Have you been meaning to redesign your UX design portfolio and looking for inspiration? Or are you building one from scratch as an entry-level designer or career shifter?
A UX design portfolio is like a window into your skills, creative approach, and problem-solving abilities.
The challenge, however, is finding the sweet spot between aesthetics, presentability, and showcasing your thought process behind each design. Plus, staying up-to-date with the latest UX design trends and best practices can be overwhelming. As the industry evolves, you might worry that your portfolio might look outdated or fail to meet current standards.
This guide is packed with information on creating a relevant, standout UX design portfolio, including examples of what every UX portfolio should include. You'll also read insights from hiring managers and learn how to tailor your portfolio to what they usually look for.
After reading this guide, you'll be more confident to create your own UX design portfolio and finally land that dream job or project.
What exactly is a UX design portfolio?
A UX design portfolio is a curated collection of a UX designer's projects, whether as a freelancer, contractor, or full-time employee.
A well-crafted UX design portfolio goes beyond showing the outcomes of a project. It tells a story about the design process that went into the project: the problem, the research methodologies employed, research findings, prototypes, deliverables, and the outcomes achieved.
UX/UI designers often use a portfolio to showcase how they tackle different design problems, their expertise in user-centered design principles, and how they collaborate with stakeholders to develop usable, accessible products and services. Ideally, a portfolio is set to complement a UX designer’s resume and provide further detail about the projects they've delivered.
A UX/UI portfolio typically includes a mix of real-world projects, personal projects, case studies, and redesign exercises. It also highlights the designer's skills in user research, information architecture, interaction design, and usability testing.
Why every UX/UI designer needs to create (and update!) a portfolio
Whether you're a seasoned UX freelancer or fresh from design school looking to break into UX, your portfolio is your best chance to get called for an interview or win more clients. Potential employers and clients often review portfolios to assess your suitability for specific UX projects or roles.
A well-designed and thoughtfully presented UX design portfolio can help:
Showcase your skills and expertise
Create a strong first impression
Demonstrate problem-solving abilities
Build credibility and trust
Stand out in a competitive job market
Support career advancement
Facilitate networking and collaboration
Encourage learning and self-reflection
Enhance personal branding
Foster continuous growth and development
Now, let's look at what you should include in your portfolio to catch the attention of hiring managers, UX directors, or would-be clients.
Your go-to user research platform
The best teams use Lyssna so they can deeply understand their audience and move in the right direction — faster.
What should a UX designer portfolio include?
According to Sarah Doody, a senior UX Designer and Founder/CEO of Career Strategy Lab, think of your design portfolio as a product. Before jumping into your portfolio's details, you must develop a product strategy first. What should this strategy look like?
What you've been working on - includes the project's name, wireframes, and deliverables.
How you work - includes how you worked with your team, partnered with other teams, interacted, collaborated, and negotiated with other stakeholders, and moved the design work forward.
Now that you have these questions to serve as the foundation of your portfolio creation, here are the essential elements and considerations to include in your UX design portfolio:
Introduction/About me: Briefly introduce your background, design experience, and work history. This section should give visitors a glimpse into your personality and design philosophy.
Projects showcase: Feature a selection of your best design projects. For each project, provide a clear title, a brief overview, and your role. Include diverse projects that highlight different aspects of your design skills and problem-solving abilities.
Project descriptions: Provide clear and concise descriptions for each project. Explain the project's background, objectives, your role, and any specific challenges you encountered.
Design process: Describe your design process for each project. Talk about the steps you took, such as user research, ideation, wireframing, prototyping, and usability testing.
Skills and expertise: Highlight the key skills and areas of expertise used during the project, such as user research, usability testing, information architecture, interaction design, graphic design, animation, accessibility, and other specialized skills relevant to your work.
Iterations and learnings: Discuss any design iterations you went through and the lessons learned from each stage of the project.
Project outcomes: Include measurable outcomes and the impact of your design solutions. Use metrics or user feedback to illustrate the success of your designs.
Personalization and branding: Infuse your portfolio with your personal branding to create a cohesive and memorable presentation of your work.
Resume/CV: Provide a link to your detailed resume or CV for additional information about your education, work experience, and relevant skills.
Testimonials and feedback: If you have received positive feedback or recommendations from clients, colleagues, or supervisors, consider including them to build credibility.
Contact information: Make it easy for potential employers or clients to contact you by including your contact details.
Clear call-to-action: If you are open to new opportunities, consider adding a clear call-to-action for potential employers or clients to get in touch or view your available services.
Optional case studies: For selected projects, consider offering more in-depth case studies that provide a more comprehensive look at your design process and decision-making.
Remember, a well-structured UX design portfolio not only showcases your design skills but also demonstrates your ability to think critically, empathize with users, and craft thoughtful solutions to real-world problems. Tailor your portfolio to highlight your strengths and unique approach as a UX designer.
What format should a UX design portfolio be in?
Below are the most common formats UX designers use to build their portfolios, including examples and tools to help create yours.
1. Website portfolio
This is the most popular format for UX portfolios. It allows you to showcase your work in a more visually appealing way, plus it’s easy to navigate. You can use a website builder like WordPress or Squarespace to create your portfolio or hire a web designer to create a custom website for you. As an example, check out Peter Noah’s UX portfolio in website format.
2. PDF portfolio
A PDF portfolio is a good option if you want to share your work with potential employers without needing internet access. You can create a PDF portfolio using a document editor like Microsoft Word. Take a look at Albert Pradana’s example below. Albert's UX UI design portfolio in PDF format starts with his CV and then goes straight to case studies of his UX projects.
3. Presentation portfolio
A presentation portfolio is an excellent way to showcase your work in a more interactive way. You can use PowerPoint or Keynote to create your presentation and then share it with potential employers online or in person.
The example below shows Sharon Yeun Kim’s portfolio in presentation format. As you can see in the video below, her UX presentation portfolio helped her get a job offer at Amazon and IBM as a UX design intern.
4. Portfolio websites
Websites like Behance, Carbonmade, UXfolio, and Dribble are perfect for creating UX design portfolios. They have a vast community of users, which helps in getting exposure to potential employers. Aside from being easy to use and navigate, they also offer a variety of features that make it easy to share your work, such as social media integration and embed codes.
In the example below, Kristina Volchek, Senior Product Designer at Flooz, created her portfolio using Dribble.
Should you use all of these formats for your UX portfolio?
You don't have to. Here's what Sarah Doody suggests:
"I would use a personal website as my home base and this would give people a glimpse into who I am, why I’m passionate about what I do, and a sampling of some of my work. I would NOT have full project write-ups or case studies. Instead, I would give a preview of some of my work. I might have a few visuals from a project, and 3–5 sentences about it to pique some interest. Then, the key call to action on my website would be “contact me for my full portfolio”. This helps start a conversation and helps you make a connection with the person viewing it. My full portfolio would be a PDF. And I would tailor that PDF to each role, sometimes even changing out the projects I include, depending on the role. Another benefit to having your full portfolio be a PDF is that you can use it during the actual interview process. If you get to the stage of in-person interviews, you’ll likely be asked to talk through a project or two in your portfolio. Trying to project a website and present sections of the screen can make for a confusing experience for the people in the audience!"
What UX design hiring managers look for in a portfolio (plus examples)
Here are the key things hiring managers look for in a UX designer portfolio.
1. Your thought process and design rationale
Hiring managers want to understand your design thinking and problem-solving abilities. They're looking for signs of a structured thought process that shows how you tackle design challenges, gather insights, and make informed decisions.
It's also important to highlight your design rationale. For example, you might want to answer the following questions in your portfolio:
Why did you choose to work on this project?
Did it test well with your users?
What was the purpose of a specific feature?
Rice Tseng, Principal Product Designer at Grab, demonstrates the importance of showcasing your design reasoning and decision-making process through one of their case studies, which focuses on the revamp of the transport booking experience within the Grab app in Singapore.
2. Your approach to design
Hiring managers also want to learn your approach to design problems. They want to know the user research methods you used, what it was like, and what you learned based on your findings. Margaret Fu, senior product designer at Kickstarter and hiring manager, observes:
"Oftentimes, what I see are candidates who painstakingly took the time to put together affinity maps, personas, site maps, and competitive analyses. Then those artifacts are just kind of dropped into a case study with no context. Yes, I can see that you've gone through all these UX exercises but I'm not sure what you learned from it. Instead, learn to highlight some key findings. It's not about showing you've done the work but more importantly, how your learnings impact your design decisions".
3. A mix of soft skills and hard skills
Hiring managers are drawn to portfolios demonstrating a good mix of soft and hard skills.
UX design is inherently human-centric, and every UX designer should have soft skills in their arsenal to allow them to communicate effectively with users, stakeholders, and other team members. These skills also help you to be more adaptable, creative, and able to solve problems.
Examples of soft skills that hiring managers look for in a portfolio are:
Empathy or the ability to shift perspectives
Collaboration and teamwork
Storytelling and persuasion
Adaptability and flexibility
Grit and resilience
Meanwhile, hard skills are technical skills that are specific to UX design. Hiring managers often look for signs that you are proficient in:
Technical proficiency with design tools
You’re probably wondering: should you use those skill meter icons in your portfolio? Margaret Fu recommends removing them altogether:
"If there's a particular area of UX that you're more interested in, I can usually tell from your case studies where you've put in extra attention. Skill meters tend to do the opposite of what you want. So instead of telling me what you're great at, it actually shines a spotlight on which skills you're lacking."
4. Application of UX principles to your design
Hiring managers often look at how you apply UX design principles to the portfolio itself. For example, whether you've considered accessibility in your design. Or they'll look for clues of whether you've taken your users' mental models into account.
A good example is how Pratibha Joshi presents their design solution called BJP Connect, a unified app for managing work and group communication for India's Bharatiya Janata Party.
On her UX portfolio site, Pratibha presents a case study that describes how she conducted qualitative interviews and contextual inquiries to gain a deeper understanding of the users' mental models and expectations of the tool.
5. Format and presentation
Hiring managers also appreciate portfolios that are easy to navigate, are well-written, and free of typos. A well-structured portfolio with clear project descriptions and an organized layout is what you should be aiming for.
Take a leaf from Luke James Taylor's portfolio. You can easily find the information you're looking for as you browse through their design portfolio. The clear, well-written project descriptions and organized layout make the case studies stand out.
Hiring managers want to see tangible outcomes resulting from your design. Margaret Fu calls these success metrics. She recommends:
"Don't forget to think about your success metrics. Ultimately, we all design with a goal in mind, but how would you know if your solution has made an impact or needs improvement. Even if your project is conceptual, think about how you measure its success at the end of your case study so it can help guide future iterations."
These outcomes can be classified into two categories:
User outcomes: Hiring managers want to see how your design solution has positively impacted users. This may include increased user satisfaction, fewer errors or complaints, improved task completion rates, and enhanced user experiences.
Business outcomes: Hiring managers are also interested in the impact of your design on the organization. They want to see how your design has increased conversions, improved productivity, or contributed to the company's growth by generating more revenue.
Tammy Taabassum, a product designer based in Canada, knows all too well the value of presenting the outcomes of your design solution. In their case study for Potluck, a project management tool, they highlight the project's outcomes both at the start and the concluding part of the case study.
When evaluating design portfolios, hiring managers also look for indicators of your personality and whether you're a good culture fit for their team.
Your personal projects, storytelling skills, and enthusiasm will tell a lot about your interests and creativity as a designer. Collaboration and teamwork are also highly valued.
The key to making a positive impression on potential employers is to balance showcasing your personality with maintaining professionalism.
Meagan Fisher, a product designer with almost 20 years of experience, lets her personality shine through in her website portfolio.
Freelance interactive designer Robin Noguier's website is also a delight to browse and read.
Junior vs senior UX designer portfolios
When hiring managers review junior and senior UX designer portfolios, they're looking for different aspects based on your level of experience and expertise. The Nielsen Norman Group interviewed over 200 hiring managers and here’s what they found:
When recruiting junior UX designers, hiring managers are more keen on the candidate's:
Meanwhile, when recruiting senior UX designers, they look for the following:
Variety of projects
Maturity of skills
Finished products and the iterations it took to get to the design, like sketches, wireframes, photos of your team collaborating, and the output from an ideation activity.
A great example of a senior UX designer's portfolio is Chris Gielow's portfolio. Chris is a UX design veteran (designing since 2004!) and is currently the UX Director and Head of Design at Walmart Supply Chain.
As you land on his homepage, you're immediately greeted with case studies. This is particularly useful for hiring managers who need to learn about potential candidates quickly without browsing the website extensively.
You'll also notice that Chris is a versatile designer who has worked on a variety of projects across a range of sectors— from finance UX design to healthcare design. Aside from case studies, there's a section labeled "Gallery," where you'll see various design artifacts, including photos showing team collaboration and ideation activities.
Chris also did a great job showcasing user and business outcomes, as seen in his case study on Intuit's self-help platform. Plus, he highlights other team members who were involved in the project. According to NN's survey, hiring managers prefer it when candidates are truthful about their individual contributions and the parts requiring teamwork during the design process.
Revisit and update your UX design portfolio to stay relevant
Your UX design portfolio is a living, breathing asset. It's not something you create once and then forget about. You'll miss opportunities if your portfolio is outdated or doesn't showcase your best work.
Revisit and update it regularly to reflect your evolving skills, new projects, and personal goals. There's no hard and fast rule, but a good rule of thumb is to update it at least once a year. This will allow you to add new projects, remove outdated ones, highlight new UX certifications, and ensure that your portfolio is still relevant to your target audience.
The goal is to make sure that your portfolio is the best possible representation of your work and potential.
As you update your portfolio, it's also wise to reflect on your progress skills-wise. Not too confident about your user research skills? Get started with Lyssna's testing guides.
Elevate your research practice
Join over 320,000+ marketers, designers, researchers, and product leaders who use Lyssna to make data-driven decisions.
Kai has been creating content for healthcare, design, and SaaS brands for over a decade. She also manages content (like a digital librarian of sorts). Hiking in nature, lap swimming, books, tea, and cats are some of her favorite things. Check out her digital nook or connect with her on LinkedIn.
You may also like these articles
Introducing Interviews from Lyssna: The all-in-one solution for effortless moderated research
Unlock impactful research with Lyssna's Interviews feature. From streamlined participant management to seamless feedback analysis, consolidate your research tools into one affordable, user-friendly solution.
Try for free today
Join over 320,000+ marketers, designers, researchers, and product leaders who use Lyssna to make data-driven decisions.