Photo of strong UX design portfolio

How to build a strong UX design portfolio – 2021 update

Hi, I’m Elle! I work as a product designer at Getaround and as an industry mentor here at Pathrise. I help our fellows land great jobs in product design through technical workshops and 1-on-1s. Check out my guide to building a strong UX design portfolio.

Updated in 2021

As a designer, you know the importance of showing a story, rather than merely telling it. That goes for your job search, as well. So, the best way to do this is with a strong portfolio, one that showcases not only the work you have done, but also the reasoning behind that work.

At Pathrise, we have helped 800+ people land great jobs in tech. Therefore, I wanted to share our best tips to help you build a strong UX and product design portfolio you can to land your dream job.

What should your UX design portfolio homepage look like?

James Cabrera, Head of Design at the Block, formerly at Refinery29 and Gilmet Media says it best: “We’re product designers so don’t get too flashy with your portfolio website. The focus should be on the work you’ve done in its purest form, not the packaging around it. I’ve gotten links to some pretty ‘unique’ websites where I couldn’t for the life of me figure out how to view the individual projects. If I don’t know where to find your resume and clear examples of your work in that initial few seconds of landing on your site, then I’m probably bouncing.”

What does that mean in even simpler terms? Make it as easy as possible for your reader. Your portfolio homepage should be neat and clean. Plus, you should include information about you and the work you enjoy doing. In addition, show your personality – it lightens the mood and reminds the reader that you are human. Finally, this should be a living, breathing website, so keep it updated with your most recent work or even what is inspiring you lately.

Examples

Take a look at Aaron Lewis’ portfolio, a UX designer who previously worked on Hilary Clinton’s campaign and now works at Uber. The homepage opens with a photo of him, information on the type of work he likes to do, and some background on his experiences and current projects.

Photo of a homepage

Another good example of a portfolio comes from Christine Soules, who works as a product designer at Bird. She keeps her layout clean and easy to understand. On her about page, she includes some personal information and a photo of her to humanize the portfolio.

Photo of a UX design portfolio

The goal of the portfolio homepage is to pique your reader’s interest about you and the projects you have worked on. Once that is accomplished, they will click into your projects to learn more about your experiences. These pages are extremely important because they give a look into your real-world work and how you have made an impact.

Checklist: Outline of a strong UX design portfolio page

  1. Setup & context
  2. The challenge & problem
    1. High level goals
  3. Your role
    1. The team
  4. Research & methodology
    1. Hypothesis
    2. Insights
    3. Competitive
  5. User personas
    1. Needs & wants
    2. User journeys
  6. Reframe the problem with insights
  7. Solution – teaser
  8. Process
    1. Sketches
    2. Wireframes
    3. Architecture
    4. Usability maps etc
    5. Mockups
  9. Feature callouts / details
    1. Specific design choices
    2. Mistakes
    3. Pivot points
  10. Visual design
    1. Design language
    2. Iterations
  11. Launch, impact, results
    1. Final design
    2. User tests
    3. Learnings and reflections
    4. Next steps
Examples

To show this outline at work, let’s look at a portfolio page from Hyewon Son, who most recently had a UX design internship with Google. This is a portfolio page for her work on the Slice app. To start, she gives an overview, link to a process deck, her role, and the tools utilized. She then moves into the design question, which is the problem, and the pre-research.

Photo of UX design portfolio page

In her pre-research, she includes a flow diagram of the user’s dining experience, which they used to come up with their initial hypothesis. She then reviews the research that they did, which consisted of interviews with waiters and a survey sent out to around 40 people. This led to their design decisions and competitive analysis, which is done in a chart so it easy to scan.

Photo of competitive analysis

Hyewon finishes her case study with prototyping, user testing, scenarios (which each have their own visuals), and a reflection, including what she would do if she had more time.

Photo of UX design portfolio reflection
More resources

With these examples and checklist, you should be able to ready to showcase your work in a strong UX design portfolio that highlights your real world experience. Junior designers, make sure to avoid these common mistakes so that you impress the recruiters and hiring managers. Don’t forget that you should be continually adding to your portfolio with every new project you do, either on your own or in your new work experiences.

For more steps on how to become a UX designer by landing a great job, see our guide.

Pathrise is a career accelerator that works with students and professionals 1-on-1 so they can land their dream job in tech. If you want to work with any of our mentors to get help with your design portfolio or any other aspect of the job search, become a Pathrise fellow.

Apply today.

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