“I am 18 years old. I studied in graphic art school. At the same time as studying at school, I took a UX design course at a prestigious educational institution. I don’t want to continue studying at the university. I think I have the ability, passion and perseverance to become a great designer. But I don’t know who will hire me without any work experience and portfolio. I have never had a project to create a UX portfolio.”
For photographers, website designers, graphic designers, 3D design artists, product designers, and in general, anyone who works or wants to work in the field of design, building a strong portfolio is a must. But making a portfolio is not easy at all. Designers want portfolios.
Photographers or 3D designers have a little more ease than other designers at creating portfolios for themselves. It is not necessary to get an employer or a project. They can take photographs or design 3D works of art with Blender software and publish them on virtual networks or specialized sites. But what do product designers and UI/UX designers do? How can they build a UX portfolio without a portfolio? They should at least design a website or an application or have a history of being in a digital product design team.
Newbie UI/UX designers and product designers, don’t worry. In this content, I will help you to create a portfolio for yourself from scratch and show your skills to employers and get projects without any work experience.
Table of Contents
3 ways to build a UI/UX portfolio without having work experience
Before I get to the main topic, it is better to say a few things. First, this content is not going to tell you how to design a portfolio. The portfolio can be divided into two parts: form and content. The shape of the portfolio is as important as the resume, and it has principles and rules that designers should design their portfolio according to.
The second point is that it may seem that everyone knows what a UX portfolio is, because a portfolio has many uses and there are many examples of it on the Internet and on different sites. But rest assured, it’s not bad to answer these questions again about what portfolio and UX portfolio are.
What is a portfolio?
The word portfolio has multiple meanings. The first meaning is a large and thin bag in which papers such as maps or drawings are placed. In the world of portfolio art
“A set of pieces of creative work intended to demonstrate a person’s ability to a potential employer.”
“A portfolio is a compilation of materials that exemplifies your beliefs, skills, qualifications, education, training and experiences. It provides insight into your personality and work ethic.”
So, a portfolio is not just a collection of portfolios of a designer or artist. It is something much more and the designer must introduce his personality to the employer. Every designer should create a portfolio according to his field of work and those features that are important for employers in that field. That is, for example, the portfolio of a 3D designer should show the employer that the designer has completed the necessary training, is able to work with the most important and famous 3D design software, is creative and an artist.
What is a UI/UX portfolio?
Based on the definition of the portfolio, in the portfolio of UI/UX designers, it should be shown to the employer that the designer has the necessary skills and abilities for problem solving and human-centered design. Because the basis of product design is knowing the user (human), his needs and problems and finding the best solution for them. So, in the portfolio of a product designer (UI/UX designer), the following hard and soft skills should be shown to the employer:
- Basic skills in user interface design and UX design (mastering all stages of UI/UX design such as quantitative and qualitative research, prototyping, wireframing, etc.),
- Ability to solve problems, creativity, empathy and design thinking.
The portfolio may be soft (website) or hard (PDF or paper). Of course, professional designers must create a portfolio website for themselves. Professional designers must have UX case studies in their portfolio, because employers in this field are looking for those UX case studies.
What is a UX Case Study?
Simply put, UX design case studies are nothing more than the story of every design a designer has ever done. So, every product design that the designer has done has a case study. In a UX case study, the designer explains and outlines what the project was, for which user it was designed, what problem or problems there were, how and with what solution that problem was solved in the design. Therefore, a UX case study is a collection of text, images, data, videos, screenshots, charts or diagrams, etc., to best show the design process and steps.
The main and very difficult challenge for new designers in building a portfolio is not having a UX case study. Because they didn’t have a project to work on and explain its steps. The ways that I introduce to you in this article are to solve the same challenge. But before introducing them, it is not bad to see some case study examples.
A few UX case study examples
The sites of the designers from which the case study was selected are also good examples for the website portfolio. I suggest that you check very carefully all the pages of those sites, the way of presenting information and content, and the visual elements. You will surely learn a lot of tips from those sites for the UX design of your portfolio.
1. Rokt platform redesign by Gloria Lo
Gloria Lo is a product designer from Australia. His website portfolio is very simple but professionally designed. He introduced himself in one sentence and then went to the main topic, which is the case study of his projects. If you click on the first case study, you will be presented with a very organized and structured page. He started the story of the Rokt platform redesign project by introducing a summary and background of the project, then he depicted the work process in an illustrative and comprehensive diagram and then explained all the stages of the diagram with quantitative data and pictures.
2. In-class game review by Elizabeth Lin
The UX of product designer Elizabeth Lin’s website portfolio is very personal. Anyone who takes a look at its front page knows that they are dealing with a princess. This site design shows the employer that he is not afraid to show his true self to everyone and uses pink color for his site design. Elizabeth is a bold design. Among the UX case studies of this product designer, I chose a very interesting one. He has fully explained the stages of prototyping research and design for a project that has never been implemented, and has also used an unfinished project to illustrate his skills.
Another interesting thing about Elizabeth’s case study is that she wrote her personal feelings and opinions in red on the right side of the page. For the unfinished project of designing a math game in class, he wrote that he was interested in this project, but unfortunately, because the company where Elizabeth was his employee at the time, his priorities changed; the project was not finished.
3. Virtual Makeup Studio by Zara Drei
The website portfolio of this designer is completely different, because his personality and world are completely different from the two designers I introduced. He is a designer who works in a specialized field, i.e. UI/UX design of digital products in the fashion and beauty industry. For this reason, his portfolio is tailored to the products he designs. He begins the UX case study, which is for designing a virtual reality app, with challenges and questions, and then explains, respectively, the research and finding of solutions, the interaction and performance of the app, and finally the end result.
Where can a novice UI/UX designer find a project to write a UX Case Study?
Well, let’s get to the point. How should a novice designer who has not had projects like Gloria, Elizabeth, and Zara create a UX case study for himself?
1. Unsolicited redesign
Newbie designers, no one has stopped you from finding the problems and shortcomings of the designed products and solving them. If you know of a site or app that doesn’t have a good UI/UX and you are capable of making it better than it is, get started. Document all the work steps and publish on your blog or LinkedIn or Medium or any other platform. This is your first UX case study. If you can send a redesign to the product owner. Let them know you (maybe they hired you). Don’t be afraid of big names. Challenge them. If you want, you can redesign Apple products and show the world what skills you have. Just like what Jason Yuan did with Apple Music.
2. Find real problems and design a product to solve them for free
You don’t necessarily have to find a problem in a real product and redesign it better, you can design a product from scratch. You may have identified a need in a group of people and you know that you can help that group by designing an application. For example, you want to design an educational application for educationally backward children and you know that there is no such application in the market.
Start. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have an employer to ask you to design that application. Do it yourself. Specify the problem and need. Research and go for the solution, just like in a real project. Create a prototype and publish it under your own name. This is another UX case study. An investor or a company may be found who wants to make that imaginary product real.
3. Take a project-based product design (UI/UX) course
Not all product design courses are project oriented. If you haven’t taken a UI/UX course yet and are just starting to learn, make sure to look for a product design training institute that is reputable and requires students to do projects. You can use the same project and write its case study in your portfolio. The advantage of that project is that you worked on it with the course professor and he pointed out the problems and shortcomings to you. So you are almost sure that your work is good and acceptable.