Digital product market has increased extensively. No wonder, people find it as a lucrative option to pursue a career in this field. So, we have witnessed a rise in the number of people associated with product design and development; designers, researchers, marketers; you name it. But not everyone is competent. And in this world where competition is high, it is easy to find someone who is or wants to be related to the product scene. But, is he/she good enough for the job? That’s the fundamental question.
UX is an essential aspect of digital product development. Companies, to be efficient and competitive, need to possess a strong set of UX designers. To offer a fascinating and compelling product experience businesses have to recruit for designers who are the cream of the crop. But how?
Portfolios, or rather UX portfolios (since we are talking about UX) can lend a helping hand to companies looking for able design personnel. UX portfolios offer an insight into the design skills of the designers. They are a summary of the designer’s work, their identity, thoughts and actions concerning the design sphere.
Importance of UX portfolio
When looking for an apt design candidate, it is not possible for the recruiters to interview each in person because of time constraints along with many other factors. It would help recruiters if they could avoid the crowd and segregate the best of the bunch without wasting time on each of the candidates. UX portfolio will help achieve these recruiter objectives. A UX portfolio highlights a potential candidate’s strengths and work experience, and sometimes even their thought processes. So, before having candidates seated face-to-face, recruiters can focus on their portfolios to assess them and choose the best ones among them.
But, how to know if a particular UX designer is superior over others. What're the criteria? What are the parameters? Let’s look at them.
What to look for?
As a recruiter, the individual is in the hunt for an asset that not only understands the concept of UX but also makes proper use of their thoughts and understanding to produce quality user experience. So, the question is, what does a recruiter need to look for in a UX portfolio?
There are four key elements to any UX portfolio – presentation, design, case-studies and self-portray. These elements can be broken down further into other smaller factors for the convenience of study.
The way of presenting content in the portfolio says a lot about the designer’s comprehension. What they show on their portfolio speaks volumes about the identity. Here are some pointers.
What’s on the homepage?
A homepage is the first thing that any person sees when accessing a portfolio. A compelling portfolio will have a strong value proposition. Why would you be interested in a designer if he/she doesn’t provide any value to the company? A UX portfolio should highlight the benefits that the designer can offer to the client. The value proposition should be concise and to the point to deduce the message fast and effectively.
Simplicity in navigation
The portfolio presentation is also a test of the designer’s skills. Hence, engaging readers of the portfolio is a must. Look for the content structure across the portfolio. Evaluate if there is room for improvement. A practical and straightforward content structure is that which allows the least number of clicks, touches or options to access any element of the portfolio. A simple peek of the layout should be enough to know how things are organized inside the space. This translates to designs with high acknowledgment by the users, and hence are more interactive.
Simplicity of presentation
Having a content structure that simplifies navigation is good, but when the focus comes on the individual elements, you have to do justice to their existence. Proper hierarchy and emphasis over the items in a particular space will define the UX designer’s ability to manipulate focus of attention.
So, study the various aspects of the portfolio design, like the use of texts and fonts. Do they do justice to the information, or is there a better way to do it? See how they have signified hierarchy between elements, does it agree with the idea? Attention to the minute details will reveal the designer’s expertise in presenting things.
It’s a humane thing to boast about things you do. It keeps the crowd interested. But that’s not the point of a UX portfolio. Designers in the wake of impressing recruiters and clients might put out the whole list of projects they have worked on. So, when the time of interview comes, they run short of topics to highlight their skill set.
Overshare is kind-of bad from both the perspectives of designer and recruiter. While the designer will be short of things to say, you as a recruiter will be overloaded with information.
The next thing to assess in a portfolio is design. Recruiters have to take notice of various design elements incorporated into the designing of the portfolio to have some insight about the designer’s usage of fonts, shapes and sizes.
Use of typography
An effective content comprises a balanced usage of font styles and sizes. The use of various font styles lets the recruiter know about the ability of design to make the most boring form of information, i.e. texts exciting.
A good UX designer should not only be able to highlight content but also direct the user attention. The recruiter needs to look for cues to this capability of designers via the portfolio. One has to study how a designer achieves this feat of diverting focus on to various elements. How has the designer used titles to establish content relation? Pick the vocabulary of the content. How have they made use of negative space, is it proper? Also, check if the overall content is adaptive to the display. Are there any overlapping elements? What about the space clutter in different layouts?
These were some of the aspects of examining the designer’s skills to create an effective design.
Any UX portfolio is incomplete without case studies. That’s the vital element that acts as the foundation for judging the skills of a designer. Portfolios could be full of case studies (remember, oversharing?) but a view of handful cases (maximum 5) let recruiters get to know the designers’ intent, thought processes and approach. They need to have a careful look at the case studies. Case studies tell a lot about what the client problem is, what the designer thinks of them, how does he/she approach the problem, and finally, how they solve the problem.
You should get to know the critical thought processes and ideas behind their steps. Every step taken in the project should be reasoned. Why? Because it provides an insight into how they progressed through to solve a problem, based on the conditions and constraints. It helps to understand why the designer chose to go with a particular style of a button or a specific feature over the others.
A valid case study should let the reader understand and comprehend the designer’s thoughts without any hiccups.
This aspect of the UX portfolio reveals more about the designer’s character. You don’t want to hire someone who despite their capability and skills, is going to be a bad influence for others. The point is to gain some knowledge about the designer’s personality before you go ahead with the recruitment process.
So, what elements to look for in the self-portray aspect?
Start with the self-introduction. Observe how they introduce themselves through words. A good UX designer will be very efficient at engaging people. You will sense these from their vocabulary.
A simple form of engaging users is story-telling. If you find a portfolio, that feels more like an interactive walk-around around the portfolio space, then congratulations. You have met a UX designer who knows and delivers the goods the way they are required to be. Also, concentrate on their tone. You want someone who enjoys the work that they do. This aspect should be clear in their presentation. A UX portfolio should scream out the passion and curiosity of the designer for the work he or she does. It should portray a clear intent of zeal and drive towards their work.
Staying updated with the portfolio
A portfolio is not a stagnant entity; it should evolve continuously. An updated portfolio reflects the dedication to work and intent to remain in the game. It also serves as a logbook of learning new aspects of the field and overall growth of the designer as a professional.
This was some foresight into assessing a UX portfolio for recruiters. Now, let’s look at some examples of effective portfolios:
Liz Wells’ portfolio oozes two words – simple and detailed. Each of her case studies incorporates the following things:
• A summary at the top
• The task in hand
• The UX challenges
• The UX solutions
The best part about her portfolio would be the use of images. As a picture is equal to 1000 words, Liz ensures she makes the right use of the medium by using it to represent every aspect of the process, be it pictures of early sketches, scribbled notes or wireframes. She does not stop there. She even captures images and videos of the final product as proof of its inception of life. Click here to see it for yourself.
Oykun keeps his studies short and sweet. He puts a clear focus on the client along with the overview of project objectives. But the way he differs from others is that he incorporates numbers into the mix. Numbers assert specific results, but most portfolios don’t include them. Oykun, on the other hand, ensures that he makes the best use of their strengths. Have a look at it here.
Naim has followed the tried and tested method of storytelling. He makes sure that his works are not only understandable with the experts but also with the regular readers. Think of Naim’s portfolio as a diary entry. He pens down every aspect of the design process, starting from the problem statement to the final results. He even highlights his thought process by putting down the questions he asks himself during the project. This creates a rapport in his works and readers are aptly engaged. Click here to interact with Naim’s portfolio.
Sebastián has adopted one of the most fundamental aspects to make his portfolio stand out, his feelings for the final product. Like numbers, incorporation of designer’s feelings in portfolios is a novelty. Sebastián makes his case studies short, but that doesn’t hurt as his feelings do the rest of the job. A small hint of warmth from the designer in a portfolio helps carve out the depth of interest he/she has put into their creation. View Sebastián’s portfolio by clicking here.
These aside you can also have a look at portfolios of Husam Elfaki, Isa Pinheiro, Elliot Owen, and Kali & Karina to gain more insight.
UX market is expanding while also getting competitive. To be ahead in the competition companies have to deliver products that are superior in every aspect over their rivals. And to accomplish this task, they need personnel - personnel who are adept at UX side of products. But, the main issue lies in companies being unable to find the right candidate. UX portfolios remove the hassle of interviews (at least in the initial stages) and aid company recruiters unearth the best of the bunch. However, recruiters need to take care of a few things that will guide them into finding their match.