Have you ever thought …
“I’m a UX Designer. So why can’t I design my own UX Portfolio?”
Here’s the problem.
You are your own worst client. You’re too critical. You’re stuck in the weeds. You’re designing in a vacuum and you’re focusing on details that probably don’t matter.
You know when you’re working on a project and a client or stakeholder or someone goes down a rabbit hole … and won’t stop talking about it. And despite what anyone says, they can’t stop focusing on that thing?
And you’re sitting there in the meeting thinking, “it doesn’t matter!!!!!!!”
Because you’re smart enough to see the big picture. And because you are the UX person whose job it is to sweat the details but also balance it with the big picture.
So back to your UX portfolio …
You’re just like that client or stakeholder. You’re stuck in the weeds of your portfolio because you’re too close to it. It’s yours! And you desperately need someone else to come along and pull you out of the weeds.
Not because you’re a bad designer …
But simply because, I’d say it’s true for about 95% of people that “you are your own worst client”.
So, what’s the solution?
You need feedback. Now I know you’re thinking “oh I don’t want to show it to anyone yet, it’s not ready.”
Ok, that’s one excuse and I get it, I really do. So if you’re not ready to ask other people for feedback about your UX portfolio then, listen up.
At a minimum, spend a few minutes critiquing your own UX portfolio.
Focus on asking questions to help you think less about the “design” of your portfolio and more about the content of it and, dare I say, the usability of it.
10 Questions To Critique Your UX Portfolio
These questions are a mix of career questions and portfolio questions because if you want to create a great portfolio, you need it to map back to your career strategy.
Whether you’re just starting out or you’ve been in the industry for a while, I think it’s helpful to always re-visit these questions.
It’s easy to get blinded by being comfortable. I find these questions help me find and refine my focus so that I can put more energy into doing activities that help me reach my goals.
1. Do I know what type of designer I am?
Unicorn doesn’t count. You need to tell people where you fall in the field of UX. Now, of course, this brings up the question of a generalist versus specialist, which we don’t have time for in this article. But, define what type of designer you are.
2. Am I clear on my skills as a designer?
UX titles are all over the map and mean many things to many people. Because of this, you can’t just rely on your title. You have to define your skills. User interviews? Usability testing? Content Strategy? Experience Design? Visual Design?
3. What type of role do I want as my next job?
Tell people what you want to be doing in the future. Maybe this is in your resume or cover letter in more detail. But, think about your future because you will need to tailor your UX portfolio to the type of role you want next.
4. What type of company would I like to work at?
What you’ll do as a UX designer is dependent on the type and size of the company you work at. Want to work at a startup? Make sure you talk to other UX designers who’ve worked at startups of all stages, so you know what you’re getting into.
5. Would I like to specialize in a specific area of UX?
If you’re at the point in your career where you want to focus on a specific area, then try to show that your past work provides a good foundation for you to do that in the future.
6. Do the projects in my UX portfolio reflect the skills I said I have?
The projects you include should demonstrate that you can do what you say you can do. They should be evidence of the skills that you stated you have. If a project doesn’t match those skills, then cut it.
7. Do the projects in my UX portfolio go beyond pretty pictures?
Every project must tell a story. It’s too easy for people to create deliverables that look good. But design isn’t about deliverables. Design is about solving real problems. Tell the story of the journey from problem to solution. Focus strongly on process, approach, and results.
8. Am I proud of the projects in my portfolio?
If you end up with an interview, you’ll likely have to talk about some of the projects in your portfolio. If you aren’t excited to talk about some of the projects, then cut them. You’re lack of enthusiasm will show and could leave a bad impression.
9. Do the projects in my portfolio represent the type of work I want to do in the future?
If you’re trying to get away from a specific type of work, then don’t load your portfolio with projects that reflect that work. If you don’t want to be a wireframe maker and want to do more research or strategy, then work hard to show more evidence that you’ve done research or how you were involved in the strategy phase of the projects.
10. Did I have someone proofread and critique my UX portfolio?
Seems obvious, but worth stating. Sometimes we get in a rush and don’t leave enough time to get feedback because we like to tweak our UX portfolios right up until the last possible hour! Stop doing that. Work time into your project plan to have someone else look at your UX portfolio.