How to document your UX portfolio project
Putting together your first UX case study can sometimes be an extremely stressful experience. You’re often worried about a range of issues including ‘Is it detailed enough?’ or ‘Is it too detailed?’ or ‘Have I covered everything?’ or ‘Do I need more images?’.
There’s no formula for the perfect UX documentation and companies often have their own beliefs when it comes to reviewing portfolios.
The most you can do as a designer is to make sure that your portfolio can easily be reviewed by all companies regardless of how they perceive your documentation. You can’t please everyone.
In light of that, here are some tips on how to document your first UX portfolio project.
Have a simple and clear structure
Most portfolio projects need to make an impression in the first minute. Within that one minute, the reader of the project needs to be aware of all the steps involved in the process. Having a clear structure is significant because you’re taking the reader on a journey. UX designers are essentially storytellers so having a mangled, non-linear story with no clear structure is going to confuse and annoy the reader.
Here are some points to keep in mind regarding structure.
- Avoid long drawn out sections with extensive amount of text.
- Use a flow that has a beginning, middle, and end. My personal recommendation is to follow this flow — Research, Empathize, Ideate, Design, and Test.
- Label sub-sections with appropriate UX terms like ‘Usability Evaluation’, ‘User Journey Map’, ‘Information Architecture Chart’, and ‘Design System’. Sometimes, a hiring manager may only be interested in one aspect of your portfolio, so they should be able to easily navigate to it.
Articulate a clear problem statement and objective(s)
The problem statement is extremely important because it validates the reason for your project to exist. The problem statement itself doesn’t have to be an existing problem. You might be redesigning an existing system that works really well for its target users. In such a situation, your core problem statement should reflect how you plan improve the system by highlighting your objectives.
The problem statement and objectives set the stage for everything that comes later. This will definitely come up in a UX job interview where you need to refer back to your problem statement when defending your UX process.
Label your sections (and sub-sections)
Like it or hate it — keyword optimization is here to stay. Having a clear structure is not enough if readers don’t understand each section. Remember, you are still a storyteller and each section is like a chapter in a book.
Using terms like ‘Competition Analysis’, ‘User Flows’, ‘Visual Design’, and ‘Low-Fidelity Prototypes’ will not only help engage your reader further, but also helps with the Information Architecture of your own case study.
Have a balanced text to visual ratio
As mentioned before, having too much text could work against you. In some cases, companies appreciate detailed explanations of each and every single aspect of the UX process. However, most recruiters don’t have the time to read a thesis paper on your UX case study because they have 10 other portfolio projects to assess (This doesn’t apply to User Research projects though).
Often, your UX artifacts speak for you. An image of a User Flow is self-explanatory. The same goes for Information Architecture (IA) Charts, Sitemaps, User Journey Maps, Mind Maps, and Whiteboard Sketches. The most amount of text that should accompany these images should be a very brief summary of what you’ve concluded from using these artifacts (Ex: ‘I conclude that the most common pain-point in using this meal delivery app is that the menu items are not categorized properly — as emphasized in the User Journey Map’).
However, when it comes to the User Research component of your case-study, you need to add more documentation because you’re showcasing data (both qualitative and quantitative) and the methodology to acquire that data needs to be articulated.
Use Templates to save time
The ‘UX Design’ component of your portfolio project is primarily comprised of UX artifacts. These include the following
- User Journey Maps
- User Flows
- IA Charts
- Competition Analysis Matrices
- Mind Maps
- Impact Maps
- Affinity Maps
A lot of UX portfolios show whiteboard sketches for these artifacts. While these are fantastic, the alternative is to use existing templates rather than creating the artifacts from scratch.
Here are some great resources to get templates for your artifacts
UXPressia - Customer Journey Tool
Create presentation-ready customer journey maps and personas with the details that matter to your team. Achieve a…
Storyboard That: The World's Best Free Online Storyboard Creator
Create storyboards with our free storyboard software! Filmmakers, teachers, students, & businesses all love using…
Miro | Free Online Collaborative Whiteboard Platform
Whether your teams are colocated, distributed, or fully remote, Miro provides an engaging, intuitive, in-person…
Create powerful business content together | Xtensio
Create anything you need - pitches, sales sheets, reports, case studies, agendas... Add images, videos, tables and…
Free Chart Maker
HOW IT WORKS Create custom charts that help showcase any type of data or statistics for your audience. Create pie…
No UX portfolio project is perfect because a lot of readers have subjective measures when assessing them and quantifying them is not an option (yet). However, based on all my UX interviews in the past from a number of leading companies, these points definitely will put you ahead of the pack and make your portfolio stand out.