top of page
  • Writer's pictureMatthew Phillips

The Portfolio Struggle

In my mentoring sessions I hear a lot of concerns regarding portfolios. What should be on it? Does the URL need to be my name? What platform should I use? Should I have pictures of myself? Should I get straight to my work? The answers are, well, it's complicated. I'm going to do my best to explore some of these here.


The Point:

Generally I like to approach the problem just like we would any other UX project. First consider what the point of a portfolio is, and then who is the primary audience. A lot of people make the assumption that their portfolio is for them, a place to showcase themselves and their work, but the manner in which we do this is key. As one mentee said "we could all just go back to myspace in that case".


While the portfolio is a place to show your work and give a bit of information about yourself, you do have to keep in mind this is not your personal gallery or diary blog. The primary user of your portfolio should always be considered as someone looking to potentially hire you. As such, it is ideal to let them get to the meat of your site (your work/case studies) as quickly and easily as possible. Remember, they may have hundreds of applications to go through if this is a job you applied for.


In all honesty, this made me adhere strictly to a minimalist portfolio. Work front and center on the homepage, above the fold, getting directly to the point. I still advise this for anyone starting out fresh. But if you're here, then you can see I'm not quite doing that now. I do have an intro line, and a graphic above the fold. I have tried to make accessing my work a bit more visual and interactive. That is because at this point in my career I do have recruiters and companies coming to me now, so I can afford to be a bit more "playful" with my portfolio. At the same time, I have not gone all out and made a truly inspirational portfolio like some key examples you might see displayed on the internet. This is due to time, skill, and going back to the start of this section, the point. Sure, your portfolio might look amazing, but how is your work?


The Content:


What should you include in a portfolio? Well, examples of your work of course. What else? Generally a bit about yourself, your resume in some format, and any extras you think employers may find beneficial. This could be other side projects you work on, hobbies, or maybe even organizations you are a part of. It is important to keep this as BONUS content, and not let it upstage or otherwise get in the way of showcasing your primary UX focused work.


When it comes to showcasing your work, there are many general layouts I have seen. For now I have gone with the very simplistic layout of introducing the project, the skills involved, and then incorporating a story of the project focused on 3 main sections - The Problem, The Process, and The Results. While it may be beneficial for me to go back and add some subsections to those 3 sections, I would say they are absolutely what you need to concern yourself with at a minimum. Sometimes a precursor like a backstory or a an epilogue like Next Steps can also be beneficial to the reader and show you have the ability to see a project beyond just its base scope.


The Editor:



So for my portfolio I used Wix (www.wix.com). I had a need to create multiple sites at the time and after trying Wix and Squarespace (www.squarespace.com) in 2020, I decided Wix was the more creative toolset and had a better price. Since then both (and other) products have evolved, so I highly recommend trying several of them before making a decision (and never underestimate the value of the 3-year term discounts with a coupon). I can see in regard to Wix, I am rather dissatisfied. It has a lot of quirks and at times bugs. When I went to update my portfolio in 2023, I had to "upgrade" to the "Editor X" (www.editorx.com) version of the Wix platform to get the control I needed to have my site laid out the way I wanted. Furthermore, the editor performed poorly at times within the browser despite me having an extremely powerful PC.


I will say, come my Wix renewel, I will certainly be checking out the competitors products. It is for this exact reason I suggest that at least for your domain name, use a service like Google to register it so it is not tied to any one web builder platform (you can always move them, but this makes it more simple).


If you've never built a portfolio before, a mentee of mine recently pointed out www.sites.google.com, and I found it to be refreshingly easy to use. Despite it being simple, it did make me sit there and think if my 30+ hours editing my portfolio was even worth it when this simple tool and layout would have served the same purpose.


Inspiration:


I can talk all day but in the end, I don't hire people. I am not a hiring manager. I sit in on interviews every now and then, but I don't make any final decisions. So here I will present some articles that present UX portfolios they view as extraordinary. Remember, just like any UX project, competitive analysis is an essential part of the process.



The Elephant in the room:


At this point I will go ahead and reflect upon my own portfolio. Visual design is not my forte. I excel more in the interaction and research side of things. Worst yet, I seem to do even worse when it is something FOR me. However, I believe I put forth a decent effort here and will continue to evolve it over time.


First of all before anything else, there is my url name. I chose this due to #1 - Wanting a more unique name for my site since my actual name is quite common, #2 - The story of Alice in Wonderland is meaningful to me, and #3 - I wanted to be a bit playful.



When the user gets to the page I first present them with an introduction featuring a drawing. Its possible its considered cute, or sweet with the addition of the note its drawn by my wife, but its also possible its considered a turn-off as it could be construed as "childish" or "unprofessional". I couldn't say they are right. Honestly, I had a manager in the past who told me I could never be considered "joyful, playful, funny person" and that had a big impact on me. So instead of worrying about what others thing or how they may perceive me, I decided to just simply be more natural and upfront with how I want to be. Also make note, I've done this from a scenario where I am already gainfully employed and have the luxury of doing this. While I encourage everyone to be themselves, sometimes when you are just starting out you might err on the side of caution and I completely understand.


My work display - I only display 4 projects. I believe it is important to only showcase your best work. Now, these aren't necessarily my best looking UX design jobs, but they either feature different mediums, business type, and all have their own important story. I also tried to get a bit creative in the way it is presented, and this is the single most involve part of the editor that I struggled with to get these effects. Was it worth it? I hope so... but perhaps its best you let me know.


I have some additional parts on the page, but I see them as extra and non-obtrusive to the overall experience. Feel free to explore them and share your thoughts if you wish. Better yet, feel free to share your own portfolios, ask questions, and we can all help each other!

3 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

Comments


bottom of page