In the digital age, the first point of customer contact isn’t usually with the physical storefront of a business, it’s with the company’s website. Engaging with a business online prior to making purchasing decisions has become the standard for most potential customers. About 78% of adults in the U.S. shopped online in 2020, according to market and consumer data provider Statista.
Companies that want to keep visitors engaged — and convert website traffic into sales — rely on the experience users have on their websites.
The user experience (UX) is defined as the end user’s quality of interaction with a company’s products or services. It is shaped by the value, function, usability, and overall quality of the product or service. Many companies are investing as heavily in their websites as they are in their products and services. Companies are prioritizing website UX to promote customer engagement and help shape a positive experience — which means high demand for UX designers.
For UX designers trying to land freelance or permanent positions, it’s not just their resumes that convey the quality of their work, it’s their UX portfolios. Discovering how to build a UX portfolio that impresses employers is a common challenge aspiring UX designers face. The best first step to building out a UX portfolio and gaining solid work experience is to invest in education, such as a bachelor’s in computer science.
What Is a UX Designer and What Do They Do?
A website and the experience it provides to users can make or break the relationship a company has with its customers. Sites that are slow, have broken links, aren’t mobile responsive, or are aesthetically unappealing push customers away rather than keeping them engaged. UX designers ensure a company’s website is appealing to the eye, easy to use, loads fast, and is free of technical errors or design flaws that may deter visitors.
To create a pleasant user experience, UX designers may perform any of the following:
- Create and implement a customized digital experience for website users
- Interview groups of users about their website experience and record their feedback
- Perform website audits on all attributes of the site, including landing pages, banners, links, and layout
- Devise methodologies to test the UX of the website
- Devise solutions for identified issues
- Keep up to date on UX industry and design trends
Successful UX designers have an in-depth knowledge of industry tools such as Adobe, Sketch, Illustrator, OmniGraffle, and Zeplin. The more tools a UX designer is proficient in, the more versatile and valuable they are in the job market. Interpersonal communication skills are crucial as well, since UX designers typically work closely with a team of web developers, graphic designers, and user interface (UI) designers.
Creating a professional website is no small task. The process can take as long as six months, according to software provider Hubspot. Companies assembling web development teams look for experienced professionals with compelling examples of prior work. This means a strong UX portfolio is essential for aspiring UX designers.
What Is a UX Portfolio?
Before considering how to build a UX portfolio, it’s important to establish what employers are looking for. A UX portfolio showcases a UX designer’s end products (such as websites or apps) and how they were developed. It demonstrates a UX designer’s skills, design process, and problem-solving abilities.
Showing a finished website isn’t enough; potential employers want to know how the UX designer arrived at the final product and the steps they took. The best way to illustrate that is through case studies: end-to-end explanations of design projects that a UX designer has worked on.
A case study comprehensively breaks down the design process, including the problems solved, how changes to the UX benefited the user, and other highlights. Case studies rely heavily on text and visuals to explain each step a UX designer takes during their process.
A successful UX portfolio should prove to employers that a UX designer can:
- Perform an audit of a website
- Devise testing methodologies to find areas of improvement
- Address the needs and wants of site visitors
- Solve problems and take critical feedback
- Design an engaging and appealing end product
Tips to Build a UX Portfolio
Building a UX portfolio that attracts the attention of potential employers is not a one-size-fits-all affair. There are, in fact, several ways to go about it. A challenge that many beginning UX designers face is the need to show evidence of their experience when applying for design positions.
The following are some ways an aspiring UX designer can begin to build out their portfolio:
- Take a UX design course
- Secure a UX design internship at a marketing agency
- Perform pro bono UX design work
- Create a pretend UX project from scratch
- Perform an unsolicited redesign of an existing site
It is not uncommon for aspiring UX designers to provide examples of unpaid work to establish proof of concept. After exhibiting their expertise, UX designers have an easier time securing employment and finding paid freelance projects.
Pursue a Career as a UX Designer
With the majority of consumers engaging with products and companies on their computers and smartphones, the digital user experience is more important than ever. It’s no wonder companies are investing in talented UX designers who can deliver products that engage customers and make them happy.
Jobs for web developers and digital designers (including UX designers) are projected to grow by 23% between 2021 and 2031, much faster than the average of 5% for the labor market as a whole, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). There’s never been a better time to enter the field.
The best way to pursue a career as a UX designer is by pursuing a relevant education. Maryville University’s online Bachelor of Science in Computer Science program covers several critical subjects useful in a UX designer’s career, such as programming, database applications, and project management. Additionally, Maryville’s UX/UI certificate program teaches students web design, mobile app development, and how to build a UX portfolio.
Learn more about how Maryville University can help you become a UX professional capable of shaping a company’s online presence.