Building a Killer UX Portfolio: Stand Out From The Crowd | Carlye Cunniff | Skillshare

Building a Killer UX Portfolio: Stand Out From The Crowd

Carlye Cunniff, Experience Designer

Building a Killer UX Portfolio: Stand Out From The Crowd

Carlye Cunniff, Experience Designer

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10 Lessons (31m)
    • 1. Create a Killer UX Portfolio

    • 2. Who Are You?

    • 3. Competitive Research

    • 4. Build A Persona

    • 5. Choosing A Medium

    • 6. Creating Content

    • 7. Information Architecture

    • 8. Voice And Tone

    • 9. Visual Design

    • 10. Publish

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About This Class


In this class we’ll work together to craft a killer UX portfolio - either starting from scratch or touching up a current portfolio. We’ll treat building your portfolio like an end-to-end design project, from discovery to design. If you are looking for a templatized solution to your portfolio, or a one-size-fits-all solution, this is not the class for you. This class is a step-by-step guide to creating the portfolio that works for you - it's a community for feedback, helpful tips, and some motivation to finally get your portfolio where you want it to be. 

We’ll work through:

  • Where to start
  • What to include
  • Writing case studies
  • Information architecture of your portfolio
  • Tips for implementation

This class is designed specifically for UX designers, but Visual Designers, UX Researchers and Graphic Designers might find this class useful as well. This class is for students who are ready to create (or redesign) a UX design portfolio. We’ll talk about different options for freelancers, folks who want to work at an agency, or designers looking for in-house work. This class doesn’t cover doing the work - though I have some tips on how to generate work for your portfolio, you’ll have to come with some projects under your belt.

You'll find a PDF of action items and helpful content in the project section of this class. 

Meet Your Teacher

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Carlye Cunniff

Experience Designer



Hi! I'm a designer, creative leader, and design educator.

I found my way to design non-conventionally; after spending several years as a dancer and movement educator, I taught myself basic design skills and have been on a journey ever since! I worked as a freelance writer, web designer, and content strategist before taking a formal course in UX design. I was drawn to UX because it allowed me to use my research skills (sociology degree with an emphasis in public health), my new-found love for digital design, and my genuine curiosity about human behaviour.

I’ve worked with start-ups, as a design consultant, and in-house as a designer. I've also spent a lot of time leading design organisations, and focus on helping organisations figure out how to do d... See full profile

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1. Create a Killer UX Portfolio: in this class, we're gonna work together to craft a killer UX portfolio, either starting from scratch or touching up a current portfolio. We're gonna treat building your portfolio like an end to end design project from Discovery to design well, we will work through where to start, what to include writing, case studies, information, architecture and tips for implementation. This glass is designed specifically for UX designers, but visual designers, UX researchers and graphic designers might find this class useful as well. At the end of this class, you'll have curated and organized the content you need to create the killer UX portfolio. Each lesson includes it to do. I didn't help you stay on track. You X portfolio is no small undertaking, so we don't spend much time on the visual design or implementation. Posting your website using squarespace foods of your portfolio way will create all the content you need to successfully plug into one of these teams because the content of a portfolio is the most daunting and challenging. At the end of this class, students who have previous you export under their belt can have a fully functional job ready for polio. So if you're ready for a challenge. And you've been waiting to build your UX portfolio, join me and jump in and we can do it together. I'm really excited to see what you come up with on. Hopefully we can all work together to build killer UX portfolios. 2. Who Are You? : welcome to building your killer UX portfolio. I'm really excited to get started. I know that building a portfolio can be daunting, and I also don't want to lie to you. It's no small feat. It does take time and effort. However, if you build a portfolio that you're happy with and that works for you, you won't have to build it many times throughout your career. Eventually, you'll just be ableto add more projects, take out old projects and grow with your portfolio. So putting the time and now does really make a difference throughout your career. In user experience design, the first thing we're gonna do in this class is discover why we're doing a portfolio and what that portfolio needs to do for you personally. So portfolios they're going to be different from person to person. It depends what kind of job you're looking for, what kind of designer you are, what your strengths are, how many projects you have, what those projects look like. So portfolios very and they need to vary by your audience, decide what your portfolio needs to do for you. So take some time and my map, who you are as a designer. What are you really good at? What? Your strengths. What can you bring to a team? What kind of job are you looking for? What's your ideal job? Do you want to work in an agency? Do you want to work in a big company? Are you a freelancer? If you consider all of those things before you even start to think about building a portfolio. So once you've gone through and done some thinking about what your ideal job is, scour the Internet and look for jobs that you think would be a good fit for you. So, based on your experience today, based on what you know, you're really good at, go through and look through those job descriptions. Add those to your mind app so you can pull out of those what you'll need to include in your portfolio to be able to get a job like that. Once you've done all that, you can go ahead and upload your mind map to the discussion section of our class. Uh, we love to hear from you. Thanks 3. Competitive Research: Hey, everybody, welcome back. I really enjoyed seeing the my maps that you put up, and I'm excited to see what happens next. The next thing we're gonna do is some competitive research. So, like all good designers, it's important to follow what's out there, see what the standards are, see what's working. See what's not working. Um, a competitive analysis of other people's portfolios really lets us understand the market. So those people are our competitors as much as there are colleagues and our friends. So we might be going after the same jobs we might not, but it's important to learn from other people and see what they're doing. So the next assignment for this class is to find at least three portfolios that you really like. Not only should you really like them, uh, take note of how they display information. How did they inspire you? Would you want to hire this person particularly? Do they have the same skill set that you dio so? See if you can narrow down to people who have portfolios that are in a similar vein? If you're a UX designer and a visual designer, look for those types of portfolios if you're a prototype for for those types of portfolios , direct researchers, etcetera. Once you've found some do a competitive analysis, so list out your competitors, unless that what they're doing that is really working for them. Is there something consistent that all three of those portfolios are doing the same? Is it more of a big idea, or is it a specific type of interaction that's working really well? Take note of that on that will help you decide what you really need to include in your portfolio. Teoh. Make sure your competitive in the market when you're done upload your competitive analysis in whatever form you did it to the comments section or the project section. Ana, we're excited to see it. Thanks. 4. Build A Persona: a really important thing about building a product is knowing who your customer is. So our customers are recruiters, hiring managers, possibly senior designers on the team, product managers, developers. Anybody who's gonna look at your portfolio and and consume the content is your customer. So we really have to think about those people as our customers. So what I like to do is build a persona. This not only helps us develop empathy for the people who have to look at our portfolio and also have to look at hundreds of other people's portfolios. It helps us narrow down how we should build it so that we can decide how we should lay out our content. What we should include, ultimately the medium of our portfolio. So your job is to first really think about who's gonna consume the content of your portfolio. If you're. If you're targeting a small design agency, maybe it's the hiring manager themselves. Maybe it's the people on your team. If you're looking at a big company, ultimately it's probably a recruiter. So a recruiter her may or may not know a lot of up design is gonna consume. Report Folio first and then they're gonna pass it off to senior designers or hiring managers to go through and work detail. One way to start developing empathy for a persona or learning about them is to connect with someone. So your challenge in this lesson is to connect with someone on linked in call a friend or colleague uh, call someone, call somewhere that you want to work and see if a hiring manager will talk to you on the phone or go out for coffee and tell you what they're looking for in a portfolio, not wholly, is not a great way to network because you have a reason to reach out to someone with something that maybe they haven't heard of before. But it also gives you a good idea of what someone in the field is looking for. So what somebody is looking for varies from market to market. It varies from a big company to a small company. Eso I can tell you what I look for, but my market might be totally different than yours, and I might work in a completely different job than you do. So it's important to figure out what you want to do and build your persona around that. You can create a hypothesized persona based on the following questions. So ask yourself, Does this person know a lot about designed? Do they have a lot of spare time? How are they gonna consume your content? Is it gonna be on a mobile device on a desktop? What are the use cases they're gonna encounter when they interact with their portfolio with your portfolio? And what's the most important take away for them. Once you created a hypothesized portfolio, see if you can reach out to someone in the real world who meets those same requirements. Talk to them about what they look for in a portfolio. What is frustrating to them about the other portfolios they see. How are they consuming your content? How many portfolios are they looking at in a day? It's really important to get answers to those questions from someone in the market that you're looking for a job in once you've created your persona and maybe validated it with some quick user research uploaded to the comments section. If there were any key quotes that you can share with your fellow classmates, I'm sure they really appreciate it. 5. Choosing A Medium: Hi. Welcome back. The next thing I think is really important to talk about is considering the medium that you're gonna build your portfolio on. I know it seems kind of early in the design process to decide how you're going to implement your portfolio, but I think it's really important to figure out your design constraints before you dive into creating your content. Deciding your layout. I've taken a lot of visual design courses that have students build their ideal portfolio, and I think that's a really great way to start introducing the tools of visual designer UX design. It's a great weight it for people to start thinking about what, eventually they're gonna have to put out into the world. Uh, but the problem that I have with that is that you might design something in photo shop or a sketch and end up with the design that you actually can't implement. Then you get all the way through hi fi visual design, and you realize that you can't code, so you're not gonna build your own site. So that's why I think it's really important to figure out what your design constraints are . At the beginning, it's more efficient, and it helps you just plan your content and plan what you're gonna build a lot easier. There's a couple of things to think about when you're deciding what type of medium you're gonna use to build your portfolio site. Here are a few of my recommendations bootstrap. So if you're a front end developer, a prototype for any type of designer that says they can code at work, you should build your own portfolio. Um, I decided to build my portfolio with Bootstrap, modifying it with HTML and CSS bootstrapped his great means of getting a framework if you don't want to start from scratch. However, if you are not wanting to use HTML and CSS or JavaScript at work, there's no reason to build your portfolio to code your own portfolio. Um, building your own portfolio, uh, with Bootstrap allows to have a little more flexibility and how you can lay it out. Um, but otherwise it it takes along. If you're not a great developer like me, that's not something that I really excel at. It does take me a little bit of time to make edits, and it was quite an endeavor to build the site. Another way that a lot of people choose to go is with a website builder. Such a squarespace squarespace is really easy to use. It has beautiful interfaces. You can customize it. It is pretty expensive as far as website builders go, so you do have to pay a monthly fee. There's other website builders out there. This is by no means a squarespace endorsement. It's just something that I've used in the past. Um, 1/3 way you could go is to create a pdf. Um, so this doesn't cost anything, because you don't have to host it anywhere. Um, the only kind of building pdf is that you don't have a Web presence. So if it's important for you in your use case, to have a Web presence as a designer, you might need to build build your brand on Behan Sword dribble instead. Um, pds come in handy when you apply for a job, and you can just add a link to a portfolio. The other Contra Pdf is that on a resume you're not able to link out to your portfolio. So sometimes you can't guarantee that all of the people that need to see your work are gonna be able to see your work. So those are a couple things to think about when you're deciding how you should build your portfolio. Another thing to keep in mind is that some jobs, especially at big companies, will bring you in for a specific portfolio presentation, so it's often tricky, too. Pull up something online, go through your website when you're doing a portfolio presentation, and having a PdF in that scenario could be really helpful. I personally choose toe have both. I have an online portfolio that is really out of date and needs to be updated, so I'll be doing that's what it's classes Well, And then when I do get an interview, I have a much more up to date, better looking PDF portfolio that I go through for my portfolio presentation. So if you know that you're looking for jobs, especially at big companies, it can be really useful to end up building both things. So your next up is to do some research, figure out and think about how much time you have to commit to building your portfolio. I got a coat yourself. Are you gonna build it? in a website builder or you just gonna do a pdf and maintain your online presence through be cancer dribble. Um, and let us know what you decided. I think other students in the class are really going to get a lot out of hearing what different people are doing. Ask questions and decide what you're gonna build. I'm looking forward to hearing what you learned. Thanks. 6. Creating Content: We're gonna talk now about designing your content, strategy and design in content. Strategy is the hardest part of designing your portfolio site. But don't fear we're gonna break down and hopefully do some of it together to make it a bit easier. First thing I wanted to talk about is the question I hear the most often from designers in some in some version or another. The question is, how do I create a portfolio if I don't have any projects? You don't have any projects because you haven't worked as a UX designer yet. You're transitioning careers or you don't have any projects because everything you've done up until now is too confidential to share. There are a lot of opinions on this one, and I will offer you mine. I think if you're transitioning into UX design from another career, there is a point when you'll have to do some work for free. You can reach out to a local nonprofit, a small business, a family friend, whoever it is and tell them what you're doing. Tell them that you're transitioning from one career into another and ask if you could redesign or design a site for them. Make sure you clarify the terms beforehand. You are trying to build your portfolio, So instead of payment, you're asking to be able to use whatever it is you build on your portfolio site. That asked them to not disclose if someone calls them for a reference that you did this work free of charge. Uh, it's not that you're lying, but your payment is really in the right to use the work. Another way to do this is to find some way to do some design work at your current job. So most jobs, depending on the field, have some type of digital interface that someone else or maybe you uses frequently. Can you pitch an idea to improve the current website to your boss? If not, can you redesign said Digital product? In your own time, you might have to get creative, but there are always ways to start doing the work. Now. We're assuming you have artifacts and projects. We are ready to start thinking about your content strategy, so I like to take a look at all of the work. I have all the content that I'm thinking about, including all the content I've gathered over. My time is UX Designer Um and I like to lay it all out on the ground, so I'm a very physical thinker. So what works for me is literally putting all the pages. I haven't on the ground to get a high level Look at what I have to work with. I also work mainly on papers. So for me, that's a really effective way to gather my information together. So from here I do two things. After I've laid out all of my work, I select the best examples of different kind of things that I want to show. So my best examples of storyboards Best examples of iterating on visual design, best prototypes, best personas, whatever it is that I think is important to show, I pull out the best examples of it. The next thing I do is I visually mapped the story I want to tell with my artifacts for a specific project. So mapping the story visually with the artifacts you created for the project not only helps you start to craft the story, you'd like to tell about a project but helps you start to craft the story without words. I struggle to write less. I tend to write a lot, so starting with the visuals lets me to still down the most important points without writing the story in thousands of words. Next thing I do on my visual nap is to add notes. I think about why is this artifact important? What did I learn from it? How did it affect the outcome? Being able to speak to why you are telling someone what you're telling them? Said two Apart, there are a 1,000,000 portfolios. Tell me the exact same design process. It's easy to tell when someone just followed the process, they learned without thinking about why they followed it. I want to know what led a designer to use a specific technique. And if that was helpful or not after your selected why certain artifacts are important. Any Britain. A quick note to yourself about why I go back to each project and right on a sticky note. What was the customer problem? What was the business opportunity? What was the solution? What skills did you use or put another way? What did you do specifically to contribute on this project? And finally, what tools did you use to create whatever the final results were like. I said in the beginning of this class, your portfolio was just just that your portfolio. You really have to treat this as a design exercise because it is the ultimate design exercise the people that you're designing for a different than the people that I'm designing for. I am a different designer than you are, and your job with your portfolio is to showcase what you do really well. So you're caught the content strategy solutions that I cannot for you are not gonna be a magic pill. There isn't a template. In fact, the template ties portfolios that I see get really boring. I want something that sets you apart that does make it more challenging, right, because that's what everybody wants to know. What should I include? You really have to think like a designer and problem solve on why you should include that being said, I do have some tips for content in your portfolio. The 1st 1 is don't feel like everything you include needs to be an end to end perfect example of a US process. Hiring managers know that that is not the reality and they're actually more interested in the story. You're telling passion projects that aren't going to launch. Yes, please include them just also include some work that is, for real life projects that failed after the discovery of research face that never had any . Hi, fi. You I totally okay. They just need to have an interesting story. And again, you need to have some work that shows the final result. The second tip I have are KP eyes or key performance indicators. Thes air huge. I can't stress enough. How did you set out to measure the success of your project? And was it successful? It's OK if it failed. I just want to know if and how you measured it. Third recommendation I have is to play to your strength. Your portfolio should include examples of the work that you like to do, and you're good at doing if you love port. If you love building prototypes and they have helped to design better experiences, you should include a prototype or two. If you are not a visual designer and you're never going to be, that should be clear in your portfolio. And you shouldn't include high fives in your case studies. If you are UX designer with a strong research background, your research artifact should certainly be in your portfolio personas, empathy, maps, snippets of research reports, etcetera. Just keep in mind that everything you should include should have. Why? Why is it here and what did you learn from making it? Fourth tip is for those of you who didn't actually create any US artifacts when you did that really cool project and now you want to go back and remake them so you can put it in your portfolio. This happens all the time. Hiring managers know it. Your job is to make sure that the recruiter hiring manager doesn't see right through it. You're going to remake a user flow. You need to make sure it makes sense and that you can speak to it recreating a site map, make sure it actually makes sense and isn't just a illustration Less is more. It really is. I know you want to include every project that done because you worked hard on it and I totally get it. I have that problem, too, but people are looking at hundreds of portfolios a day really choose the best projects. Final tip I have is to really think about where is the customer in all of your case studies , this should be a a solid part of every case study and really every article. How did you ensure this was making a better customer experience? How did you bring the customer into the business? You thought about the customer? Cool. You're not the customer. So how did you make sure you were considering them? At the end of this lesson, you should have a big pile of UX artifacts with a bunch of sticky notes on a better idea of what case studies you want to include. I would suggest not trying to write your case studies yet. Try to stick to the sticky notes that will help you really parse down your content and not end up writing too much. If you'd like to share, I'd love to see examples of your your visual layouts if you did them or, um, great examples of sticky notes or really awesome artifacts that you're going to include. You can share those in the project section of this left 7. Information Architecture: in this next part of our class, we're gonna organize our content into an information architecture that makes sense to our different customers. This is the time to go back and look at the portfolios you liked. How did they organize information in a way that made you want to learn more about them that helped you understand what they were really good at? This is also the time to look back at your wives. Who are you as a designer, and what kind of job do you want? You can prove through your content based on those wise what artifacts relate to the job descriptions you selected. What is the best way to show what you can dio? I've seen two main distinctions and the way designers present their process. They they're include process discussion and artifacts and their individual products, or they include a different section devoted to process. Either method works, but you need to consider for your audience. Are you looking for an in house job with designers who understand the process. They probably are more interested in the way you applied your process to challenging problems. If you're freelance designer, you might need to sell your process a bit more, using your portfolio to explain what you exercise is and why your process is a benefit. This is potentially true for smaller companies or large companies who aren't that informed about UX design. Another thing that helps think about the information architecture of your site is to think about how a customer is going to navigate around your site. What's the most important thing they need to dio? Is it a contact me called the action? Maybe for freelancers? Or download my resume Call to action. It may not even need to call to action if you're only sending it out for job searches. A pdf that you create probably doesn't need a flattened in it. This is Contact me. Some designers find it useful to map out screen flows at this stage or sketch out a site map. Whatever works for you is fine. You are a UX designer, but just do some thinking about your content hierarchy before moving into wire frames. So here's some tips about building your information architecture. If you're planning to include case studies, start each one with the key answers you pulled out earlier. Customer problem. Business opportunity solution. Customers can then read more about that project. If they want to think about navigation, it's frustrating to click into a project, only to find that it's hard to get back to the main list of projects. That seems to be a trend in the portfolios I see, and it's a huge usability, Miss. Think about incorporating more than just case studies things like testimonials for a freelancer, a visual representation of the brands you've worked with an instagram feed. If your a great photographer, a separate section for passion projects, similar semi related projects. If you have enough of them. Ah, blawg. If you have a related one, these things all set you apart. Really think about what is the most important thing your persona will see when they land on your page. You have less than 30 seconds to show them why they should keep looking at this stage in your portfolio design, you should be able to start designing your information architecture in the form of user slows or in the form of a site map. We'd love to see what you've come up with so you can add those to the project part of this class 8. Voice And Tone: In this next stage of the class, we're going to start to think about the voice and tone of our portfolio. The other really important thing we're gonna do is actually write the copy for our case studies. If you have them. Even if you're not writing a lot of copy of the copy on your portfolio site matters again. Go back to your wise and think about how you'd like to portray yourself as a designer. Are you a freelancer? You might consider writing in a very professional tone, so potential clients will trust you. You want to work for an agency. Your copy should reflect that. Throw in some playful Burbage. Your personality should always come through. You want to strike a balance between professional creativity and trying too hard, so don't overthink it. So far in this class, we talked a lot about the most important elements from each project. Remember the customer problem, business opportunity and solution. When you're thinking about starting to write your case studies, start there after you've defined those in one or two sentences. At most, move on to short descriptions of your artifacts. I suggest keeping one sentence per artifact, remembering to explain why you did it and what it led you to do. If you absolutely must write more and I totally get that, separate the extra information into a different paragraph to be used later in your phone or in person interviews. This extra info leads to great talking points. When you're in an interview, it lets you write down all of your thoughts. If you're a person who processes by writing and it'll help keep some of that copy off of your portfolio, perhaps this goes without saying, but the copy on your portfolio site really does matter. I suggest writing everything in a word document first so that you could spell jacket and grammar. Check it, have other people read it, make sure you edit it multiple times. At the end of this lesson, you should have at least one case study that's ready to go, or at least ready for some feedback from me or other students in this class. Please feel free to upload your case, study and ward in a word doc format to the project section of this class. Ana. Hopefully, some of your classmates or me will get a chance to take a look and give you feedback 9. Visual Design: As I said, this class is not focused on the visual design of your portfolio. You know, the typography color scheme, etcetera, not because those things don't matter. But there are many classes out there that focus on those things and those air, not questions I get all the time. I do recommend that everyone, even those of you who say you are not visual designers in any way, shape or form pay attention to creating clean, crisp, consistent sites. They don't have to be visually stunning, but they should be simple and usable because most of your portfolios, like content, will be work you generate. You will need to spend some time cleaning up your content. For example, instead of uploading the raw photos of your sketches you took with your iPhone, Crofton makes them all the same size. Put them on background and make sure they're evenly spaced and aligned. Another trick to making things look Chris is including the title of the artifact on the image itself, because you put a background on the image itself. Use one of the many available and free screen templates to show off Uruguay design sketches or not. Now they've honed in on your visual style and you've decided what sides or photos they're gonna be and the type of background you're gonna put on them. Go through and do that. All of your photos. You'll thank yourself later when you have beautiful case studies ready to go, you have a beautiful visual design ready to upload, and all you have to do is put everything into whatever format gonna present your portfolio in once you're done, share an example of your visual style. It cropped and edited image with a background, or however you decide to do it in the projects portion of the class. 10. Publish: Okay, everybody, here is the exciting part. It's time to put your for portfolio together. Remember how we didn't make a wire frame at the beginning of this class because we wanted to generate our content information, Information, architecture first. Now is the time. You know what you need your site to do for you and your customers on. You know how you're going to build it. If you're gonna work with a website builder, start looking at templates. Once you find one that looks like it will work for you wire frame how you modify it for your specific needs. I like to play. Give my content blocks on the wire frame so it can mess around with anything I haven't nailed down yet. If you're planning to co the website yourself, you can jump into building by a French is out. The template if you're using bootstrap is a base. I would recommend wire framing with that base in mind, depending on how comfortable you are making changes. If you're planning a pdf portfolio, you don't need all the extra website additions but still need to wire for him. How you're going to present your work in a pdf Consistency is key. It tends to feel more like a document. So inconsistencies or more obvious, remember to edit mercilessly spellcheck. Read your work aloud. Edit your photos, etcetera. If you followed along with the class up until now, you really should have blocks of content and visual pieces that you can plug into a framework that you create. So you should know how user is gonna move through the flow of your portfolio site. You should know what your case studies are and what information you need to include. And it should be pretty easy to plug everything in all of that hard work you did to write the case studies and pull out the artifacts and make them visually look nice is gonna pay off because now you can just put everything together. When you have something to show, please share it in the project portion of this class. I'm sure that other folks in the class would love to give you feedback. I'm happy to give feedback, uh, and you can get that feedback before you go live with your site.