Top 10 UX Portfolio Best Practices

top-10-ux-portfolio-best-practices

There’s an exciting UX job you want to apply for. You’re putting the finishing touches on your UX portfolio. Just to make sure you’re not missing anything, you want some portfolio advice that you can implement TODAY.

Enter this list – a “quick hits” 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

Let’s dive into each piece of UX portfolio advice!


UX Portfolio Tip 1: Aim for a 45 min – 1 hr presentation.

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 prepared for the majority of UX interview scenarios.

UX Portfolio 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 your portfolio 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.

UX Portfolio 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 newly updated UX Portfolio Course 2.0 is built on the content-first philosophy, walking you from crafting your story (written text) first, then visuals, then packaging your portfolio altogether.

UX Portfolio 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.

UX Portfolio Tip 5: Separate UX work from non-UX 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.

UX Portfolio 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.”

UX Portfolio Tip 7: Optimize your portfolio and 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

UX Portfolio Tip 8: Consider password-locking parts (or all) of your UX portfolio.

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. On Windows, free programs like PDFMate help you achieve this.

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

UX Portfolio 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 portfolio content using the following techniques: 

  • Blur or white out content
  • Make content more generic (“UI design for cloud services” vs “UI design for Dropbox”)
  • Strip designs down to lower-fidelity wireframes & remove branding

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

UX 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 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 on crafting a clean and readable UX case study.

Bonus UX Portfolio Tip: User test your UX 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 to your audience. You want to make sure that your users “get” your portfolio and the points you’re trying to make.

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.


Looking for a crash course on how to write, structure, and finish your UX portfolio? Check out the newly updated UX Portfolio Course 2.0.