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A Process To Create A UX Design Portfolio Item

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes 

In my last article, I wrote about the most asked question that I receive.

So for this one I’ll be tackling the second most asked question: how to manage portfolio creation?

First of all, I must say that I barely have any text in my portfolio items, and that’s because I was trying to just make a summary with the most important points of the story.

This went along with my career, which has taken me to work more as a UX Design Partner than as a UX Interaction Designer.

So I don’t have to focus too much on the details of my past, just keep my business running to show effectiveness.

Nevertheless, I do ask for portfolios when I have to assemble teams or recruit for a client company.

So I can say that I’m the typical user of this informational piece called Portfolio… Here are my two cents on how to create the elements that fit in it:


What Most UX Recruiters Are Looking For

I tend to think that every job that we did in the past can be narrated as a marvelous adventure: even that plain and simple ‘flippin’ burguers’ job has a wide array of learning and problem solving experiences attached to it.

So there’s a particular approach that can make the mundane really appealing, and that’s what I expect to get: a story that ‘moves’ me and give me information about what you are made of.

Ultimately, what I want is to understand how you think, and how you manage yourself in ‘adventures’ –so to speak.

The basic structure of a portfolio item

The idea is to get a very simple outline. Don’t write too much: have in mind that the user (the recruiter) probably has to review a lot of portfolios.

Basic structure is:

  • The Client
  • The Business Problems
  • The User(s) Problems
  • The Solution / Rationales
  • Your learnings (optional)
  • Results (optional)

(Full disclosure, this approach comes from how I explain User Experience Design practice to people.)

The idea is that you tell a story starting by who’s the client, and the particular challenge or problem they have in hand.

This problem always have users involved in one or other way.

The value that the rationales provide is great: this is where you state the reasons behind design decisions.

Learnings and results can be conveyed without having to mention them as a separate thing.


Let’s check an example

I created this portfolio item based on my last project for SystemaD (one of the organizations that I’m providing with services as UX Design Partner):

Designing Digital Payments For 2 Billion People

SystemaD is an NGO with great expectations: to bring financial education and technology to 2 billion people currently outside the financial system.

Their claim is “empower the people of the world by strengthening their autonomy to build an equitable and sustainable society.”

They came up with a very interesting challenge: how we may provide their users with a way to manage digital payments?

Luckily, SystemaD’s Coordinator Javier Cerra participated in almost every action in the field, and I was able to work with him to do user research ‘the UX way.’

This gave us a fantastic way of getting into the very mind of the users.

So, we identified that they currently live in a slum and do not have much financial literacy.

This gave us a clue: we decided to use a very restrictive design perspective, cutting off options to favour usability.

We asked ourselves what would be the perfect solution (if we had unrestricted access to technology, capital and time) and we came out thinking on IA: an artificial intelligence that assists the user, drives him to achieve more of what he came to get, and delivers small but useful feedback after each interaction.

That gave us a perspective of what was the kind of interaction that we wanted to crystallize with the interface.

After several months of researching and testing out ideas –through open interviews and user behaviour observations, we timeboxed 4 weeks to work in creating a user journey, which included several interactions to start both the first round of testing and the funding process for app development.

SystemaD User Flow

The result was a slick and super clean design, with just the basic financial jargon and user motivations as king.

Even the prototype visual aspect still needs fixing [mostly regarding accessibility and affordance issues] it is a great way to keep the engine running and move to testing phase.


And that’s it! a short story that tells about every aspect that I can find useful as a UX recruiter.

I think that this way of presenting can even help visual or industrial designers…

Portfolio should not be just showing the static result of a job, but to educate others on your lifework.


Getting The Right Experience To Show

I’ll not deny it: the most difficult part of Portfolio creation are the actual projects in which you’ve been involved.

And I think that’s where the current UX Design education fails: even if you are doing some courses with wireframing practice on them, the scars of a real battle will simply not be there.

That’s why most junior UXers bend under pressure. And also why I created Solutionants UX Design Bootcamp.

In it, students work in a real project, with a real client –under the supervision of a mentor.

The client is an NGO which receives the equivalent to $180,000 in UX Design Consultancy services.

Everybody wins: the students get practice, the NGO get consultancy services and overall, the world ends up better than it was before.

If you are looking to take your UX Design education to battle-tested level, get into the interest list.

I’ll be hosting an informative webinar next Friday, sign up to receive the invite!

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