For a designer, regardless of the field, a portfolio is the most important piece of evidence of your skills and experience. But if you don’t have any real world experience, it’s hard to think of starting a portfolio. However, based on my years of mentoring beginners, I know it’s the best (and the most needed) time to start one. Here are some ideas for you to add UX projects to your portfolio without any work experience. I’ll also give you some advice to remedy a possibly empty homepage due to a small number of projects you might have in the beginning.
Before you begin…
Start a website. You can use a website builder tool, such as SquareSpace or Wix. You can start with a clean template and customize it. You’ll need to pay a small fee and get a domain to look professional.
Personal Passion Project
Is there anything annoying about getting something done? How do you and other people you know do this task currently? Can there be a better way to do it? Think about a social issue that you care about. What’s the most prominent issue that affects thousands of people? Could a digital solution make a dent?
Redesign an Existing Product
Look at your browser bookmarks or phone home screens to review what well-known brands have a digital product with a poor user experience. Think about a specific task you performed in the past that has a sub-optimal process. How can you improve this specific flow or screens to be optimal?
Volunteer for a Non-profit
You can volunteer for a non-profit organization to improve their online presence by redesigning their website or app. You may even find a developer who belongs to the same organization you can collaborate and publish your design down the road.
Help a Friend Out
If you have a friend who started a company to solve an interesting problem, you can help them by improving the user experience aspect of a product. It’ll provide you an opportunity to work on a real product without the pressure of working with a stranger.
Participate in a Hackathon
Hackathons are the closest to a real team environment that beginners can experience. It’s a great way to generate portfolio pieces in a short period of time as they usually happen over a weekend. There are small hackathons you might find on Eventbrite or Meetup to large ones, such as Startup Weekend.
Take a UX Course
Pick a course that offers project-based curriculum and portfolio building. This option will cost you the most but it can save you a lot of time as you’ll have a showcase ready portfolio in just a few months. Consider your budget and delivery methods (online vs. in person) and go with the one that compliments your schedule and learning style.
! Tips for the homepage
When you start out, you may not have many projects to showcase. In this case, your homepage can look a little bit empty. You can prevent this problem by providing excerpts about yourself, such as a personal message, skills, software you use, and recommendations, along with project thumbnails.
Get feedback and improve continuously. Whenever you get a chance, try to get candid feedback from experienced UX designers. Recruiters are great resource as well because they see dozens of portfolios weekly. Improve on things that are brought up in conversations repeatedly. Your portfolio is a living document of your ever improving professional abilities. So don’t worry about not being perfect and start building your UX portfolio now.