As a UX designer, your portfolio is one of your most essential career materials. Your portfolio is a testimonial of your skill. Your portfolio contains the details of the projects you have done. It is to show and tell recruiters about your skillset, competence, and experience in the UX design field.
Beyond what you say during an interview, recruiters are most interested in your portfolio. Most times, the questions they will ask you will be on the case studies (case studies are an explanation of the projects you have done) in your portfolio.
Thus, it would be best to create something that can spark their interest in hiring you for the job. But that can be a bit difficult if you are a beginner who has not worked on live projects.
The irony is that though you are a beginner, you still need to present something that can convince recruiters. So, where do you get projects to include in your portfolio? How do you build a portfolio that will impress recruiters as a beginner?
It is best to start with the definition of a UX portfolio so that you can understand its purpose and how best to create an impressive one.
A UX portfolio is the most helpful method to market your skills and showcase your expertise to potential employers.
What is a UX portfolio?
A UX portfolio is a compilation of projects that shows your skills, training, and experiences in the UX field. The UX portfolio contains case studies of your design projects that demonstrate your competence as a designer, your strengths, and even your approach to design problems.
Your UX portfolio is most likely the first thing recruiters want to see before asking you questions during an interview. That implies that your interview preparation starts with designing a fantastic portfolio that will create a positive impression on recruiters.
The process of designing your portfolio will even make you ready for an interview. You would have identified the skills you have gained through your experiences with different projects. This experience will give you a better perspective on answering interview questions.
The importance of a portfolio cannot be over-emphasized. Understanding the reason for your portfolio will let you know the amount of dedication to investing in its design.
Related article: Pro Tips on How to Prepare for UX Design Interview
Why do UX designers need a portfolio?
A CV (Curriculum Vitae) or cover letter is not enough to convince recruiters that you are a skilled UX designer. At best, a CV lists the organizations where you have worked. A cover letter may even describe the principles you employed on the project.
However, user experience design is more than what we can describe with words; it has to be seen and experienced to know its worth. A portfolio will not only enumerate what you worked on but also show those sketches and the prototypes; it will detail the journey to your final design.
This detail is what recruiters want to see before hiring you as a UX designer. Beyond the CV and cover letter, they want to know how you use UX processes to craft your final design.
It might not seem easy to build a portfolio as a beginner because you probably don't have many live projects enough for a portfolio. So, what do you do?
As a beginner, your portfolio does not need to look flawless like an industry professional. You can focus on using your UX portfolio to tell your design journey story to recruiters and show how much you are ready to improve and contribute.
How to Build A UX portfolio without experience
Building a portfolio without experience looks like an oxymoron because UX portfolios are to highlight your experience as a UX designer. However, you can create those experiences yourself even if you do not have a proper UX job yet. This article highlights three types of projects you can include in your portfolio as a UX designer with no industry experience. These projects include:
Redesigns of Existing Apps
Personal Creative Projects
Redesigns of Existing Apps
You do not need to wait for people to give you a live project to work on before you start building your portfolio. You can begin with redesigning popular existing apps. You should know this is a UX portfolio, not a UI (User Interface) portfolio.
So, the primary concern here is not about changing the interface of the existing designs but about improving their user experiences. It would be best if you approached it like a new UX project to create an impression on recruiters.
The redesign should highlight your UX processes. You can include why you think your improvement is essential through your user research. This detail validates to recruiters that you can convert users' needs into a product that solves problems.
Personal Creative Projects
Have you ever thought of a problem you could solve with an app? Maybe a routine task that you can automate.
Why not build a design for the app and include it in your portfolio? How can you do that? Start from user research. Inquire from friends about the features they would like to see in such an app.
This type of project allows you to demonstrate your creative skills as a designer. Recruiters want to know the strength of your problem-solving skills and your design.
This project can be an excellent addition to your portfolio because it gives you complete creative control.
As a beginner, your concern should be having a good portfolio before looking for money. You can suggest designing projects for people for free. You can link up with upcoming software developers who need live projects in their portfolios.
Design for free and include it in your portfolio. You should have the link for the final project in your portfolio.
Although the final project is not the primary concern for UX recruiters, the processes are the major things they want to see. However, the link signifies that you have worked on a live project, significantly boosting your portfolio.
You can create a portfolio that leaves a good impression on recruiters, even as a newbie without much experience. You only need to follow some guidelines already highlighted in this article. You can also read further on the topic to help you have a broader understanding.
Ian Fenn's Designing a UX Portfolio: A Practical Guide for Designers, Researchers, Content Strategists, and Developers.