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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.

To help ensure yours stands out for the right reasons, we asked UI/UX designers & leaders at Solstice, CarGurus, G2i, and Scout RFP to share the biggest mistakes they see in portfolios.

But first things first - what are the things hiring managers and designers do look for in a UI/UX Portfolio? Director of UX Design at CarGurus, Anne Hjortshoj, always looks for these three things:

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.

Dennis Estanislao, Director of UX at Scout RFP, elaborates:

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.

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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!

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The Best High-Paying Remote Jobs

5 full-time work-from-home roles that pay seriously well

We—we being the internet in general, as well as PowerToFly specifically—often talk about remote work as this glorious thing: you can find professional fulfillment, friendly co-workers, and career growth potential from the comfort of your own home. All while collecting a check!

But where should you look if you want that check to be as big as possible?

Start with this guide to the best high-paying remote jobs. These career choices (and the example companies hiring for them) don't skimp out on paying remote workers well, and you'll still get all the work-from-home flexibility you're looking for. I've linked to specific job posts for each category below, but also look through the 300+ remote jobs on PowerToFly's always-updated remote job board for more.

As you apply and interview, keep these work-from-home interview questions in mind. If you find yourself with a salary offer that's good, but not quite as good as it could be, reference these salary negotiation tips for remote workers to advocate for what you deserve. And when you get the job with a great salary, make sure your home office is set up for success. And then send me a note to tell me how you're doing!

1. Senior Software Engineer

Business woman using laptop

Who It's Good For: Anyone who's a pro in programming languages (Java, Javascript, C++, Python, and SQL, to start, among others) and knows how to drive the development of products. If you like complex engineering challenges, have experience working with different systems and products, and have the discipline to program without a PM physically hovering over you (Slack hovering's allowed, though), this is for you.

Sound Like You? Check Out: Sr. Principal Software Engineer at Dell, Senior Front End Software Engineer at Plectica, Senior Software Engineer at CloudBees

Why You Can Do It Remotely: Like most heads-down-and-create work, developing software and programming are best done with minimal distractions. You'll collaborate with your team for check-ins and bug fixes, but you'll be able to focus on your project work from a home office.

Average Annual Salary: $131,875

2. User Experience Researcher Manager

Young adult woman working with laptop at mobile app

Who It's Good For: Proven researchers who know how to understand the behaviors and motivations of customers through feedback and observation, who have experience synthesizing insights into a brand story, and who have managed teams.

Sound Like You? Check Out: Senior Research Operations Program Manager at Zapier.

Why You Can Do It Remotely: As UX researcher Lindsey Redinger explains in her helpful Medium post, remote research allows companies to reach users all over the world, not just within driving distance to their headquarters, and can be cheaper for companies and easier for participants.

Average Annual Salary: $105,810

3. Senior Product Designer

Female graphic designer smiling at desk in office

Who It's Good For: Creatives with technical chops who like the challenges of evolving and improving the production of current products, leading designers, and collaborating with other parts of the business.

Sound Like You? Check Out: Senior Product Designer at SeatGeek.

Why You Can Do It Remotely: While design teams definitely need to share lots of feedback, there's technology out there to make that easy. The Help Scout design team has shared their favorite tools and tricks to collaborate remotely, which includes recording daily videos of new designs to explain features and ideas in a way a photo file just can't express. (They're also hiring! Check out open Help Scout jobs here).

Average Annual Salary: $107,555

4. Senior Security Analyst

Developing Concentrated programmer reading computer codes Development Website design and coding technologies.

Who It's Good For: Thoughtful, vigilant thinkers who enjoy identifying and fixing gaps in a company's security posture, including through ethnical hacking (hacking a company's system before outsiders can, and addressing the weak points found) and incident response (containing the negative effects of a system breach or attack).

Sound Like You? Check Out: Data Protection Security Analyst at Deloitte.

Why You Can Do It Remotely: Not all security analyst positions are remote-friendly; sometimes they require working with very sensitive data that can be compromised if taken off-site or accessed from a VPN. But with the right data processing policies—like using a privacy filter over your laptop, only using secured wifi, and encrypting your data, all suggested by WebARX security's all-remote team—remote work as a security analyst is definitely possible.

Average Annual Salary: $108,463

5. Technical Project Manager

A strong wifi connection makes for a strong relationship

Who It's Good For: Tech-friendly jack-of-all-trades with a sweet spot for spreadsheets and other organization tools.

Sound Like You? Check Out: Technical Project Manager at Avaaz.

Why You Can Do It Remotely: Project management can sometimes be like herding cats, but you don't need to be in the same room as your feline team members in order to direct them around. With collaborative software (and a highly organized home office, like PM pro Patrice Embry recommends), you can PM the most complicated of projects from wherever you're located.

Average Annual Salary: $95,129

Other Industries

Other high-paying remote-friendly jobs include certain roles in healthcare (like nurse practitioners and psychologists, who can check in with patients via video conferencing and phone calls), app developers for both iOS and Android products, actuaries and tax accountants, and data scientists.

And remember that even jobs that don't seem remote-friendly at first, could possibly be done from home or on the road. If you find a well-paying, exciting job that doesn't offer remote work immediately, it might be worth negotiating a more flexible schedule with a 1-2 day work-from-home option. Both you and the company can see what remote work actually looks like in action, and if it goes well, you can make a pitch to transition to remote work full time.

Other resources you may want to check out in your quest for meaningful, well-paid remote work:

6 Programs You Should Download Right Now if You Work Remotely

Productivity Tips for Remote Workers

Home Office Design Tips for Remote Workers

In Person Events

Build Your Network at the Next PowerToFly Event

Today we celebrate our partnership with Braintree! Check out this video to see highlights from our recent networking event.

If you missed the event, fear not! Stay connected by following Braintree on PowerToFly and email us at Hi@PowerToFly.com for future events near you.

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I have a friend whose discerning toddler refuses to eat her preschool lunch unless it's in a bento box. I get it; baby carrots are much more appealing when stacked in their little compartment than not. That made me think: when did adult lunchtime stop being fun? When did a soggy sandwich brought from home or a $12 bowl of greens, scarfed down in 10 minutes while scrolling through emails, come to define midday sustenance? Enter adult lunchables.

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