Learn the structure, tools and processes to create a UX Portfolio that helps you win jobs and stand out from other designers.
Enter The Ultimate UX Portfolio Course
This course teaches you how to build a robust UX portfolio from scratch. If you're in the UX job market, you know that having a solid portfolio is essential. No portfolio, no job - simple as that.
There’s a lot of confusion about what content should go into a UX portfolio, and how to build one without losing your mind. If you’ve burned hours searching for the perfect Wordpress theme or tried to fit your story within a Squarespace template, then this course will fast track you to a better portfolio in less time.
Most of the course is focused around writing and crafting UX case studies (individual UX design projects), with the option to package it all into one UX portfolio if applicable. Then we deep dive into several Advanced UX Portfolio topics.
Here are just some of the topics covered in the course:
Core Topics (in no particular order)
Who is this course for?
Because this course is structured to help you build a UX portfolio from the ground up, it’s especially beneficial for new UX designers creating their portfolio for the first time.
For anyone who wants to redo or update their portfolio with a systematic process, the knowledge outlined in this course is still highly relevant.
The course focuses on building your portfolio, meaning you should have at least 1 case study or project to which you can apply this knowledge.
What You Can Expect
Students from varying levels and backgrounds can benefit from The Ultimate UX Portfolio Course. Here's a sample of the estimated time requirements in which students can expect to complete portfolio work:
This is a comprehensive course that requires dedication and time. It comes with templates to help write your content so you'll be able to build your portfolio alongside the course. By the end of the course, you'll have developed a solid portfolio that can be used to apply for UX Design jobs.
If you feel like one of the thousands of designers who've been missing guidance on this precious portfolio building process, then this course was built with you in mind.
Course introduction - much of this video overlaps with the Promo Video, so feel free to skip this video if you've watched the Promo Video already.
We begin the course with an introduction to what is called a “content-first” strategy to design. Arming yourself with this philosophy helps you understand the “why” before we get to the action-packed “how” in this course.
The remainder of the course focuses on 3 stages:
Writing UX case studies
Crafting Design Artifacts - the visual layer of your portfolio
Packaging Your Case Studies and Portfolio.
Finally, in the last sections we review advanced portfolio topics.
Content First is exactly what it sounds like. It means prioritizing content - especially written content - before anything else in the design process.
Here are 3 reasons why we build with a content first philosophy:
The content-first philosophy gives your entire portfolio more cohesion and clarity by focusing on the story you want to tell.
To put the content-first strategy to work for the portfolio, we use the UX Portfolio Pyramid:
A Minimum Viable UX Portfolio is a content-first portfolio that satisfies the basic requirements for getting a UX job. It showcases your skills so that you feel confident applying to UX jobs with it.
The following Q&A help explain what comprises a Minimum Viable UX Portfolio:
How many projects do I need in my portfolio?
I recommend focusing on crafting 2 to 3 case studies to begin with. Remember that quality is more important than quantity. One well-written UX case study is worth 5 mediocre ones.
I have other skills like graphic design and branding. Should I showcase those?
It’s fine to showcase logos and visual designs, but make sure they are a) your best work and b) separated out in their own section, for example called “Visual Design.” In this course, we focus on your UX work by writing case studies.
Do I need an online portfolio?
Most people assume that an online portfolio means you have to have a website with your own personal domain, like www.designerperson.com.
This isn’t mandatory. For now take a content-first approach, transforming whatever assets you have into an online portfolio is really simple. After you create the base foundation of your portfolio pieces (which we’ll cover in depth), you can upload a file to Dropbox and voila! Your portfolio is online and ready to share.
You need your portfolio to be accessible online, but you don’t necessarily need to have an “online portfolio” in the traditional sense. We will, however, explore website hosting options at the end of this course.
What should I include in my UX projects?
We’ll take an overview of the design artifacts you can include in your portfolio. I will give you a structure and template to help you develop meaningful UX case studies.
How do I build my portfolio in a time-efficient manner?
We’re going to build your portfolio in record time by prioritizing the right tasks. Being a perfectionist will make the portfolio building process take forever and drain your soul. Instead, we prioritize your efforts with the help of the UX Portfolio Building Pyramid.
The difference between a portfolio piece and a UX case study:
How do case studies help you get a job?
Case Study Structure
Introduction & Summary
Showing your work
UX & Design Artifacts
Tell a story
What did you learn?
The beginning of your case study sets the stage for your project - what’s the problem, what are the goals, and more. This would be the easiest part of writing your case study.
The middle is the longest and most difficult section. This is your opportunity to show your work, your progress, and all the design artifacts you’ve made along the way.
The conclusion is where you share your opportunity to share learnings, metrics, and generally close off the portfolio piece with any results so that it feels “complete” to the person reviewing your portfolio. Most UX beginners forget to include this!
Progress Indicator for the UX Portfolio Pyramid
Thumbnails at the bottom left hand corner indicate where in the UX Portfolio Pyramid we're situated. It'll go in this order:
Process Indicator for the Writing Section
Since writing is the longest section, you’ll see indicators for writing the beginning, middle and conclusion of a case study throughout this step in the pyramid
Test your knowledge of the approach we're taking in the Ultimate UX Portfolio Course
We’ve now established the philosophy and structure behind this course. You learned about...
Before moving on, I want to say that the next section requires a good amount of writing. I wasn’t lying about the content first philosophy. Stick with the writing - the writing templates discussed earlier will help a lot. But this is where the rubber meets the road, and your focus and hard work will pay off.
*use the template, in Google Docs go to "File" then select "Make a Copy"
Project metadata = high level details about your UX project.
Begin writing your case study by filling out the project metadata template. You don’t have to include ALL this metadata in your final portfolio, but fill it out to the best of your ability. You’ll thank yourself later for having the raw data available if you ever need to reformat your portfolio or give more details about your work.
The template we reviewed can also be used as a project start template. Every time you start a new project and have this metadata fresh in your memory, fill it out.
Feel free to make a copy of the Google Docs template and begin completing the project metadata.
Your case study should include a project summary. This can go by many names
The purpose of the summary is to give context behind the project. A common portfolio mistake is to dive into design details without framing the problem first. Think of the summary like it’s an elevator pitch for your project.
To help you structure the project summary (as well as writing content for the rest of your case study), we use the 5W’s framework:
This is a framework we’ll continually refer to when writing case studies.
It should take 10-15 minutes of concentration to complete your Project Metadata for 1 case study, and up to 10 minutes to write a project summary. You're off to a good start!
The middle portion of your case study is arguably the most difficult. That’s because this portion has the most variance across every project and every designer. It’s also the longest portion, giving you the opportunity to showcase your UX skills.
There’s no one-size fits all approach, so all that’s required is that you show your process and the steps you took to get to the final result of the project.
For the sake of structure, we use a modular approach that utilizes the stages in the UX process to tell the middle portion of your story.
The common stages shared across many UX design processes are:
The define stage is concerned with how projects operate on a high level. What are the strategic objectives and goals of the product you’re making? This means constraints, business requirements and scope of work. If you have access to a statement of work (SOW) or any type of project documentation, use those resources to communicate what the project is about.
The discover stage is about exploring the problem space. Competitive Analysis, User Research, and User Testing are big components of the discovery stage.
The design stage is the straightforward - show your designs! From sketches, to wireframes to prototypes, this stage is your chance to showcase your design talents.
_ _ _
For new products, there is likely a lot more time spent in the define and discovery stages. For existing products with defined requirements, the project may have focused more on the design stage
Each of the stages of define, discovery and design have their own deliverables. The most commonly produced deliverables by professional UX designers, according to Nielsen Norman Group, are noted below in italics. Use this list of deliverables to help you brainstorm and craft your writing for the middle section.
Key performance indicators (KPIs)
Constraints: technology, schedule, budget, team
Heuristic / usability review
High Fidelity Mockups
Style Guide or Pattern Library
Even if you can create literally any artifact in the design process and include it as a UX artifacts, use this checklist as a baseline for deliverables you want to show.
To write about your process and deliverables, we use the 5 W’s + How Framework to help you flesh out content and provide more context behind your design efforts.
Let’s start with a simple base script:
I <insert action> in order to <achieve result>
I <created low fidelity wireframes> to <iterate through many design options>Let’s revisit the 5W’s Framework - with an extra “how” - to choose modifiers that expand on your base script:
We can take our original example from
I <created low fidelity wireframes> to <iterate through many design options>
and turn it into this:
After distilling the research (when), I created low-fidelity wireframes (what) using Sketch and Balsamiq (how) to iterate through design options quickly. Working with the product manager (who), we used the wireframes to discuss product strategy (why).
When writing about your process and deliverables, remember that the 5 W’s + How framework can help you provide more context.
At this point of the process, maintain your focus on writing. Resist the urge to go back and forth between writing and creating UX assets.
We keep our focus by using brackets to indicate areas to include assets & media.
Here’s an example
_ _ _
In order to make sense of the product ecosystem, I created a map explaining how different parts of the system connect together
[Insert graphic: product ecosystem map]
Next, I created a quick prototype of the app interactions
[Insert InVision link: app prototype version 2]
_ _ _
In the example above, the deliverables you’ve made or want to create are noted in [brackets]. We first write about them, then worry about creating the visuals for later.
This approach will help you develop your content-first script faster and with less distraction.
Writing is design. It's a core part of how you tell your story. But writing doesn’t come naturally to everyone, and that’s okay. Some key advice on writing:
Use clear, direct language whenever possible.
You never know who’s going to be reading your content. Using UX terms is okay (and good), but avoid using too many “high vocab” words, flowery adjectives and adverbs.
Use an active voice, avoid the passive voice
An active voice is more clear and direct than a passive voice.
Example: Using an active voice, you’d say “I built a wireframe using Sketch.” Using a passive voice, you’d say “These wireframes were made by me in Sketch.”
Watch out for long, complex sentences
Avoid run on sentences at all costs. A run-on sentence combines what should be two separate sentences into one.
Example: I enjoy making wireframes I think they are good at communicating design.
Hemingway App is a webapp that can help with the tips we just covered. That, along with other writing resources, are linked to in the resources section of this lesson
In writing the middle section of the case study, we learned...
We also learned how to write a script using a template and the 5W modifiers, along with some writing tips to make your story shine.
Great job! Writing your content is the hardest part about this process, but it gets easier over time.
Every case study deserves a proper ending. The number 1 mistake UX Beginners make with their case studies is ending them abruptly. Here are some good reasons why you should provide a conclusion:
The conclusion is your opportunity to discuss the end product and make sure unanswered questions get attention. What’s the project’s status? Is it still in development or did it launch?
Part of good UX design is following up with analytics and data to measure the success of your design. Did your work contribute to Key Performance Metrics like user engagement? How many sign ups did the website get after launch? This is an opportunity to make yourself look good by proving the results of what you did.
Choose a heading for your conclusion section. These are all clear headings:
How to write a conclusion section
Frame your responses in terms of what you learned, and what you found interesting. By responding to these topics, we can build the content for the conclusion section.
What did you learn?
Were there any insights from user research that surprised you?
What was the most challenging thing about this project and how did you overcome it?
Can you show how you measured the success of the product?
Did you enjoy a particular part of the design process?
Are there any calls to actions you want your users to make?
Can you include testimonials? These can be reviews from users, quote from a publication or from your team members in how they liked working with you.
You can build a conclusion section simply by answering the questions above in bullet point format.
The major tasks we covered in this writing section:
Determine the UX processes & stages that make sense for your project
Use the Writing Template and 5W’s framework to write your content, giving context to design artifacts
Use [brackets] to indicate where assets & media are to be place
You’ve done the hard job of going through the entire writing process, crafting the beginning, middle and end sections of your case studies. If you choose to, you can repeat this writing step as many times as necessary for any other case study.
Otherwise, we can move on to the next layer: visuals.
Great job for all the progress you’ve made
Now it’s time to add the visual layer to the written case studies. The deliverables and artifacts we previously called out in [brackets] will now be filled with actual content - your diagrams, images and more.
Let’s review the top 10 deliverables produced by UX Designers. They are:
User flow, flowchart or activity diagram
Usability / analytics report (heuristic analysis report)
Style guide or pattern library
User journey map / storyboard
Competitive Analysis report
Visual mockups (high fidelity)
With that in mind, analyze which one of these artifacts you already have, or want to create for your portfolio.
Remember that it is okay to retroactively create artifacts, whether it’s recreating something to look more visually appealing or creating a new artifact altogether.
The purpose of design artifacts is to help you in the design process and demonstrate to employers you have the skills to create those assets. So the exact time in which you’ve created the artifacts doesn’t matter. This is all part of doing what you can to tell the best story possible
When creating your artifacts, there are a few considerations to make before finalizing assets:
Give context to your artifacts
It’s common to see design artifacts in a portfolio like they’re just “hanging out alone.” Even if there’s text before and after your artifact, it’s helpful to include a title and caption to your artifacts. It may seem repetitive sometimes, but attaching a brief description next to your design artifact helps reviewers better scan and understand what you’re presenting.
Begin with Visuals
Use a visual at the beginning of your case study to draw in your viewers. This gives them a sense of what your project is about.
Try to display the visual “before the fold” - meaning users don’t have to scroll down in order to see it.
Optimize your assets
Make sure file sizes are not too large, as they will affect website speed or the size of your final PDF. The last thing you want is to spend all day creating your portfolio and realizing that a job site’s upload link only accepts files 2mb or less. Get familiar with how to save assets in optimized formats. There are a tools like ImageOptim that can significantly reduce image size without sacrificing quality
You can get away with only using images in your case study and be fine. But there are some design artifacts that can add an extra level of interactivity to your portfolio and increase engagement. We'll examine these 6 underutilized artifact types in this lecture:
Before and afters
Slideshare or Prezi
Creating design artifacts takes just as much time - if not more - as writing your content.
Good job on getting through the Visual layer of the UX portfolio pyramid. Even though it was a quick and actionable section, I won’t deny that creating artifacts - especially if you need to recreate more visually appealing designs - is a time consuming process. Do take the time to craft visuals that you’ll be proud of showing, because we’ll end up packaging everything together in the next section.
You now have the script and design artifacts for your case study. How do you package it together? Here are two common approaches:
Approach 1: Put your work OnlineIf you already have site hosting with a service like Wordpress, Squarespace, or Wix, simply transfer the content you’ve made into your site as a new page or post.
Approach 2: Convert Content to Presentation
The second approach is to convert your content into a presentation format using software like Powerpoint, Keynote or Google Slides.
For the UX Beginner creating her portfolio from scratch, I recommend the second option - Convert Content to Presentation - for the following reasons:
I’m a fan of the second approach for a couple reasons:
Presentation-friendly - When it comes to interviews, you will have to present your work anyway. Presenting your case study slide by slide is a better form of storytelling than scrolling through a website.
Offline is more failsafe than online - what if you don’t have an internet connection or your site goes down? You always have your case study on you, and you can email it to anyone in case they want to see your work. You can even print out your slides as a physical backup. Your offline presentation can also be easily converted to be online. Simply output your presentation file to PDF, and upload that PDF to a cloud hosting service like Dropbox. Boom, you just turned your offline case study online!
NDAs - If you have sensitive NDA content, it’s easier to have a separate presentation in PDF format so that you can lock it with a password. Separating your individual case studies like this helps you control which audience you want to show your content to.
You don’t have to be an expert visual designer to make clean, good-looking presentations. It’s better to be clear than clever, so be very conscious of using decoration just for its own sake. With that in mind, here are some guidelines to help you make a clean-looking presentation:
Limit your design to 1-2 typefaces. This gives your presentation a clean and consistent aesthetic.
Use consistent font-sizes and font-weights. Consistency helps readers absorb and scan information faster.
Use high contrast Dark text on light background is the easiest to read because of high contrast. Consider using color sparingly as an accent
Respect Proximity: be very mindful of where elements in a case study are placed. Related items should be placed closer to each other and vice versa.
Aim for a presentation to last at least 10 minutes. If you have enough content for 15 minutes, that’s great. 20 minutes starts to get very long just for presenting one case study. Practice rehearsing your presentation with a timer.
Working through the content-first philosophy, you might be wondering what this all looks like organizationally. This is what I call the Case Study Stack, or the pieces of the system that come together to create your portfolio
Example Case Study Stack
Working Presentation File
*Final presentation output
The first file is your content-first script. It can be in a text file, Google DOC, or any other easily editable format. The script is purely text, and uses brackets to refer to media and assets that are housed in different folders.
Notice that there are 2 folders for assets. I use this system because assets often need to be edited, whether it’s cropping pictures or editing your UI.
Next, take the script and assets from your assets_final folder and design them in a presentation file, like Powerpoint (.ppt), Keynote (.key) or Google Slides.
After editing the presentation, I recommend exporting it as a PDF for sharing and presenting.
This entire stack can live in the cloud, such as a Dropbox folder so you never lose your assets. If someone requests to see your portfolio or case study, all you have to do is share a link through your cloud storage service.
Converting your full-length case study requires that we curate our content and adapt it to a slide by slide format.
Here are the 5 principles to keep in mind when converting your content into a presentation (slide) format:
Leverage Existing Structure
One Main Idea Per Slide
Break Content into Multiple Slides
Convert Text to bullet points
Use high impact visuals
The most important part of the process - completing each case study - is now complete. Your case studies are now in a format that can be shared and brought to an interview.
If someone asks to see your work, just send them a link to your case study PDF or directly to your website if you went the online route.
Technically, you can consider yourself finished at this point. You don’t have to build a website or deal with hosting if you don’t want to, because your case studies can be easily shared online. The process you went through to complete one case study can be replicated for other case studies.
Let’s review the tasks for this packaging section
Upload your content to a webhost, convert it into a presentation (or do both)
Consider the 5 case study presentation tips that we covered
Use the case study stack to stay organized throughout the portfolio building process
Congratulations! Just wanted to talk to you for a bit before we move on :)
Now if you want to package all your case studies into one portfolio, let’s continue to the next section
Now that you’ve completed the case studies, you may consider creating a portfolio to hold your best work and present it as one complete package to potential employers.
To achieve this, we start with the 3 major components to relevant packaging your portfolio:
More About You write about your Education, Testimonials, Awards etc - expanding on the type of content that typically shows up on a resume.
The lecture goes into more detail about each component.
Note: these components can be translated to both an offline and online portfolio.
*This lecture contains a link to the UX Portfolio & Case Study Structure Template (Google Sheets template)
We can translate the components discussed earlier directly into individual slides.
In this template, examine the column titled category, which contain the 3 sections of Intro, Show Your Work and More About You. Each of these categories have their own topics and a suggestion and what potential content you can include.
Despite the number of slides in the provided template (~21 slides), adjust for the level of depth you want to show your audience. For certain audiences you may want to dive deeper into one case study. For another audience, you may want to emphasize leadership & workshop skills.
One approach is to hold ALL of your case studies in one big presentation file, then use your software’s “Hide Slide” feature to focus on highlights from each case study. This means you have a flexible base from which to tailor your portfolio.
Once this presentation file is exported to PDF and uploaded to Dropbox, it’s ready to be used to apply to jobs online, share with hiring managers, or shown at an interview.
With websites, there are countless options to present your information. So we’ll focus on some key principles
The lecture expands on each one of these principles, which help guide you in the creation of your online portfolio.
Reminder: Remember to focus on content first, and that being clear is better than being clever
Tasks from this section
Choose to create an online or offline portfolio - I recommend starting with “offline” first
Offline portfolio - use the slide template as a starting point. Turn content into one final .PDF
Online portfolio - focus on the principles of showing your best work upfront, separating UX work, and making yourself easy to contact.
In this section, you took a step beyond completing individual case studies by packaging your best work into one portfolio. This process will help you tell a cohesive story of the work you’re proudest of.
The following sections are advanced and miscellaneous topics, but some of them do pertain to optimizing your portfolio content.
Watch the videos of the remaining sections to see if there are any advanced strategies you can implement in your portfolio before applying to a job.
If you followed along the course and did all the work up to this point, then you're done with your portfolio!Congratulation, you definitely deserve a celebration :)
In this section we explore 5 advanced topics about the UX portfolio:
If you to showcase your portfolio online and develop an online presence, one of the decisions you’ll need to make is to choose a webhost or platform for your content.
Since there will always be new website builders and portfolio hosting options coming out, let's use the following factors to evaluate web hosting options:
Want a shortcut? At the end of evaluating dozens of web services, here's the shortlist of the services I most recommended:
The rest of the lecture gives into the rationale for these recommendations, along with a comparison table
Caution: I’m not a lawyer so don’t take any of the following as legal advice. The best place to start is the NDA you have on hand. Each NDA can be different and takes careful reading.
Talk to former or current company representatives (like your boss) about what is safe to disclose. Google search for clauses in the NDA that you don’t understand. NDAs may contain clauses that can affect your future work or ownership over your work.
And of course, there’s no replacement for real lawyers who can help review NDAs on a case-by-case basis.
Practice Discretion - avoid these items in your portfolio
Individual names of contributors to the project.
Patented materials, processes or trade secrets used to create a product
Internal company events & office politics
Anonymizing Your Work - in the lecture, we explore strategies help provide an extra layer of anonymity to your work
This is one of the longest and most in-depth videos in this course. Watch the whole lecture to get a breakdown of NDA tips!
Getting portfolio feedback is similar to conducting research. We avoid leading questions and gauge for true reactions.
Instead of asking “what do you like?” Use these questions to test if your audience understands your portfolio:
Tell me what you’re thinking
After 60 seconds with my portfolio, what is your impression? What do you remember?
Was there any information that was hard or easy to understand?
Can you show me how you’d navigate to (insert case study)?
What do you think this page/section is about?
Body Language & Evaluating User Reaction
Testing your portfolio in person will give you the most candid feedback. As you present your work, you can see people’s nonverbal as well as verbal reactions.
Watch for facial expressions, pauses and hesitations. These are often signs that the information is not clear. Gauge this feedback and revisit the parts of your presentation that people reacted to more, whether positive or negative.
Testing Your Portfolio
If you went the route of creating a personal website, remember to test it across devices. Ask a friend to look up your website on their phone or tablet.
Practice is essential, so be sure you present your work in front of others a few times. However, beware of rehearsing so much that you sound scripted. Focus on communicating the main points of the story.
This will make you much more confident in your story when you interview.
The bulk of interview questions around your portfolio will come from the work you’re showing and how involved you were.
There are three question types:
Watch this lecture in full to get a review of sample questions categorized by the above 3 question types. They'll help you be prepared when you're getting grilled about your portfolio ;)
In this lesson, we cover a topic people rarely about. It's the situation in which you see another designer's portfolio, and wonder how they got their fancy job. Instead of being haters, we can understand such "Anti-Portfolios" through the lens of confidence signals.
Confidence signals are parts of an individual’s brand that signal confidence to potential employers. You can signal your confidence through your portfolio, through your personal brand or both (they’re often intertwined).
View the entire lecture to get an explanation on Portfolio Confidence Signals vs Personal Brand Confidence Signals
Remember that regardless of your competition, using a content-first approach is a more future-proof strategy of creating and updating your portfolio.
Congratulations on finishing the course! We covered a ton of material here and you should be proud of yourself.
If you remember just one thing from this course, it should be the content-first philosophy :)
This is a living course, meaning that the course will get updated with new content, especially with your input. Having a burning question or topic you didn't see in this course? Let me know in the discussion area or email me at email@example.com
With that said, here’s a high level recap of the topics we covered...
Content-first philosophy, executed through the UX Portfolio Building Pyramid
Why and how to write case studies
Strategies and templates to write the beginning, middle and end of each case study
The top UX artifacts and how to optimize their presentation
Packaging your portfolio using the online and offline method
Advanced UX Portfolio Topics
How to choose a webhost
User Testing Your Portfolio
UX Portfolio Interview Question Preparation
The Anti-Portfolio (+ Confidence Signals)
Whew, that was a lot, huh? Great job on finishing. I look forward to seeing YOUR portfolio in the course discussion area. Do the hard work, then show it off and get feedback :)
If you haven't written a review by now, please take a quick moment to rate me 5 stars on this course.
Feel like I deserve less than 5 stars? Before submitting your review, post in the discussion area or send me a personal email at firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll take care of your concerns.
I spent hundreds of hours developing this course, and I want to make sure you get the maximum benefit from my teachings :)
Thank you once again, and I look forward to seeing your new & updated UX Portfolio!
Oz combines his experience writing on UXBeginner and teaching at organizations like General Assembly and TradeSchool to help students transition into the field of User Experience (UX) Design.
Serving as a coach through his UX Job Coaching Program, Oz has guided dozens of students through the entire lifecycle of a hiring process, from building UX portfolios to interviewing for jobs.
Are you looking to transition into the amazing field of UX? Reach out to Oz!