A great UX portfolio is the centerpiece of any UX professional's career growth, so the decisions involved in building one can quickly become overwhelming. Many pieces are involved, you're likely juggling full-time or freelance work, and the stakes are incredibly high. Get it right, and you might land your dream role. Get it wrong, and you might miss out on a fantastic opportunity.
Here we've outlined some of the most common mistakes we see at Academy when we review portfolios with our talent network. (Feel free to use this as a checklist the next time you update your UX portfolio!)
Mistake #1: Assuming that portfolios are just for showcasing visual deliverables
It's a common misconception that portfolios are only for UX designers. All experienced UX professionals can benefit from including a comprehensive portfolio in their personal brand package—all it takes is some storytelling. There are ways to tailor your portfolio to your specific UX discipline, whether design, writing, research, or product management.
For example, product managers can use portfolios to highlight their ability to manage complex projects and product development cycles. UX writers can showcase their writing skills and demonstrate their ability to communicate complex ideas clearly and concisely.
UX researchers and strategists can use portfolios to demonstrate their ability to conduct user research, analyze data, and present their findings in an organized and meaningful way. This demonstrates their ability to identify problems and find creative solutions.
In other words, don't discount the importance of creating a portfolio just because you don't have traditional "design" skills. No matter your role in the UX field, a portfolio will benefit you.
Mistake #2: Not documenting and saving your work from previous employers
Document your great work at each job, including the project scope and any details that might help you build a case study. You'll want to include digital files, physical copies, or screenshots. Keeping an up-to-date portfolio is good, even if you're not actively looking for new work. That way, if you get approached by a potential employer, you'll have something to show them right away—rather than scrambling to assemble something.
Several portfolio platforms offer password protection if you're uncomfortable having a public portfolio while not looking for a new role or cannot publicly share your work for legal reasons. Consistently documenting your work throughout your career will help you keep track of your progress and achievements and make it much easier to apply for new opportunities.
Mistake #3: Including shallow case studies or case studies that are too long
Case studies are crucial to a UX professional's portfolio because they demonstrate problem-solving skills and an ability to translate user needs into effective solutions. (That's the whole point, right?)
In-depth case studies for the work in your UX portfolio should provide concrete examples of your approach to a particular design problem, how you identified user pain points and the solution that you and your team created to address those pain points. Through case studies, potential employers and clients evaluate methodology, creativity, and attention to detail—critical factors in any UX discipline.
At the same time, you always want to remember your user. It's important to keep in mind that hiring managers, recruiters, and even clients might only have a few minutes to look through each portfolio. Be sure to keep your case studies concise enough that the main ideas can come across quickly without skimping on the main points of the project. It's a delicate balance, but it's worth taking the time to get it right.
Mistake #4: Not explaining your role in the project
When building a UX portfolio and writing case studies, it's important to be clear about your role in each project. Was it a solo project, or did you work as part of a team? If it was a team effort, what was your specific role? What did you contribute to the project?
This information is critical because potential employers or clients will want to know what kind of work you're capable of and how much responsibility you can handle. They may also want to see if you can work independently or if you prefer to collaborate with others.
To avoid this mistake, take some time to write a brief description of your role in each project in your portfolio. Be sure to include details about what you contributed and why it was necessary.
This will help potential employers and clients understand the extent of your involvement and the quality of your work and increase your credibility within the field.
Mistake #5: Poor image quality, typos, overwhelming visuals, and broken prototypes
Once again, this may seem obvious, but it's amazing how many otherwise talented UX professionals submit portfolios with typos, broken prototypes, low-quality images... the list goes on. Your UX portfolio, perhaps even more so than your resume, is the one chance you get to impress a potential employer or client. Don't you want your work to reflect your expertise, skill, and attention to detail?
Have a friend, trusted colleague, career coach or recruiter like we have at Academy review your portfolio for any issues before hitting "publish" to avoid missing these crucial mistakes.
At Academy, we work with our talent network to fine-tune their portfolios and help them land roles tailored to their skills and interests. Avoiding these five mistakes will go a long way toward finding your dream role. If you're interested in joining our talent network, head to our general application to apply.