Stop Portfolio Paranoia


Your UX portfolio serves one purpose only – to connect you with a recruiter or hiring manager. That’s it. A UX portfolio template is designed to achieve that one, specific goal. Here’s how to create one.

Who’s It For?

Your portfolio must immediately, clearly and concisely communicate your unique value from the moment someone lands on your home page. Three seconds. That’s all you get to capture and hopefully keep their attention. One, two, three. Done.

How do you start? First, identify your audience. For most UX job seekers, your audience is an HR Recruiter or a Hiring Manager in a specific industry. Use your user research skills and create personas for both. Name them. Know them.

Really understand what a day in their life is like. For example, I’ve watched recruiters with 25-30 tabs open on their computer, each with a potential candidate’s portfolio.

They click through them rapidly and get distracted often. Believe it or not, recruiters have a ton of other work to do besides look for job candidates.

If your UX portfolio actually makes the cut, you need to stand out before someone interrupts them. How do you do that?

Show A Clear Path To Purchase

Assuming you have thoroughly researched your potential audience, think of a typical user journey for a recruiter or hiring manager. For example, imagine someone comes across your portfolio from LinkedIn.

If your portfolio successfully gains their attention, now you have a real chance. Lead them quickly and logically from who you are, what you can do, to your contact form. Here’s the possible path they might follow:

LinkedIn Search–> Search Results–> Your Portfolio Website–> Your Project–> Contact

It’s About Process, Not Pretty

How many projects do you need to show? Ideally three, but less is ok if you tell a clear, compelling story. I’ve worked with many people just starting out who only had one project and got the job of their dreams because they clearly communicated their value.

While a winning portfolio is essential, recruiters are much more interested in your thought process, how well you communicate and how you work with teams. All your portfolio needs to do is open the door to start that conversation.

What’s Your Point? Why Does It Matter?

So start the conversation on your home page. Why should they care? What’s in it for them? What is your value statement? How can you make their life easier?

Wireframe it out – if you need help, see my article about thumbnailing. Do that if you don’t want to do full blown wireframes. The point is to have a focused plan of attack.

A Sample UX Portfolio Template

Job-winning portfolios seem to follow a consistent pattern. Below are two simple wireframes depicting a portfolio home page and a case study page with a single project. While it may be prescriptive, a UX portfolio template like this might also be a handy reference to help you update your existing portfolio.

You can easily create a portfolio template like this in Squarespace or WordPress. Even better, uxfolio offers great prompts to help you get your story straight without dealing with technical headaches.

Feedback Helps

As you update your portfolio, iterate and get ongoing feedback from trusted peers until you are satisfied that it’s ready for primetime. Does it do what it needs to do? How do you know? If not, how can you improve it? What’s missing?

Key things to think about:

  • Is your name and contact info clearly displayed on the header of every page? This seems obvious, but I’ve seen portfolios using cryptic logos instead of the person’s first and last name.
  • What happens when someone scrolls on your website? A “sticky” header matters here. Remember that they probably have dozens of tabs open with other people’s portfolios on them. If they scroll down and your name disappears they won’t remember who’s materials they’re looking at. Don’t let that be you.
  • Does your navigation scheme make sense? Is it responsive?

Know Your Stuff

Finally, study your portfolio until you know it backwards and forwards. Be able to talk about your projects without looking at them. You never know when you’ll get an unexpected call from a recruiter or meet someone who can help you right now. Ready is ready. Be ready.

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