How to build a professional UX/UI design portfolio

January 20, 2022

The UX and UI market is an incredibly exciting place to be in 2022. UX/UI design is a highly sought-after skill globally and the salary is very competitive as well.

But it’s not just about the money, of course. UX/UI design is an incredibly fulfilling job, offering up the chance to affect people directly and see the impact of your work. As a designer, you get to solve real-world problems and watch your experiences go into the market and straight into users’ hands. For UX/UI designers, the user’s needs are the main focus of their work; whether it’s an app, website, or service.

So how do you enter the UX/UI design field and get the attention of the world’s best employers?

Building an incredible UX/UI portfolio, that’s how.

As a designer, your portfolio is your most important asset. While your CV talks about your skills, your portfolio brings them to life. Your UX or UI portfolio represents your personal brand and is a powerful instrument to communicate your worth to potential clients or hiring managers.

But how do you build a UX/UI portfolio that really makes a manager stop in their tracks and say “This is what we’ve been looking for?”. Keep on reading and we’ll give you the A to Z of building your best UX/UI portfolio — as well as one golden tip to help you succeed.

What is a UX/UI portfolio?

Put simply, a UX/UI portfolio is a (usually digital) collection of a UX/UI designer’s best work. It contains detailed case studies of past projects that the designer has worked on, showing the areas they are skilled at and their approach to work.

A UX/UI portfolio demonstrates to future employers what you are able to do. In fact, as a designer, your portfolio plays a greater role than your CV! Hiring managers care less about which university you graduated from or the fancy certifications you have — they want to see what you’re capable of when it comes to experience design.

Because UX/UI design is an incredibly results-focused job, managers are looking for designers who can get their job done well. That’s why it’s so important to have a great UX/UI designer portfolio.

The best UX/UI portfolios tell a story

A user experience or user interface designer’s portfolio doesn’t just showcase their hard skills, it’s a storytelling tool that gives insight into who you are as a person and your work ethic. A well-considered portfolio can also communicate your personality and what makes you different from the other designers out there. This is becoming more and more important, as companies look to hire employees that fit their work culture.

… and they are designed to win the work you want

It’s important to remember that your portfolio is an opportunity-generating tool as well. It can help you get clients and recruiters on the web can use it to contact you for openings. That’s why it’s essential to include your complete details and contact information in your portfolio.

Do you want to do more work within the beauty industry? Then curate your portfolio to illustrate your skills in that space. In the exact same way you tweak the wording in your CV to suit the job you’re applying for, the best UX and UI portfolios are shaped to suit the work you want to win.

4 surprising benefits of building a UI/UX portfolio

Aside from the obvious role a UX/UI portfolio plays — such as getting new job opportunities or winning new projects — maintaining an up-to-date record of your work has a number of other, surprising benefits too.

1. A current portfolio helps you stay relevant

If you’ve been in a permanent job for a length of time, your portfolio will start to look old. As time passes, your skills broaden and your case studies go out of date. By updating your UX/UI portfolio every once in a while, you’ll have nothing to worry about if you have to suddenly switch jobs.

2. UX/UI portfolios do passive lead generation on your behalf

If your portfolio is publicly available (on LinkedIn, for example) and appears in search results, you’ll get a constant stream of people who potentially want to work with you. You might even be invited to speak at events or invited to lead training sessions for other UX/UI designers.

Even if you’re a permie, doing gigs on the side can supplement your income, or your next big career move might come knocking thanks to your portfolio online.

3. Redesigning your portfolio encourages self-reflection and development

Reflecting on previous work is a great way to track your professional development. Don’t want to share older work with potential new leads? Maintaining a personal portfolio of projects can help you do this, too.

Looking back over your body of work in one place, you’ll be able to assess how you approach projects in different ways, what works for you and what doesn’t, which skills you’re currently lacking, and so on.

4. Your UX/UI portfolio can be a training tool for other designers

As you grow toward senior UX/UI designer positions, juniors will come to you for guidance. How do you show them what a ‘deliverable’ looks like without having to Google out-of-context work?

A detailed portfolio (not necessarily public) with projects and deliverables will help you share your experience with others.

How to build a winning UX/UI portfolio

Okay, enough about why building a UX/UI portfolio, let’s get down to the how. Below is our guide on how to build a UX/UI portfolio that helps you stand out from the crowd.

ux/ui design

UI Design Portfolio.

1. Understand your audience

When applying to a company, you’ve got to understand exactly what hiring managers are looking for. The 3 places you can get information from are:

  • The job posting itself – Here, recruiters have already done half the work for you! The job description will provide clear information about the company’s culture and goals. You’ll also have a comprehensive list of the skills and attributes they need.
  • LinkedIn – Do some research on other UX/UI designers at the organization and check out their portfolios. This will show you portfolios that landed them the job.
  • The company’s website – Look at their online content to get a sense of the employer’s visual branding elements and language. If you have the time, think of ways their UX/UI can be improved and include those ideas in your portfolio!

2. Include all the necessary content

The best UX/UI portfolios start with an introductory page, telling employees who you are and what you’re looking for.

Then you move into the work itself:

  • Include your top 3-5 pieces of work – People won’t have the time to look at everything you’ve ever worked on. Plus, including outdated or poor-quality samples will only harm your chances if they get clicked on first.
  • Highlight the tools you are comfortable with – Adobe XD, Figma, etc.
  • Describe the role that you played and who you worked with on the project
  • And if you want to go the extra mile, include the discovery phase as well – This shows your thought process behind the final piece and what you hoped to achieve with it. You can even choose to show the process used, the research, lo-hi wireframes, prototypes, personas, user journeys, style guides, and mood boards. Walk them through the whole story.

>> Our golden UX/UI portfolio tip:

UX/UI design is all about creating intuitive, enjoyable digital experiences. So ask yourself: What’s the experience of browsing your portfolio?

If viewers have to click through a number of redundant pages or follow an illogical narrative or flow, you won’t be showing your skills in the best light. A large number of website pages doesn’t make you seem like an experienced designer. Try to keep the flow simple, by showing detailed content (albeit expandable) on a single page. Being a UX/UI designer, you should know this more than anyone else!

And don’t forget to make it easy for users to navigate your portfolio and make it back to the home page quickly.

3. Choose where to host your portfolio

Website portfolios are (usually) fully-interactive interfaces. A static case study or mockup doesn’t allow recruiters to fully gauge how usable or intuitive your designs are in real life. Website portfolios are also dynamic and can be navigated. This allows recruiters to spend time reviewing your portfolio site, getting a feel of its intractability, and seeing if your design skills make the cut.

In the event that a job posting requires you to attach PDF files, you can save pages of your website as PDFs or PPT slides that are exported as PDF.

Printouts are really only useful if you feel that bringing colored prints to an interview would help you stand out from other candidates.

4. Get user feedback

Once you think your UX/UI portfolio is in a good place, send the link to professionals in the field or ask users on the internet (and even friends and family!) what they think. This will help you catch inconsistencies in style or design, grammatical errors, and bugs on the website.

Make note of the things that interviewers ask you about and improve/add the missing information as time goes on.

Remember, your portfolio is a constantly-evolving collection — get comfortable with adding new projects and making optimizations!

UI/UX design portfolio troubleshooting

How do I get around NDAs?

NDAs (non-disclosure agreements) are contracts that prohibit you from displaying information about the project that you worked on, to safeguard the identity of the company.

You can get around this in your UX/UI portfolio by showing the work-in-progress — the research done, your sketches, and what the outcome was. If your NDA allows, you can edit or blur sensitive information such as financial or medical information or even de-brand the work as far as is possible.

Bear in mind that the more you retract, the less compelling the case study will be. It’s best to invest the time recreating your designs using different fonts, colors, and names while following the same experience design.

I’m new to UX/UI design — how do I start building a portfolio?

There’s nothing that says the work in your UX/UI portfolio has to be live out there in the world somewhere. So when it comes to working out how to build a UX/UI portfolio when you’re just starting out in the industry, you can display work that you’ve done just for yourself or just for personal development.

This means taking an existing product, service, or website, and redesigning it, without being paid to do so. If you think it might land well, you could even redesign your prospective employer’s website! This exhibits proactivity and helps illustrate the value you’d bring to their organization in particular.

Help, the job I want to apply for closes in 24 hours! How do I pull a UX/UI portfolio together quickly?

If time is of the essence, then take your top 2 UX/UI projects — the ones that are the most versatile and that illustrate a variety of skills and processes. Upload them to your website or create a Google Drive link.

After you’ve submitted the job application, you’ll have some time after the deadline and before the recruiter actually sees your portfolio to add new projects or make edits.

Now you know how to build a UX/UI portfolio!

So there we have it: our best tips to pull together an incredible, eye-catching UX/UI design portfolio.

Mia Vuong
UX/UI Director