How to Create an Award-Winning UX Designer Portfolio for Hire

Your portfolio is home to the collection of designed past experiences that have oohed and awed clients, contest judges, and users.  You’ve celebrated those successes and learned from the failures.  Now that you’re hunting for a new job, another challenge presents itself…How do I use my portfolio to show hiring companies that I have the skills they need to solve their user experience problems?  The key to unlocking your potential starts with researching what the current trends and needs are and then creating an award-winning UX designer portfolio to match.

UX portfolio fomula.jpg

 

UX Designer Job Search: A Game of Supply & Demand

Since user experience is still a relatively new concept to many companies, the trends of the industry are constantly evolving. In 2014, the importance of knowing flat design boomed for UX Designers, while now design is already showing signs of heading in a new direction. The UX Magazine staff predicts there will be a rise in slippery design over sticky design in 2015, web design will become irrelevant, and card-based design will continue to gain popularity. The trends of today could be gone tomorrow, but the skills required to implement these trends into design will remain the same.

Industray.com analyzed over 1,500 UX job ads in April 2014 and discovered that practitioners at all levels well-versed in mobile, usability, research, wireframes, and prototypes were highly desirable. The table, courtesy of Industray.com, breaks down the skills that are most in-demand by level.

Skill Demand by Industray.com

Skill Demand by Industray.com

Knowing what industry skills are in-demand can make a difference in how long it takes you to find your next UX design position. This information can help you narrow your job search, increasing the odds of you landing a job that will advance your UX career before you begin applying.

 

Jack of All Trades vs. Master of Specialization

We all know how frustrating it is to search for something specific and not be able to find the information we’re looking for in a timely manner. Employers despise piles of general UX designer portfolios just as much as users become annoyed by complicated interfaces. This is why it’s crucial to design your case study for your audience and tailor your portfolio to match their needs by emphasizing different aspects.

The experience essential for a UX/UI Design job may overlap with UX Research to some degree, though both require a UX portfolio that is organized in alternate ways to highlight different aspects of their job responsibilities.

Courtesy of UX Awards: Winning Submissions & Great Case Studies that Tell Stories by Beverly May.

Courtesy of UX Awards: Winning Submissions & Great Case Studies that Tell Stories by Beverly May.

Furthermore, consider the type of company you are applying to and their focus when deciding how to organize your portfolio. Startups are more likely to want a Jack-of-all-trades, since they don’t have the budget to pay multiple people, whereas, a larger company will want someone more focused in their skill. Agencies will be more interested in seeing the work you’ve done with clients and how you interacted with them.

comany focus

Courtesy of UX Awards: Winning Submissions & Great Case Studies that Tell Stories by Beverly May.

 

Elemental Composition of Inspiring Case Studies

No matter what parts of your portfolio you choose to emphasize, all great case studies possess four universal aspects.

Courtesy of UX Awards: Winning Submissions & Great Case Studies that Tell Stories by Beverly May.

Courtesy of UX Awards: Winning Submissions & Great Case Studies that Tell Stories by Beverly May.

Each column represents three ways to express the same idea, but be careful not to make your UX designer portfolio a snooze-fest.  Wake up your creative writing cortex and narrate a story.  The “Magic Formula” by Dale Carnegie suggests that you start with an “incident” to spark audience interest in your content before backtracking into the process.  Next, the action, where you explain the process, followed by the benefit, or what you’re encouraging your audience to do.

Courtesy of UX Awards: Winning Submissions & Great Case Studies that Tell Stories by Beverly May.

Courtesy of UX Awards: Winning Submissions & Great Case Studies that Tell Stories by Beverly May.

Throughout the story, be sure to “show” pictures and ideas instead of “tell.”  Mention the type of audience you’re designing for, the environment and how your audience will be using this product.  Case studies are more powerful when they convey emotions through people interacting with the product.  Remember that UX professionals want to understand the nitty-gritty details of your process, even if it looks like this:

Courtesy of UX Awards: Winning Submissions & Great Case Studies that Tell Stories by Beverly May.

Courtesy of UX Awards: Winning Submissions & Great Case Studies that Tell Stories by Beverly May.

Display and describe the process explaining what considerations you made and why.

Lastly, demonstrate the kind of testing you did, report the outcome and what you learned from your testing.

 

Learn By Example

Belkin’s Wemo app was prized with Silver for Best Consumer Device in the 2013 UX Awards.  Their case study was so solid that it needed no introduction.  Can you find the elements that made this UX Awards submission an award-winning case study?

WeMo – UX Awards Submission from Belkin UX on Vimeo.

If you found the key elements listed below, congrats!

Courtesy of UX Awards: Winning Submissions & Great Case Studies that Tell Stories by Beverly May.

Courtesy of UX Awards: Winning Submissions & Great Case Studies that Tell Stories by Beverly May.

By taking time to research the industry sectors and then tailoring your UX designer portfolio to meet the employer’s needs, you’ve taken the most crucial first steps to finding your next UX job.

For more information, check out our blog post “Case Studies on UX and Human-Centered Products” and “The Top UX Predictions for 2015” from UX Magazine.

Follow us on Twitter @OxfordTech & @UXAwards or on Facebook to learn more about how to create award-winning UX portfolios.