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How to Beef Up your UX Portfolio

Over the Winter break, I worked with a few former students and new friends in a one-month portfolio group workshop. The goal was to beef up their UX portfolios. The group had six members with portfolios in different stages of completion. Here are some common points that came out of the workshop.

1. Find your tribe

You cannot do this alone. Find people who you can bounce ideas off of and will challenge you. This group can also review your work. Get a group with people who have complementary skills to help you have a more well-rounded portfolio. Learn to take feedback. It is ok to let go of some ideas.

Read more about giving feedback.

2. Look for ways to beef up and expand projects

Class projects are usually meant to teach you a skill. Those skills do not always translate directly to a portfolio piece. A common thread I hear from students who were successful right after graduation was that they invested time to expand on their class projects.

People first, then technology

In her interview about getting started in UX, Mina Adame discusses spending the time to take a concept from one class to another. This helped her spend more time exploring the problem and inject her new skills into a cohesive story.

3. Connect to a compelling story with real problems

Showcasing your ability to execute the UX process is good. However, reviewers will remember stories. The most memorable stories showcase a problem that people care about. I have seen well-done executions of UX projects for mobile apps. However, if I do not understand the problem or the need to solve it, I will not remember it. Ask yourself if the World needs another food delivery app or a sarcastic chatbot. Think about how your work can really contribute to bigger problems.

4. Use technology but not before people

When I started, the hot technology was mobile. Every project was for mobile users. Last year, the industry moved towards chatbots. A lot of aspiring UX designers focus on the hottest technology first, but they forget to consider the problem or who they are helping. The project becomes an exercise in showing off interactions rather than how the solution helps.

Always put people before technology first. A friend of mine stated this best during a panel discussion we did for a local meet up.

In closing, here are my top takeaways from this workshop.

  • Don’t show your class project at face value
  • Strive to tell a better story
  • People before technology

Interested in the next portfolio workshop? Sign up here.

Read more about how one student found her tribe to help her with her portfolio.

Check out this interview with a recent University of North Texas graduate aspiring to be a UX researcher.

Matt Eng

UX Research Team Lead at IBM Design. Based in Austin,TX. Worked with clients such as Alcatel-Lucent, Ogilvy, RBC, Deloitte, Whirlpool, Polycom, Symantec, and Pebble. Matt teaches, mentors, and speaks about design, creativity, and fostering stronger connections within teams.

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