Portfolio advice

Hi everyone

I’m a UX Design Team Leader in the UK with around 2.5 years experience.

I am looking to build my portfolio site for future opportunities. The issue is that I have only ever worked for one company in this role and there is obviously a lot of IP protection. So I can only talk about publically released projects. I am also looking at showcasing other skills and running a ‘fake’ project to show my process.

However, although I know some HTML and JAVA I am not a web developer. Do you think I can ‘get away’ with a wordpress site for my portfolio. Obviously if I had a bespoke site that would benefit me. But would a wordpress site negatively affect my opportunities?

Thanks for your time :smile:

Are you wondering about using a pre-built Wordpress theme for your site? Or just using Wordpress in general?

When I’ve hired UI/UX designers in the past, I haven’t cared that they use Wordpress as the underlying platform, yet I’ve always looked to see whether they are using a pre-built theme, created a child theme, or designed a theme from scratch. It’s not that it counts against them per-se–I’ve hired junior designers who used Behance too–it’s just that it shows a little extra initiative or thoughtfulness, not to mention a “maker” mindset that they want something more than a “default” solution.

As for the content of the portfolio itself, that’s great that you’re documenting your process on your “fake project”. I get a much better sense of a designer’s thinking via blog posts or a written description of why they did what they did than just some finalized comps that look really nice but don’t reveal much about the designer and her approach to solving problems.

That said, why have it be a fake project? Are there any itches you’d like scratched, a concept for a product you wish could be built? No, you may not be able to actually program it or build it, but it’s much better to see someone approach a problem they’ve thought a lot about than a fake redesign of a famous company’s website or mobile app.

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Hi Adam, thanks so much for your thoughts.

I guess initially it was WordPress in general. I could, with time, develop my own site but I don’t quite have the bandwidth right now. I was however planning to curate a theme to my own needs, though I may do this with something like webydo.com integrated with WordPress. It’s good to hear the kinds of things that are looked for rather than just ticking boxes.

As for the content, I plan to do a few things. I can write up on projects for my current company which are in the public domain. In addition, my girlfriend needs a website designed for a business she is planning for when she leaves school, so this could act as a very good example project! I do have an app idea too which I’ve been developing and prototyping. I’m less happy sharing that information immediately but it could be useful…

You can also demonstrate your skills by reviewing other sites, products etc. As long as you can demonstrate you know UX and can spot problems and propose great solutions then that’s enough for me.

Hi Dan,

Even though you can’t show the project you worked on, you can describe it, leaving out the IP-specific elements. For each project in your portfolio, you should answer these questions:

a. What was the organization and what was it like to do that project there?
b. Who was on your team and what was the org structure? (If you can, get them to draw an org chart.)
c. What did the project entail?
d. How long did it take?
e. What were the most challenging pieces and what did you do to get past it?
f. If you had it to do over again, what would you do differently?
g. What was the biggest decision you had to make? Walk me through it.
h. Where did you exceed expectations?
i. How would you improve yourself?

In my experience, hiring managers are more interested in your process than in the end results.

Personally, I don’t think it’s a good idea to pick some other site or product that you didn’t work on. Unless you do research into what the business problems are and who the users are and how the team is dealing with their actual constraints, you’re just voicing opinions based on made-up assumptions. In my experience, most hiring managers would see this as arrogance and would worry that you’d make up assumptions in your real job, instead of working inside the actual constraints.

Hope that helps,

Jared

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Hi Jared and colmcq, many thanks for your thoughts, very useful onces again.

Jared, thanks also for the checklist, that’s really useful to have. They certainly make you think about projects in more detail. 95% of the projects I will feature will be for the same company I have worked for, but that organisation has developed over time so structure, constraints and challenges have changed over also.

Particularly there is the very 1st project that I worked on, when I was actually still in a QA role, although I effectively took on a Design/UX role. Now that I look back at that project with knowledge and experience I have now I would have done many things differently. I think this will be a very useful project to review and assess/display how I have developed and improved.

@adamdunford

A further thought on what you mentioned about Wordpress. Do you specifically look for sites built using wordpress.org rather than wordpress.com? When you talk about a child/built from scratch theme are you referring to those hosted on Wordpress.org?

Wordpress.com seems like a quick way for me to get going and customising a theme to my needs. However, webydo.com offers some great ways of creating your own design from scratch quickly.

I can build a site from scratch if I need to. But I am a big fan of using the right tools for the right job. I understand HTML/CSS and some JScript/JQuery but for me to focus on my design work it seems more appropriate to use a tool which eases the ‘coding’ side of things.

@Dan_Clarke

If you’re not a web developer, I don’t think it matters what you host on. Any hiring manager who wants to attend to that detail is probably not the right manager for you.

Also, remember that a smart hiring manager is looking for your growth vector. They want to see how you’ve grown over your jobs. Sharing where you were, in terms of process, thinking, and skills, when you were first doing the work as a QA person, and showing how you’ve grown with each successive job, will paint a nice picture of the trajectory you’re on.

Jared

Eggsactly. This is about showing UX skills.

Funny that I’ve just ran into this discussion — I’ve been thinking through the similar questions recently.

I think Jared’s point is precise. That is to say hiring managers will be interested in your process – specifically how you worked within the constraints of a project to reach an optimal solution.

I put together a short post last week that might help you get started: Questions to ask your design work →

Best of luck

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Hi everyone, @jmspool, thanks for the advice. The growth vector is something I can clearly demonstrate. This made me think more about how I’ve been writing my ‘copy’ and trying to derive new ways to present it, rather than just descriptive paragraphs! whether it’s as simple as bullet points or an infographic I haven’t revealed yet…

@afroleft Thanks so much for sharing your article! I found it very useful and suffer from the same dilemmas. I can’t show off fancy graphics, but I can show process and problem solving. I’ll be using this as a guide as I write up my projects.

and also…you’re all helping me to define my personae for my portfolio with your input. so thanks for that too!

Once I have something up I’ll be sure to share, it may be a little while yet due to current work commitments but I’ll get there…

@Dan_Clarke If you are looking for showing your design portfolio you can give behance/adobe portfolio a try. It is synced with Adobe Portfolio so projects added in behance would automatically populate in your portfolio site. It is free for creative cloud subscribers and you can use your own domain (hosting and editor is free of cost).

If you want to show your graphic / visual design skills, I don’t think there is anything wrong with ‘fake’ projects. Just drop a note that it is a concept. As for projects with NDA, I think you can create case studies describing your thought process, how you tackled certain things etc. without breaking the agreement. Use dummy screens if you want to illustrate something specific.

Hope this helps.