Portfolio tips for UX professionals
This is the original copy for the portfolio rant from last year as hosted on London IA forum.
If you want to see the wealth of comments, you will need to be a member of the site, but I shall try to paste in some of the key comments in.
I have to apologise in advance for this discussion and its tone.
I am deeply upset at the moment, and i’m fed up of limiting my sharing of this rant to those that I speak to. In fact i’m getting tired of talking about it, and would like to talk about nice things when I see you face-to-face, or at least more ways to solve this problem.
This is a rant about portfolios.
I share my views with you all, because I care deeply about our industry and I want to make sure that we raise the quality of our offering for our employees, clients and the people that use or are affected by our design decisions.
I want the best people get to work on the best projects. I also want those that need improvement to get the constructive critique and support to become better.
Selfishly, I also want to recruit some top talent and nurture promising junior talent. My cards are on the table.
But, people’s portfolios are getting in the way
Since starting my new job about 6 weeks ago I have probably seen about 150+ cvs. I get about 5-7 a day from recruiters. I arrived to see a rejection list that my boss had compiled which was 8 months old and had 280 names on it. Some of whom are people I have worked with and rate.
I have also been interviewing heavily over the past 4 years at LBi, The Team, and now RMA Consulting. Chances are that I have seen many of your cvs, maybe some of your portfolios. I have probably led 150+ interviews in recent times, and I have worked with about 200 people who might call themselves UX folk. I talk from experience.
Most of the candidates we have to reject because they don’t share any examples of their work. Believe me, I have heard every excuse in the book. But seriously, do you think you deserve your day rate and the risk of me employing you without seeing what you do, how you do it, and what YOU have actually done. Your employers will be busy people. After all, if they are recruiting their projects and teams need support, so they don’t want to be interviewing unnecessarily.
Share some work in advance – get over NDAs
I understand the NDA issues, but there are a few tactics that I would recommend to get over this, quite frankly, annoying excuse for professionalism.
Portfolios are communication tools
Your pre-interview portfolio is a self-contained communication tool. Respect that an employer has potentially hundreds of cvs and portfolios to sift through. They haven’t got time to interrogate every detail on a wireframe or navigate the website that you haven’t really had time to finesse.
It’s as much about process as it is about deliverables
I do still think that it is important to show well presented, detailed, annotated wireframes in a portfolio. Employers need to know that you can do these, and can think through the detail that a developer and designer will need.
But, no employer worth their salt will just want to see a bunch of wireframes. You should share aspects of your process.
All those things you list in your cv (collaborative workshops, sketching, personas, sitemaps, process flows, user journeys, prototypes). Where are they?
Get your nomenclature right
UX people tend to reinvent terms all the time, I know, but there are a few things that everyone should understand.
Honesty is the best policy
If you lie, you die. There is a high chance that you might not get found out at first for taking someone else’s work and using at as your own (i have heard many stories of this). Or maybe, the interviewer won’t probe your process for developing personas from research. But you’ll feel bad. You will eventually get found out. And your name will be mud across the close-knit community that we are.
If you haven’t done a particular activity or don’t have experience in an area, it is incredibly refreshing to hear/see that presented honestly. It’s so rare though. Most candidates have done everything it seems.
Don’t lie, please.
Maintain a portfolio of current work – for yourself first, employers second
I don’t want to dictate how you do your portfolio. It might be a document (pdfs usually work best). It might be a website (hard to do well). It might be a collection of files on a share somewhere (i hate this if I have to access).
You decide what you think is best. I am getting close to mandating a format for applicants, but i think that might limit creativity and make more work for good candidates who don’t really have much time.
The key is to having a portfolio of work is to collect as you do. It actually helps you in your projects, and gives you that sense of achievement when you refer back to what you have done over the past week, month or year. Do it for yourself first, and employers second.
Heres a few tips:
That’s it for now. I am spending far too much of my life talking about this, but I would like to help be a part of the solutions and not just highlight the issues.
If you’d like to join me in this quest, I would be grateful. Maybe we can have a working session some time soon.
I know that Leisa Reichelt is keen to help something that is more of a community tool. There are overlaps but they are very different. We have discussed working together to set some good examples and a framework for others to use.
(View Jason’s speaker’s profile here: www.ux-lx.com/jasonm.html)
Sell yourself better
User Experience has changed significantly over the past three years. People are pouring in from all sorts of related and unrelated fields, from project management through to development. There are several events per week in major cities like London. Clients are asking for Information Architects, User-Centred Design and a great user experience. ‘UX Designer’ (or the many terms that surround this one) is what ‘Web designer’ was ten years ago.
However, most people still confuse User Interface with User Experience. We are under threat from designers and developers who have picked up the interaction design and information architecture skills they need for developing a really great looking and slick User Interface. We are under threat from marketers and management consultants who have the relationships and the gravitas to talk about ‘services’ and ‘multi-channel experiences’ to the C-Suite.
This is both exciting and scary.
It’s exciting because new perspectives and wider adoption will help to progress what we do in a way that means that more companies reach a higher level of maturity.
With ridiculous day rates, high salaries, unprofessional attitudes and poor work, we are at risk of cannibalising our own future.
We need to take stock right now and have a little bit of introspection around what we are doing, why we are doing it and how we are going to position ourselves better for a more sustained and successful future.
Who’s it for?
Anyone who is looking for a new job, struggling to develop themselves within their current organization, or struggling to sell User Experience activities within an organization
What will you get out of it?
You will hear harsh truths that people may have danced around before
You will better understand how to help develop yourself in the right way
You will be better placed to get the job that fits you
You will be better placed to convince others of the value that you and your process brings
What will be covered?
Jason will expand on his UX Portfolio thoughts, exploring wider why, and how you as a User Experience Professional should sell yourself better in order to get the job you will be happy with, and convince others of the value that you bring so you can keep doing what you love for your own and your client or team’s benefit.
From twitter and blogs, through to portfolios and networking; Jason will offer a colourful perspective as a hirer, Senior User Experience advocate to clients and man about town on the London UX scene.
Some of the topics to tease you with: