Top 10 UX Portfolio Best Practices


There’s a sexy UX job you want to apply for. You’re putting the finishing touches on your UX portfolio. And since you don’t have time for in-depth training like The Ultimate UX Portfolio Course (or do you?), you want some tips you can implement TODAY.

That’s what this post is for – a “quick hits” list of the Top 10 UX Portfolio best practices. You can click the links below to jump to a more in-depth discussion of that tip:

  1. Aim for a 45 minute – 1 hour presentation window
  2. Make a slide-by-slide presentation
  3. Write your content first
  4. Show your best work upfront
  5. Separate UX work from other work
  6. Personalize your UX Portfolio
  7. Optimize design assets for fast viewing
  8. Consider password locking your portfolio
  9. Privatize sensitive content
  10. Don’t go overboard with the visuals
  11. *Bonus Tip

Tip 1: Aim for a 45 minute to 1 hour presentation timeframe.
For many designers, this means presenting around 3 case studies for an average length of 15-20 minutes each. If you prepare your content to last this long, you’ll be fine in almost any interview situation.

Tip 2: Make a slide-by-slide presentation

Due to the nature of presenting your UX portfolio in an interview, it’s more natural to walk through each case study slide by slide, instead of scrolling through a website. This way, you also have more control over the pacing of the presentation. I recommend presenting using software like Apple Keynote, Microsoft Powerpoint or Google Slides.

Tip 3: Write your content first

Start with the story you want to tell by writing everything down in words. Lots of us go about it the wrong way by focusing on design artifacts first. Instead, adopt a content first philosophy – not only will it help you create a more compelling story, but it’ll save you time from going back and forth doing the visual design that can come later.

The Ultimate UX Portfolio Course is built on the content-first philosophy, walking you from crafting your story (written text) first, then visuals, then packaging your portfolio altogether.

Tip 4: Show your best work upfront

Select 2-3 of your best pieces, and write in-depth case studies about them. A common mistake designers make is throwing the whole kitchen sink of their creative work into their portfolios. In fact, interviewers don’t need to see everything. They just need to see your most important work, the work you’re proudest of and can talk on and on about.

It’s ideal to show a diversity of work in your case studies, for example a mobile app project versus a responsive web design project.

Tip 5: Separate UX work from other work

If you have background in other disciplines such as graphic design or front-end development, it’s okay to put that in your portfolio – but just separate it in a different section. It’s not helpful to portfolio reviewers to see work like a logo and an in-depth case study all mixed together in the same space.

Curate yourself to give your audience a focused experience. On a portfolio website, for example, I encourage placing UX case studies front and center, then link to your other work as a separate menu item in your navigation. If this is a presentation, hold your other work in a separate PDF. Keep this in your back pocket if interviewers ask about any of your other skills or hobbies.

Tip 6: Personalize your UX Portfolio

You can personalize your portfolio in many ways. The first is to choose to show projects that are most relevant to the company you’re applying for. If you’re applying for an Enterprise UX role, for example, it’d be especially relevant to present a case study on Enterprise UX.

There’s other low-hanging fruit to communicate your interest. In a portfolio that you’re going to present in an interview, write that your portfolio is for the interviewing company.

Example: “UX portfolio prepared for X Company

You can also do this in the filename of PDFs you may have to send over for review

Example: “John_Doe_UX_Portfolio_CompanyName.pdf”

These may seem like small details, but they go a long way in communicating your interest. You’re presenting yourself in such a way that says “I like your company, and I made this case study for you to see.”

Tip 7: Optimize your portfolio & design artifacts

On the more technical side of things, ensure that your portfolio loads fast for your audience. There’s nothing worse than a bulky website that takes forever to load. Optimize your images using tools like ImageOptim and crunch down video sizes with Handbrake.

For an in-depth read on useful tools to help build your UX portfolio, read this post: Best UX Portfolio Building Tools

Tip 8: Consider password-locking your document

To help protect yourself and communicate to the interviewing team of your discretion, password lock your portfolio. Both Keynote and Powerpoint makes it easy to password lock presentation files.

It’s even easier if you have a PDF. On Mac, open the PDF you want password-protect in Preview. Go to File > Export > Encrypt, then set a password on your document.

Unfortunately this isn’t as easy to do on Windows – you’d have to use programs like Microsoft Word, Adobe Acrobat, or a free program called PDFMate.

Most cloud sharing services also offer password-protection. The only reputable company I know that offers password-protection for free is Sign up with my affiliate link and get an extra 1 gig of storage (for 6 GB total!)

Tip 9: Privatize sensitive content

Always respect your non-disclosure agreement and make sure to check in with a lawyer if you’re not sure about including something in your portfolio. For an extra layer of protection, I recommend privatizing your sensitive content in the following ways:

– blurring or whiting out content
– making content more generic
– stripping designs down to lower-fidelity wireframes

Again, the above tips only offer an extra layer of protection. Do consult legal help if you’re not sure about what to show in your portfolio.

Tip 10: Don’t go overboard with the visuals

The best portfolios usually focus on the content and don’t get too fancy with the visuals.

Remember that interviewers are usually scanning your work instead of examining them in detail. When in doubt, pick “easy to read” over “fancy visuals.” The two styles aren’t mutually exclusive of course, but let this thought guide you when designing your portfolio.

Using a minimalist aesthetic can save you time – it’s less colors and fonts to worry about, while helping you focus crafting a clean and readable case study.

Bonus Tip 11: Practice presenting your portfolio

Practice presenting your portfolio a few times, preferably live with a friend. Pay attention to the pacing of your presentation, and look out for anything that doesn’t make sense.

Also beware of sounding too rehearsed. You don’t want to be in a situation where you rely on a word-for-word script. That’s too much to remember and it won’t come off as natural in an interview. As long as you know the overall flow and main points of your presentation, you’ll be fine.

For an even deeper level of practice, record yourself on video. This way you can visually evaluate how you come across with in-person interviews.

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