UX DESIGNER’S PORTFOLIO — Notes and Thoughts from UXHel Round Table (March 2018)


UXHel is organizing UXCamp Nordic, an un-conference for UX professionals and enthusiasts held June 1st to 2nd in Helsinki, Finland. Tickets go on sale soon, be sure to get yours!

This month’s UXHel Round Table meeting tackled what a UX portfolio should look like. I’ve written down some notes of points made during the meeting (not a comprehensive list by any means) mixed with some of my own thoughts on the subject.

General criteria for a good UX portfolio

  • Pick the right number of projects to present. Recruiters and C-level people might spend only seconds glancing at your portfolio so make sure it’s not bloated
  • Update your portfolio often. Should you have a decade old project present?
  • Think what the actual goal of your portfolio is and design it accordingly. A freelancers portfolio needs to attract new clients, a jobseekers portfolio should attract employers

What to tell about your projects

  • Start with a “tl;dr” type of summary so the reader can quickly grasp what the project was about: “I made X for company Y to do Z.”
  • Write out what the parameters for the project were: goal, scope, problem, resources, business case etc..
  • Present evidence of the impact your project made with before & after pictures, KPIs (eg. % of increased sales). Get user testimonials about the end result if possible
  • Showcase your skills. Which tools did you use? Quantitative or qualitative data? What did your prototypes look like?
  • Introduce your team and what your role in it was
  • Write out what you learned during the project
  • Talk about what the solution is lacking

Dealing with NDAs

  • Employees: Unfortunately there is sometimes no way to display or even talk about client projects in public due to strict NDAs. Contribute to UX blogs and try to find projects outside of work to add to your portfolio
  • Freelancers: Do your best to convince the client about giving you a release BEFORE signing up to a project. Getting permission to showcase after completion might be difficult or impossible
  • Be careful what you share in a job interview. If you blatantly disregard an NDA, that’s a big warning sign to any future employer

Website or Social Media (or both)?

  • Having a customized website isn’t a must anymore unless you want to demonstrate your front end skills
  • Ready made WordPress themes, social media accounts and even Google Sheets slides can be used to share your portfolio
  • Since most social media platforms want to captivate their audiences, creating native content is effectively a must to generate views and engagement
  • Whichever portfolio platform you choose, make sure it suits your needs, reaches your audience and is easy to update & share

Notes from team presentations

  • Display your best work but make sure it’s balanced. Flashy projects look great, but it’s also important to prove you can do the “boring” stuff such as forms and sign up pages
  • The formula for an ideal projects is: well known brand + significant project + tangible results + sexy visuals + testimonial
  • Display your personality (eg. About me page)
  • Do the “minimum” amount of work to display your work. A portfolio doesn’t need to be fancy and complex
  • Consider making a short 1 to 2 minute video showreel that displays your personality and skills
  • Think about adding only a brief description of the project. Potential recruiters or clients will have to contact you for more details


While there is no strict template or formula to what a UX portfolio should look like, there are a few key guidelines to follow. Keep things fresh, relevant and avoid bloat. The easier it is for you to update and share your portfolio, the more likely it is you’ll actually do it. Make sure you understand what the goal of your portfolio is and adjust it accordingly.


  • Cofolios : Showcasing design intern portfolios at top tech companies.
  • UXHel @ Meetup.com : Monthly UX design discussions in Helsinki, Finland.

I want analytics for analytics

You’ve created a fancy dashboard or a cool report. It tracks the latest and greatest vital information straight from a real-time API source updated every three minutes. You see the data refresh and gladly share it with your organization/client. And then you wait. Crickets.

The analytics and dashboard solutions I have worked with don’t actually tell me if anyone is using them. They do tell me what is going on at whatever I’m monitoring, but services like Google Analytics or Klipfolio don’t show any statistics on how often they have been viewed.

To be honest, this seems sort of a strange problem to begin with, kind of a “the shoemaker’s children go barefoot”-type of a situation. Fingers crossed someone who can make analytics for analytics happen reads this.

PS. This is my first post published with AMP enabled. I hope this makes reading it through social media easier.

PPS. Turns out AMP doesn’t work like I thought it would. I’ll look into this later.

Disclamer: There might or might be a possibility to actually monitor report/dashboard usage in the services I mentioned, but none I could find at the time I was working with them the last time.

Almost daily

I started writing daily posts at the beginning of April and now I’m up to 72 consecutive posts. When I started, I didn’t have an intention of writing something every day, but I got on a roll and kept on going. I don’t write a stack of posts and then schedule them out during the week, I either write them on the day I post or the day before. Writing every day is fun, but lately I’ve been getting more and more busy with other things in my life and I feel like it’s affecting the quality of my posts. From now on, I’ll be writing more infrequently, when I have more time and energy. I don’t know if there will be a regular schedule for when I want to post, but I’m thinking about writing longer posts on weekends and when I have more time off. Thanks for reading.

Five tips

  • It’s never a good idea to burn bridges, but sometimes you want to make sure they never come back to you again
  • A bad teacher can ruin any subject
  • Always test the moisture level of a seat with your hand on public transportation before sitting down
  • Don’t throw away IKEA pencils, save them for later use at an event or a gathering
  • Always write down your ideas on the spot

Redundant restrictions

A busy road I use to commute has been under construction for the better part of a year. Sometimes the lowered speed limit starts too far from the construction site or doesn’t end when it’s no longer needed. Drivers aren’t dumb and speed up when there’s no apparent need to drive slowly. Sprinkle enough redundant limits and people will question following them altogether.

Don’t create restrictions unless there’s an actual need to do so and when you do, make sure the reasons and benefits are clear to everyone. Every additional meter of a speed limit that’s no longer applicable devalues its power and respect.

You can enforce limits on people either by fear of punishment or by creating a reason to do so that benefits them. Which one do you think works better?

Cloud or code?

Cloud services aimed at businesses offer a cost-effective and a hassle-free way to create a digital service which would otherwise need a team of developers, a lot of money and expensive hosting. Most of them are mouse driven and require little to no technical knowledge after the initial setup. But when is using a cloud based service not the route you should take? Consider these questions first:

  • Do you need custom features?
  • Should the data be hosted at a certain location (country, continent) due to legal reasons?
  • Do you know exactly what your requirements are or should there be room for improvising new features?
  • How well does the cloud service scale feature and price wise?
  • Have you reviewed all of the use cases for the service and compared them to its features?
  • Are you prepared to accept an arbitrary limitation that might pop up and prevent something from working the way you thought it would?

I’m a big fan of using cloud services, but they’re not a magical one-size-fits-all solution. The better your own specification and planning for what you want out of a cloud service, the easier it is to figure out if it fits your business’ needs.

Fill the void

Simpsons and Family Guy both started as traditional cel animation, 4:3 aspect ratio cartoons. Eventually they went digital paint and ink and to a wider 16:9 aspect ratio. I don’t think either show has looked as good as they did before the transition and I couldn’t figure out exactly why. BoJack Horseman, Rick and Morty and most anime series look great in 16:9 and hair thin outlines.

The difference is that neither show was really designed for a larger screen. They had to adapt as technology (TVs) improved. Essentially both shows got a lot more real-estate, but didn’t fill it with anything. Artistically the Simpsons residence looks more or less the same as it did when the show debuted in the late eighties. Peter Griffin still wears the same clothing as he did in 2001.

Copying and pasting from an old format to a new one rarely works out well without proper changes and design.

What’s the cost of bad design?

I regularly visit a small shopping center which has numerous design issues, but one of them stands out. A busy side entrance has sliding doors which are attached to a motion sensor. The sensor itself is fine, but it’s positioned incorrectly. If you approach the door from an angle, nothing happens. The doors stay shut. If you walk backwards and attempt to trigger the sensor, still nothing. Only if you do a proper double take and walk directly towards the doors, open sesame.

Most shoppers who can’t get in, end up either using another door or wait until someone walks out so the the doors open. The cost for the user is minor stress and irritation. The cost for the business is having staff deal with someone who was just made feel stupid by a door. Stressful interactions lead to more sickdays.

However, some just turn away and go shop somewhere else. For those selected few, the cost of bad design is literal: they will spend their money elsewhere.


A great way to vet people is…

…by finding out if successful people are talking about them. I ran across a video on goal setting by someone I hadn’t heard of, Zig Ziglar. The video I saw was interesting and the content checked out, but I was still suspicious: who is this guy? Is he legit?

Then I got an idea. I typed his name into the search field on Seth Godin’s blog. Lo and behold, there he was. Several blog posts not only mentioning the very same man, but celebrating him and his methods. This guy is for real.

Explore your surroundings

When I was going to university in England, I lived on a long straight street full of typical English row houses. Down the street was a Tesco supermarket and an entire avenue full of small shops. For months I didn’t bother walking up the street because it looked like there was nothing there. One day, for whatever reason, I did just that and discovered a small corner shop much closer to my house. Granted I usually ended up going to Tesco anyways, but I learnt something important: always explore.

If you start using a new program, go through all the settings and push all the buttons. When you move to a new neighborhood, take a few hours to walk around and be mindful of what you see. Take a different route on your commute, switch to a different bus or a train. And of course, see the world and travel as much as you can.