If you’re someone considering a career switch, becoming a UX designer is one of the most rewarding options out there. It’s a profession that combines creativity, human empathy, and business strategy. 

But completing training in formal UX design skills—like those taught in UX Academy—is only half the story. The other half is about how effectively you communicate your capability to apply those skills in real design projects.

This is where the UX design portfolio comes in. Even in our digital age, your portfolio is still your primary calling card as a UX professional, and getting it right can be critical to your success.

In this piece, we share ten steps to creating a UX design portfolio that can get you hired!

1. Say what you do

The design of your portfolio itself is a prime opportunity for you, a UX designer, to demonstrate that you know what good UX means. This is more than just having engaging visuals: it’s about organizing information in a way that accommodates the needs of your portfolio’s users. One of the first key tests of a portfolio is whether someone can look at your site for just 5 seconds and understand what it is that you do. You can create a 5-second test online here.

UX designer portfolio best practices

Kevin Park’s portfolio passes the 5-second test with flying colors.

2. Show only your (very) best work

Before including a project in your portfolio, ask yourself honestly: what score out of 10 would I give this? If you’d give it an 8 or below, consider either leaving it out, or doing some more work to polish it up. Sometimes the extra work is purely presentational, and can be done quickly. Other times, you might want to spend more time digging back into the project, for example, to tighten up your screen designs.

It’s always better to show a few excellent projects (aim for 3-6), rather than many projects of variable quality. Remember, a hiring manager might come to your site, click a random project, and form their opinion based on that project alone. For each one, ask yourself: would I be happy for my work to be judged on the basis of this project alone? 

UX design portfolio

Jane Song’s illustration portfolio presents just a few consistently stellar case studies.

3. Show problem-solving and process—not just solutions

Everyone loves beautiful visuals and stunning mockups—but hiring managers need to see more than just the end result. They’re looking for evidence of your ability to analyze and define a problem, follow a logical process of research and ideation, and develop a solution that is realistic and meets both business and user needs. 

You can demonstrate these skills by including images or videos of your process, and by including a carefully written narrative with each project that explains how the project progressed. This can mean quite a lot of extra effort, but doing it means that potential employers can see your ability to handle projects end-to-end.

Liz Wells’ superb portfolio includes carefully curated process images.

4. Have an easy-to-find personal bio

Hiring managers want to rapidly find out about two things: your work, and your skills background. So make sure that your personal bio is easy to find. It could be on the homepage, or on a clearly-labeled “About me” page that can be accessed from the main navigation.

The best personal bios are short and focused—a single brief paragraph is enough. Aim to include something about your skills, your values, and your vision as a designer. 

UX Academy graduate Rachee Jacobs packs all the key info into a single succinct block.

5. Include easy-to-find contact info

Once you’ve successfully piqued the interest of a hiring manager, recruiter, or potential client, they’ll probably want to get in touch. Make this step as easy as possible!

You could have a “contact me” button in the main navigation, a simple contact form, or you could even just include your email address on each page.

John de la Cuesta concludes his homepage with clear contact options.

6. Link to your social media and full resume

Although the UX designer’s portfolio is still their most important asset, people often look to social media for validation of someone’s work. Many designers use Instagram as an extension of their portfolio, often using the platform to show work-in-progress, notes, sketches, and experiments.

Including links to your LinkedIn profile, and a downloadable PDF resume, can also help to remove barriers that might prevent people from following up or contacting you further down the line.

Type designer Gareth Hague uses Instagram to share new work.

7. Don’t sacrifice usability

It’s tempting to make a strong statement through the design of your portfolio itself. There’s nothing wrong with that, but remember that the primary purpose of the portfolio is to present your projects and allow people to find the information they need quickly and efficiently. 

So, for example, avoid experimental navigation that might frustrate the user in reaching those goals, and don’t create a portfolio design that’s so elaborate that it outshines the work you’re presenting. 

Jason Yuan makes a visual statement while still having a site that’s easy to navigate and understand.

8. Include bonus projects if you have them

We designers are creative people, and the chances are you have a lot more awesome projects going on than the few you’re professionally showcasing in your official portfolio. It’s great to include “bonus” projects that help people to connect with your passion and with who you are as a designer. 

This could simply be other self-started UX design projects, or it could be complementary skills like writing, photography, illustration—you name it! The key is for any extra content you include to be something you’re proud of and enthusiastic about. 

Ales Nesetril supports a core of product design projects with writing work.

9. Make your logo and branding meaningful

Whether or not you create a logo for yourself, you will always have a brand. Your brand is the sum total of the presentational choices you make—so make those choices mindfully, and make them meaningful. Even just setting your name in simple text, rather than creating a monogram, can say something about your approach to design solutions: perhaps you favor simplicity and clarity over decoration. 

Whatever decisions you make here (including fonts, colors, images, and tone of voice), remember that they represent you both as a designer and as a personality. You need to be comfortable with the messages your branding conveys, and that those messages are in tune with the work you present.

Ed Chao’s geometric and spacious logo reflects the clarity and rationalism of his design process.

10. Be thoughtful

Particularly if you’re applying to lots of junior positions in big organizations, hiring managers probably have to get through hundreds of applications on a regular basis. Be thoughtful about their needs—and how you can stand out to that person by making their job easier and more delightful.

But also show how you are thoughtful as a designer: you can do this by transforming each of your portfolio pieces into a compelling story, rather than just a collection of images. Check out Designlab grad Kelli Kreiter’s superb storytelling in the Beatenpath project.

Johny Vino instantly expresses a design vision that stands out from the crowd.

We hope you’ve found these UX designer portfolio tips helpful. Anything you think we should add? Share this article and let us know!

Further resources

Want to build a UX design portfolio of your own? Check out UX Academy to see how you could learn 1-on-1 with an expert mentor!

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