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July 25, 2022

The UX of Your Portfolio

Lisa Panke

&

UX/UI Designer & Webflow Developer
Buffalo, NY

You’re coming straight out of Bootcamp and start applying to jobs in your industry. No matter if you are a Software Engineer or Designer, you learn quickly that a precise resume isn’t enough. In addition to a resume and cover letter, you will be asked to show your work in the form of a portfolio, which will not only strengthen your application but might get you a foot in the door. 

Today, I am going to share with you why it is important to refrain from freestyling and take a closer look at the UX of your portfolio.  

So what is UX? 

UX Design is about solving problems through empathy and a deep understanding of the user to design products that are useful, easy to use, pleasant, and hopefully memorable. As UX Designers, we base our designs on patterns that are already familiar to the user and try to make the content as accessible as possible for all target groups. ​​

Why a portfolio? 

A portfolio gives you the chance to present your skills and could even be an opportunity to dive deeper into your process, approach, and learnings. It is a representation of your work on a professional level, but also of who you are as a person. So make it you!  

Who is your user?

Now we know why we should care about the UX of our portfolio, but who is this user we are trying to persuade? Your user could be a hiring manager of a specific company or a recruiter who is on a hunt for candidates and maybe doesn’t even know much about tech. Hiring Managers and especially recruiters are scanning hundreds of portfolios a week, all to find the best fit. 

Did you know that recruiters only spend an average of 3 minutes on each portfolio? 

Let’s get to it

I recommend starting with some goal setting in the form of user stories. This is not only a good practice but also serves to keep you on track.

User Stories to Stay on Track

  • As a hiring manager, I want to scan a candidate's experience and accomplishments with ease to identify if they are strong, taking as little time as possible. 
  • As a hiring manager, I want to navigate through a candidate’s portfolio with ease to find what I'm looking for right away.
  • As a hiring manager, I want to get a sense of who the candidate is to see if they are a good fit for my team. 

Writing user stories is awesome because you can always refer back throughout the process and use them to validate your work at the end. Am I, as a Hiring Manager, getting what I want when scrolling through your portfolio?

Lay the Foundation

Next, come up with your basic structure. Search for some cool portfolios, compare and find some patterns. A Hiring Manager doesn’t have much time and needs to quickly find whatever they are looking for. So place content where it’s expected and refrain from being overly original. 

Tip: Look at portfolios from people that are in your league. Senior developers or designers have years of experience and might use fancy, out-of-the-box designs and animations. I recommend looking at portfolios from people that are not too far ahead of you to avoid imposter syndrome and focus on what’s essential.  

Some of my favorite portfolios are from Charlene Xinyi Zeng, Brittany Chiang, and Iuri de Paula. Have a look!

After looking through a couple of portfolios, you might notice that 9 out of 10 times they include: 

  • Projects/work
  • An about page
  • Maybe a downloadable resume
  • A contact page

Your homepage should not only reflect who you are (and maybe include a sentence or two about yourself and your interests) but also showcase 3-5 of your most impressive accomplishments. 

Tip: Focus on your best work and be selective. If you are just starting out, emphasize your progress over time and what you have learned along the way. 

Don’t forget to put your contact details in the footer and consider adding social accounts like your Dribbble, Github, or Behance profile, which could give recruiters insights into your work and interests. 

Sketch it & Stick to Your Idea

Sketching your idea out first saves time later - trust me. Iterating is good but resist the urge to redo your portfolio again and again. Explore first, create some simple wireframes of your ideas, and then commit to one.

Code or No-code

Do you want to use your portfolio as one of your projects and code it from scratch? Then go ahead, but if you want to save time and add a new skill to your resume, give Webflow a try. Learn how to create your portfolio in 21 days in a fun and engaging way with McGuire and Grimur. 

More Tips & Tricks

  • Never stop exploring and iterating
  • Keep your portfolio up to date, even when you’re happy at your job (easier said than done (sweat smiley)
  • Make sure people can find your portfolio by using your first name and last name in the URL. It might seem lame, but what are the chances that a recruiter remembers L337H4ck3r.com from the top of their head?

And last but not least, seek feedback from peers and mentors. Building a portfolio can feel overwhelming, so a supportive environment is key. I hope this article gave you some insights into who the user of your portfolio is and how you can wow them with a well-structured and thought-out portfolio that not only reflects what you have done, but also who you are. 

Photo by Ben Kolde on Unsplash

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