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8 Common UX Portfolio Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Author: Carl Heaton
He is our senior instructor and originally from Manchester UK. Carl teaches our Web Design and Online Marketing Courses.
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Creating a standout UX portfolio is crucial for experienced designers aiming to make a strong impression. Your portfolio isn’t just a showcase of your work; it’s a testament to your skills, your process, and your ability to solve real-world problems. Yet, even seasoned professionals can stumble over common pitfalls that can turn a potential employer away in seconds. This article explores these mistakes and provides practical advice to ensure your portfolio truly reflects your expertise.

Renowned UX experts like Jared Spool and Julie Zhuo emphasize the importance of a well-crafted portfolio. Spool often mentions that hiring managers spend less than 30 seconds on an initial review of a portfolio. In those fleeting moments, your work needs to capture attention and convey your competence. Zhuo, on the other hand, stresses storytelling and context, highlighting how crucial it is to present not just the solution but the journey that led to it.

In the fast-paced world of UX design, where trends and tools evolve rapidly, keeping your portfolio up to date and error-free is paramount. Let’s dive into the most common mistakes and how to avoid them, so your portfolio can stand out and make a lasting impact.

1. Quality Issues

Hexagon Portfolio Section Concept
Ref: https://dribbble.com/shots/3142397-Hexagon-Portfolio-Section-Concept

No matter how impressive your projects are, poor quality images and text errors can undermine your professionalism and attention to detail.

Actionable Tips:

  • Use High-Resolution Images: Ensure all images are at least 300 dpi. Use tools like Photoshop or Sketch to maintain quality.
  • Proofread Your Text: Run your text through Grammarly or have a peer review it to catch typos and grammatical errors.

Example:

Before: Blurry screenshots and typos.

After: Crisp, clear images and polished, error-free text.

Quick Checklist:

  • High-resolution images.
  • No pixelation.
  • Proofread text.

2. Boring and Generic Titles

Ref: https://dribbble.com/shots/21317021-Personal-Portfolio-Responsive-Email-Template

A generic title can make your case study blend into the background, losing the interest of potential employers instantly.

Actionable Tips:

  • Be Specific and Descriptive: Your title should be a concise summary of your case study. Include the action, result, and impact.
  • Highlight Your Unique Contribution: Make it clear what you did and why it mattered.

Example:

Before: “Redesigned Checkout Process”

After: “How I Redesigned the Checkout Process to Increase Conversion Rates by 20%”

Quick Checklist:

  • Descriptive title.
  • Clear and concise.
  • Highlights action and impact.

3. Lack of a Hook

Personal Portfolio
ref: https://dribbble.com/shots/6538302-Personal-Portfolio

Think of your portfolio as a storybook. The opening sentence should grab attention and spark curiosity, much like the beginning of a great novel.

Actionable Tips:

  • Start with an Interesting Fact or Question: Engage the reader from the first sentence.
  • Highlight a Surprising Result or Challenge: Make them curious to learn more.

Example:

Before: “In this case study, I will discuss the redesign of the checkout process.”

After: “What if I told you a simple button change led to a 30% increase in user engagement?”

Quick Checklist:

  • Engaging opening sentence.
  • Curiosity-inducing fact or question.

4. Insufficient Context

Portfolio Project Screens (gallery) Screen (State) Dribbble Shot
ref: https://dribbble.com/shots/1416461-Portfolio-Project-Screens-gallery-Screen-State-Dribbble-Shot

Imagine explaining your project to a five-year-old. Clarity and simplicity are key.

Actionable Tips:

  • Explain Your Company and Project: Provide enough background so anyone can understand the significance.
  • Detail the Problem and Solution: Clearly articulate the problem you were solving, why it mattered, and how you approached it.

Example:

Before: “We worked on improving the user interface of our app.”

After: “Our app was facing a high bounce rate. I led a team to revamp the user interface, which reduced the bounce rate by 30% and increased user engagement.”

Quick Checklist:

  • Clear background information.
  • Specific problem and solution.

5. Overly Long Case Studies

Long walls of text can overwhelm the reader. Conciseness and clarity are your allies. For example this case study is 10,000px too long.

Actionable Tips:

  • Break Content into Sections: Use headings, bullet points, and images to make your case study scannable.
  • Be Concise: Focus on the most important aspects and avoid unnecessary details.

Example:

Before: “In this case study, I will detail every aspect of the redesign process, starting from the initial brainstorming sessions to the final implementation and testing phases.”

After: “I led the redesign process, focusing on improving user navigation. This resulted in a 20% increase in user retention and a smoother user experience.”

Quick Checklist:

  • Scannable sections with headings.
  • Concise, focused content.

6. Generic Content

Ref: https://dribbble.com/shots/18066614-Personal-UX-Portfolio-Web-UI

If your case study sounds like everyone else’s, it will get lost in the shuffle.

Actionable Tips:

  • Be Authentic: Share your unique process and insights.
  • Use Clear Language: Avoid buzzwords and make your writing accessible.

Example:

Before: “We optimized the user interface.”

After: “We simplified the navigation menu to improve user experience, making it easier for users to find what they need quickly.”

Quick Checklist:

  • Authentic insights and process.
  • Clear, jargon-free language.

7. Fake or Cookie-Cutter Content

Experienced designers can spot a cookie-cutter portfolio from a mile away. Be genuine about your process, including the obstacles. Avoid jargon and be straightforward. Also remember to take the time to actually add real content unlike this one.

Actionable

Tips:

  • Share Real Challenges: Include the hurdles you faced and how you overcame them.
  • Be Transparent: Authenticity builds trust with your audience.

Example:

Before: “The project went smoothly and we completed it on time.”

After: “We faced significant pushback from stakeholders, but through persistent user research and clear communication, we managed to steer the project in a more user-friendly direction.”

Quick Checklist:

  • Real challenges and solutions.
  • Transparent, authentic content.

8. Lack of Storytelling

ref: https://dribbble.com/shots/22914172-Portfolio

Your case study should read like a story, not a report. Focus on one main challenge and narrate your journey to solve it.

Actionable Tips:

  • Focus on a Specific Problem: Choose one significant challenge and build your narrative around it.
  • Make It Engaging: Use storytelling techniques to keep the reader hooked.

Example:

Before: “We conducted user research and created user personas.”

After: “Our user base was frustrated with slow loading times. I led a team to revamp the backend, reducing load times by 70%, resulting in higher user satisfaction and retention.”

Quick Checklist:

  • Focus on a specific, significant problem.
  • Engaging storytelling techniques.

You can become a successful UX designer by by avoiding these common mistakes and incorporating storytelling and visuals, you can create a UX portfolio that stands out and truly showcases your skills and experience. Do you have any additional tips or experiences to share? Let us know in the comments!

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