7 Projects You Should Include In Your First UX Portfolio
As an aspiring UX designer, your portfolio is the most important asset you have in your job hunt. A well-researched, focused, and comprehensive portfolio can help to show employers your unique perspective as well as your deep expertise in a particular area. But if you’re just starting to learn User Experience and User Interface design, you might be wondering what sorts of projects you should be working on to get a job as a junior UX or UI designer.
Luckily, I chatted with tons of UX recruiters and designers over the past few months to find out their tips for building a UX portfolio full of innovative projects that truly stand out and showcase your abilities. Here’s 7 projects you need to put into your portfolio to prove you’re the best person for the job.
1. Lead Generation Landing Page
One of the simplest but most impactful UX projects you might work on for employers and clients is designing a simple landing page with the sole purpose of converting visitors into signups or leads (a.k.a. grabbing visitors’ email addresses). This is generally done via signup forms or simple user registration widgets.
Your job is to design a page that maximizes the number of visitors who submit their information and become leads so the client’s sales team can follow up with them afterwards and try to convert them into paying customers.
For this project, come up with a client in an industry you’re passionate about and think about the type of information you’d need to gather from a visitor to convert them to a lead—like their name, email address, location, or product interest.
Also consider what information they’d be most interested in learning before being convinced to “convert.” You’ll need to create the landing page with the email capture, a compelling reason for someone to sign up, and some sort of thank you message.
2. Blog or Digital Publication
This might be a UX project type that you’d normally skip over, but multiple employers said that being able to craft a unique digital blog or content site is a critical skill to showcase. While you might think that the availability of thousands of DIY blog templates available on platforms like WordPress, Wix, and Squarespace makes the need to design a beautiful blog from scratch a thing of the past, think again.
Companies are putting more and more money into content marketing (creating written content that’s used as a lead generation tool for acquiring inbound traffic and email addresses), and most content marketing is tied directly to a business’s marketing budget and growth. Being able to design a unique blog that optimizes for lead capture—and is beautiful enough to convince visitors to come back over and over again—is a necessary skill to be able to promote in interviews.
For this project, you’ll need to design a homepage, category page, and article page. Your final deliverables should include sketches, wireframes, and a working hi-fi prototype (Pro tip: UX designers should learn to code) of the final site including a basic Style Guide.
3. Ecommerce Website
If you’re interested in working in an industry that focuses on selling products (physical or digital), it’s a good idea to have some experience designing ecommerce sites.
For an ecommerce project, you should focus primarily on maximizing conversion rate for visitors to the website (meaning: the number of people who convert from visitors to customers), with a product search page that makes filtering and searching simple and intuitive, as well as a product detail page that makes it easy for visitors to gather information about the product and purchase it. While metrics are a key focus of any good ecommerce site, you should also try to create a compelling and unique visual look for the site to differentiate it from the millions of other ecommerce sites on the web.
For this project, you should choose a client in an industry you like (you can either make up a fictional client that sells a product you’re passionate about or choose a real client whose ecommerce site you think could benefit from a redesign) and design the product search, product detail, and checkout pages.
4. Mobile App Design
Mobile app design is one of the most popular UX/UI specialties—and for good reason. People spend hours on their phone per day (analytics firm Flurry clocked people at a 5-hour daily average in 2017), so being able to design simple and intuitive apps that delight users is a highly desirable skillset.
For this project, think about problems you encounter in your everyday life and how a simple app product could solve those problems. This could be as basic as a productivity or reminder app or as complex as a social network.
For this project, design a simple onboarding flow, as well as the in-app screens and user dashboard or profile. Your final designs should include personas and use cases as well as sketches, wireframes, and a final prototype beautifully mocked up.
5. Email Drip Campaign
This is another one of those projects that might seem less-than-glamorous—but it can absolutely show employers that you understand their KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) and are able to convert those metrics into beautiful designs that help them grow their business. Emails are necessary in the marketing and acquisition funnel of most companies and there’s a good chance you’ll have to design at least a few early in your career.
For this project, you’ll identify a business client and design a series of four emails for them, designed to convert new subscribers or trialers into paying customers of their product. Come up with a product that these users have trialed and think about the flow of information they’d be receiving over the four email series, with a focus on moving them into buyers.
6. Marketing Website
Similar to a lead gen page, a marketing website is a customer-facing site that a business uses to promote and explain their product and to convert visitors into customers or trialers.
For this project, come up with a real or fake client and consider how your design can showcase relevant information about the product and move visitors from the discovery phase (search engine, social media marketing) to the conversion phase. This page will need visuals of the product, compelling text to explain product features, and any other tools to sell people on the product, like user testimonials.
7. Web App Design
A web app is a digital product that users engage with via their computer, like Facebook, Gmail, or Trello. For this project, think about a problem that exists in your target industry that could be solved by a simple (or complex) app. Then design the signup flow, in-app screens, and dashboard for the app, presenting your final work as a comprehensive case study including sketches, wireframes, and a hi-fi prototype mocked onto a device.
How to Show Off Your Portfolio
Every employer and recruiter I’ve talked to told me the number one thing that makes them pass on a portfolio is a lack of explanation or context. Many young designers make the mistake of diving straight into Sketch or another wireframing or prototyping tool before conducting necessary research. This is a bad idea! Employers want to see a portfolio site that explains why you made the decisions you made rather than just seeing the final deliverables.
If you’re studying Visual Design, your final portfolio might be a bit more abstract, with designs based on your moodboarding, ideating, and sketching rather than deep industry research and usability testing. However, as a UX designer, it is crucial to base all of your design decisions on research and to constantly iterate based on user feedback and usability testing.
While a branding campaign or icon design project might be difficult to tie back to specific results, all of your UX/UI work will likely be directly tied to specific KPIs that your client or employer will use to determine whether the designs are successful at achieving their goal.
Be sure to research your industry and client prior to starting any projects and then create user personas and use cases so you understand how users will be interacting with your designs. And once you create an initial prototype, review your designs with users (this can be friends or mentors), watching how they interact with it and iterate accordingly.
A version of this article previously appeared on RookieUp.