The UX portfolio website has superseded the business card as a UX designer’s most essential professional networking tool. Especially these days, as the UX design industry pivots abruptly to a predominantly remote profession, UX designers communicate their professional identities virtually through their online presence to navigate the constricted job market successfully.
In my middling work experience as a UX designer over the years, I’ve been involved in countless UX designer portfolio reviews on both sides of the hiring process. Having personally benefited from industry mentorship in my own career, I’m excited to share what inside intelligence I can back with the design community, to encourage emerging UX designers to represent themselves more effectively to hiring managers and potential clients.
As with any other good user experience, a UX portfolio website should consider the user’s mindset during a visit. Bear in mind, companies typically automate their hiring processes using HR software, with workflows designed to evaluate as many qualified applicants as quickly as possible. Conciseness is merciful to reviewers digging through a pile of applications. The reviewer expects immediate access to all the information they need within the online portfolio to accomplish their evaluation. Within twenty seconds, the UX recruiter should understand your pitch, get a sense for your work, and have your contact information at their fingertips, ready to take the next step in their hiring workflow.
For full disclosure, I’ve pulled all of these examples from my own personal orbit, and included friends and colleagues who I respect and want to uplift. Let’s explore my thought process when looking at how each designer’s site uniquely succeeds and looking for patterns to model a great UX design portfolio.
1. Total class: Liya Xu
Liya Xu is an accomplished UX designer and Amazon alum, now returning to graduate school to study design management at Pratt. She leverages her technical know-how combined with her visual sensibility to craft excellent applications. Really, check out her work.
This online portfolio example has the character of a fashion spread, with well-selected attributes and succinctly written content. She allows the viewer plenty of breathing room in the empty space of the layout, to process the impact of her UX portfolio content. The case studies fall in reverse chronological order, most recent and impressive work at the top. A visitor gains immediate access to an example of work “above the fold,” peeking up from the bottom of the home screen. The experience conveys an overall modern, professional effect.
2. Authenticity: Seka Sekanwagi
Seka Sekanwagi works at Cash App as a UX researcher and has a well-rounded background in product design, interaction design, UX, and UI. His degree is actually in industrial design, crafting objects and tools, and bringing that same human-centered mindset to his design work. A genuine empathetic interest in other people drives his user research, questioning the meaning behind core user needs and translating them into tangible quality improvements.
The imagery and copywriting of Seka’s design portfolio establish his credibility while expressing his individuality. Selectively-edited messaging demonstrates the level of thoughtfulness that goes into his work output. He formats his work qualifications in simple typesetting, reducing the cognitive load on the visitor, and inviting them to review his qualifications at their leisure.
3. Perfect Pitch: Roochita Chachra
Roochita Chachra is an Austin-based UX designer and recent General Assembly immersive graduate who is highly active in the local creative community. Roochita enters UX design from the adjacent worlds of graphic design and digital marketing and is transitioning her career focus to allow her more opportunities to conduct user research, prototype, and problem-solve.
Whenever repositioning for a new avenue of design work, it takes self-restraint to hide old projects and work samples that don’t reflect your updated professional image. A UX design portfolio needs to represent the type of work you’re looking for, not just what you’ve done. Roochita focuses hers on the UX design process, and supports it with plenty of explanations and artifacts to show the output.
4. Pure Enthusiasm: Ljupcho Sulev
Ljupcho Sulev approaches his UX projects with a passion and a positive attitude. Originally from Macedonia, he works for SoftServe out of Sofia, Bulgaria. I had the opportunity to collaborate with Ljupcho on a project, conducting user interviews and analyzing research side-by-side for weeks. His sunny disposition brightens the spirits of his team members and elevates the work.
Ljupcho’s profile is sparse and direct. He highlights his career achievements by pairing photography with bold infographics, letting his enthusiasm pop off the screen. The minimal digital portfolio design aesthetic allows the content to take priority over the visuals.
5. Scannability: Aimen Awan
Aimen Awan is a UX designer with a background in software engineering and information experience design. Aimen optimizes her case studies for the viewer to scan quickly, with summaries at the top denoting her role and responsibilities on the project. Scrolling down the page, project artifacts illustrate the design process, increasing the fidelity successively up to the final product.
When developing a UX portfolio for a job search, take a lean approach like Aimen — gather feedback and iterate on your design. We designers are all susceptible to over-designing our work, nitpicking well past diminishing returns.
The most useful digital portfolio feedback comes from submitting actual job applications and gauging the response, so the earlier you have something ready to share, the better. Think of it as a user test — submitting a batch of applications and fishing for feedback from hiring leads or a potential client. Every response is a valuable piece of data and should help you refine your messaging and presentation.
6. Approachability: Ke Wang
Ke Wang writes his UX portfolio with a tone of casual levity (with bonus points for rhyming) while his About section reads like a social media status update. He pulls it off because his case studies scroll through examples of his overwhelming talent and work.
Website design covers some crucially important goals which require some entirely human skills. Relating to the website visitor in an approachable way is the hallmark of intuitive user experience and a good heuristic of success.
7. Clear Storytelling: Phill Abraham
Phill Abraham is a graduate of General Assembly’s User Experience Design Immersive course. Like many other UX designers, Phill arrived through a circuitous career path, with a background in psychology and experience in documentary film. He is actively involved in the local design scene, building out his book of projects.
Each case study shapes a compelling narrative of Phill’s design process. A project from his experience as a documentary filmmaker bolsters his UX portfolio and speaks to his capability to perform as a professional. Documentary is, after all, a quintessential form of user research. Phill applies his storytelling sensibility in presenting the case studies, outlining his thorough process step-by-step. As the website visitor scrolls down the page, they experience a neat narrative arch outlining the scenario, the design process, and the final product.
8. The Resume Homepage: Samantha Li
Samantha is a design manager at Capital One and an all-around UX champion. An active organizer within the design community, she mentors students and early-career UX designers working to break into the industry. Her own UX portfolio website outlines her career journey in the form of an extended resume and is as dense as a novel. An evaluator doesn’t even have to click to find all of the relevant information.
The resume homepage is a great design pattern for more established professionals with a long list of accomplishments. As a best practice, scrutinize what you publish diligently. Password-protecting case studies helps avoid any disputes over showing sensitive client work, and you may need to censor any personal data that may appear in your photographs and artifacts.
Job hunting poses challenges even for design professionals with advanced experience. Candidates need to squeeze their credentials into a digestible size to communicate their entire work history to reviewers in a short window of attention. The importance of every element of the online UX design portfolio becomes amplified, and dialing in the nuances of messaging makes a difference in getting noticed. Emerging UX designers face an uphill challenge as they’re fleshing out their portfolio projects. UX professionals in the job market are judged by their list of accomplished projects, which is frustrating for early-career UX designers who may be struggling to get their foot in the door with shorter resumes. The only course of action is bootstrapping through some initial projects — side projects, student projects, volunteer work, and ultimately paid UX design jobs — to demonstrate applied skills. A great UX portfolio effectively communicates your ability and value to potential clients.