first UI/UX portfolio (or revamp the one you made the last time you were job hunting). Where do you start?
Depending on your level of experience, you may have more or less work to pull from. But regardless of how much work you've done, you can build a standout portfolio with just a handful of standout examples (more on that, later).
Your portfolio is the gateway to interviews, job offers, and ultimately, your dream design gig.
1) Evidence of process. "Artifacts like drawings, photos of whiteboards, early wireframes, photos of affinity map post-it notes, that kind of thing. I want to see that the designer in question understands the typical range of UX tools and practices, and that they understand when and how to apply a particular methodology. It's always great to understand if the design is successful, and how that success was measured (if it was measured)."
2) The ability to communicate well. "Design is 90% communication, so it's important that a designer be able to describe the work in their portfolio, and the process that produced that work."
3) The ability to manage stakeholder expectations. "I want to understand how the designer works with stakeholders and how they've worked--personally--to resolve conflict. Much of design practice is about uncovering competing expectations and assumptions, so every designer with a bit of experience has faced conflict. I want to know how they've constructively approached this."
Now that you know what you should include, let's take a look at the mistakes folks make most often, and how you can avoid them.
4 Common Mistakes to Avoid in Your UI/UX Portfolio
1) Not articulating how your work impacted the end user experience.
Director of User Experience Design at Solstice, Jess Hiltrop explains, "Some of the biggest mistakes in UI/UX portfolios do not always lie in the actual work itself, but in the way an interviewee speaks to the work. I often see designers talking about the work as an object or thing and stating why they placed an element in a certain location, and not the way in which they improved a user's experience by designing something a certain way. It's important to hear that a designer has wrapped their minds around the root of the problem, and then through thoughtful UI, elevated the end user experience."
2) Only showing final screens.
This is closely related to tip #1. Ultimately, hiring managers want to know about your process. And not providing the appropriate context for your work can demonstrate a lack of understanding of the problem your work helped solve.
A lot of designers tend to display their beautiful work through screenshots, which is great, but one of the biggest things I notice is that sometimes designers display their work with no context accompanying the work.
Did you understand the business problem you were trying to solve for? How did your solution solve for that problem? Where there any key results that helped measure the success of your designs?
Screenshots are great, but clearly stating that you understood the business problem your designs were addressing goes a long way in my book.
Still not convinced? CarGurus' Anne Hjortshoj shares a similar opinion:
I'm not a fan of designer portfolios that only show final screens.
What was your process to get to this outcome? Who did you work with, and what was your role? Was there research? Was there testing? Did you create these screens, or did someone else?
I want to see more than one project, ideally, even if it's a combination of professional work and undergraduate or graduate level work. I can generally get an idea of what a designer is good at/likes to do from triangulating the work they've done.
3) Going for quantity over quality.
When designing your portfolio, you need to look at it as a marketing exercise. The amount of experience you have doesn't matter nearly as much as putting your best work forward.
In the words of Gabe Greenberg, CEO and founder of G2i, "I'm not looking for quantity, I'm just looking for 3 or 4 high quality portfolio pieces."
Dennis (Director of UX at Scout RFP) seconds this message, and encourages applicants to be thoughtful about which samples they prioritize:
Show me your best work up front! Be thoughtful in what the first projects are being displayed in your portfolio. In the same way UI/UX Designers think about their users in whatever product/website they are designing, think about about who YOUR audience is— especially if you are looking for a job, make sure you are displaying your best work up front!
Dennis and Gabe agree that this advice seems straight forward enough, but they both say that it's a mistake they see all the time.
As Dennis explains, "It sounds simple enough, but you'd be surprised how many portfolios I've seen where their best work is buried somewhere else, or maybe their best work isn't up right up front. Think about what projects bests displays your skillset and promote it."
And Gabe offers one bonus tip when you're considering which pieces to promote. "If you have a diversity of portfolio pieces that is a bonus. Show off your brand design skills with a marketing site as well as your UI/UX abilities with a dashboard design."
4) Rambling in your write-ups.
Dennis has one final tip for applicants — explain your process, but be concise!
As he says:
I see a lot of great portfolios that show off an extremely detailed walkthrough of their process, which is always excellent-- I love being able to see that you do have a process. But at the end of the day, a lot of designers' processes are pretty similar. What I look for is if they can be concise in their writing and explanation of their work.
A very common mistake I seen is that write-ups can be overly lengthy, complex, and not to the point. I suggest to work on being concise in explaining you work. Have a friend, another designer, or anyone for that matter walk through your case study to see if your write ups are clear and concise. It goes a long way if you are able to clearly and effectively communicate your ideas in a very focused and concise manner.
Want to see some examples of great UI/UX portfolios now that you know the do's and don'ts? Check out these samples.
And once your portfolio is ready to go, be sure to apply to these open UI/UX Designer Roles!
- Senior User Experience Designer at CarGurus
- User Experience Design Principal at Solstice
- UX UI SaaS Product Designer at Scout RFP
It's been six years since Sarah Cooper graced us with her 10 Tricks to Appear Smart in Meetings. But how on earth can we appear smart in our new virtual world, in which for many of us, going to work is just sitting in one long series of probably-not-necessary Zoom meetings?
1. Dial in.<p>Dialing in rather than joining via the link instantly boosts your credibility. Who calls into Zoom meetings? People who are still busy and important enough to be leaving their houses! But you needn't actually be one of those people, or even more than a foot away from your computer to pull off this maneuver. (Remember, this article is called *seeming* smart, not being smart.)</p><p><strong></strong><em>Bonus: </em>If it's a large meeting at which attendance will be taken, the person running the meeting will inevitably ask, "Who's calling in from 443-322-2121?" That's when you raise your metaphorical hand, jump off mute, and say "[Your name] here. Really looking forward to hearing your perspective on [meeting topic]." And voila! You've stolen the meeting spotlight.</p>
2. Don't come on camera—ever.<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzQ0ODU5OS9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzNjMwNjI3OX0.4fLyq2CvkZAJ7n_03esZepY37mOdyGdDdTEUYt5XEU0/img.png?width=980" id="bc7e6" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="fbbf21cc5d8c863b30654ae6993b04f5" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" /><p><br></p><p>Much like the "dial in," this technique works because it makes you appear aloof. If <em>The Crown has </em>taught me anything, it's that the key to maintaining a sense of mystique and prestige is to keep people at arm's length—and if you absolutely <em>must</em> touch them, wear a glove.</p>
3. Only communicate via chat.<p>Once you've mastered the art of staying off camera, you can level up by communicating exclusively via the chat box. Don't come off mute at all, even if the speaker asks your opinion. You are the elusive chatter and you will not be forced into actually participating in said meeting.</p>
4. Ask to share your screen.<p>Being aloof is great, but it's all about balance. Sprinkling in some active participation will really shock and impress your colleagues if you catch them off guard, so save this technique for when you've strategically <em>not </em>participated in a string of meetings.</p><p>Spend a few minutes prior to the meeting prepping a few inspirational slides with words like "synergy," "optimization," and "redefining 'culture'", or spend a few minutes poking around in Google Analytics. </p><p>Then wait for the opportune moment to say, "Can I just share my screen for a moment? I have some really interesting data I'd like to share...." and BAM — brilliance established.</p>
5. Show off your Zoom-saviness.<p>Try saying, "You know you can mute people, right?" to the host when they beg whoever's got the lawn mower and crying baby in the background to put themselves on mute for the nth time.<br></p>
6. Create an alter ego.<p>This tactic requires commitment, but the pay off is certainly worth it. Join the Zoom meeting from your normal account + name, and then join it again on a second device from an alias. Have your alter-ego ask some probing or stat-based questions in the chat and have the answers ready ahead of time. It should work something like this:</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;"><strong>Your alter ego Charlene</strong><strong>:</strong> "Does anyone know what percentage conversion rates increased by in Q2?"</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;"><strong>Real you</strong>: *doesn't miss a beat* "It looks like Charlene has a question in the chat. That would be 36%."</p><div>Never mind that no one on your team knows who Charlene is or why she's at this meeting, they'll be too blown away by your brilliance to notice. (Bonus points if you use this strategy in conjunction with techniques 1, 2, 3 or 4!)</div>
7. Place an obscure object in your background that exudes intelligence.<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzQ0ODYxOC9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYwNzk5Njg2Mn0.V9_-3Ij3v_QndseqlrXRt5Nn39EJ97-itjls5zzYPf8/img.png?width=980" id="a369d" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="604a2f04b53c2e3bc801bfa5256f367b" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" /><p><br></p><p>We're talking a telescope, or perhaps a hardcover copy of <em>War & Peace </em>(no one need know that its only purpose in your life is as a makeshift yoga block).</p><p>If you don't have any suitable props at your disposal, do not despair: download some screenshots of Sheldon's apartment from <em>Big Bang Theory </em>or the chalkboard in <em>Good Will Hunting </em>and use those as a virtual background.</p>
8. Ask "Is this really the best course of action given the current climate?"<p>Economic collapse, COVID, racism… No need to specify whether you're referring to one or all of the above; just sit back and watch your boss squirm amidst the ambiguity.</p><p>This strategy pairs very well with techniques 2 and 3. You can prep additional vague-but-probing questions ahead of time and pepper them into the chat box throughout the meeting:</p><ul><li>How will this scale?</li><li>Do we really have the bandwidth for this right now?</li><li>What's the value-add here?</li></ul>
9. Remind everyone that you have a paid Zoom account.<p>"Oh, it looks like we're getting the 40-minute warning. I have a paid account, do you want to switch to my room?" It's helpful, with just a touch of condescension. Everyone knows condescending people are smart. And everyone knows that people with paid Zoom accounts are super important.</p>
10. Tell everyone you have a hard stop.<p>When pressed for details, share your philosophy on "work-from-home" balance and how committed you are to getting up once an hour to walk to your refrigerator.</p>
11. Ask the screensharer/host to "pull something up" for everyone.<p>Ask the presenter to navigate to a screen that only you know how to navigate well. Laugh maniacally while they suffer from crippling performance anxiety. Let them struggle for as long as is tolerable before saying, "Oh you know what? I can just share my screen if you want. That would probably be easier." BAM you're the hero. Don't worry, no one will even pause to consider that you could have proposed this course of action from the start.</p>
12. Say Zoom fatigue as many times as possible.<p>If you're too tired to employ any of the other strategies, just say "I know everyone is experiencing a lot of Zoom fatigue, so we can keep this meeting short." Then hang up as quickly as possible. Meeting averted! </p><p>After all, there's no better way to demonstrate your intelligence in a virtual meeting than to demonstrate why it wasn't really necessary in the first place. </p>
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