Anatomy of a UX Portfolio: Jince’s Perspective

Let me start this blogpost off with a quick summary
  • Your portfolio is just a deliverable - the goal of that deliverable is to communicate who you are and how you do what you do. There are many other deliverables that can communicate that (like a blog!). 
  • You don’t need a website! Again, it’s just a tool to communicate your process. A PDF can do that just as well (and in a controlled, linear format). If you do decide to build a website, you better make sure it’s usable and caters to your audience’s needs
  • Every minute you spend networking/going to UX events is 100x more valuable than cold calling/emailing. 
  • Don’t get hung up on the graphic design of the portfolio - nail the story first!
With that out of the way, let’s get down to business. This event was FANTASTIC! As a budding UX designer, I found it incredibly helpful to see/hear Shannon and Meaghan share their stories of hustling for jobs and building portfolios. I’m finishing up classes at General Assembly in their UXDI program and happened to come to this session with a couple of my peers. We all had great “aha” moments while at the event. 
My biggest takeaway? A blog can be more important than a portfolio in telling the story of who you are and how you think.
This was ground-breaking for me! Meaghan’s personal story of getting hired at Moment as an Experience Designer (such an awesome title!) didn’t really have much to do with a sweet portfolio, but with her point of view (with this blog) and her activity within the UX community. She’s living proof that by just getting out there and meeting people, you can land opportunities and have doors open for you. 
Shannon shared a bit about her experience with portfolios as well. Hers was more traditional; she had a clear, concise portfolio website that caught the eye of JWPlayer. She told her story in a compelling way that really resonated with JWPlayer’s needs and vision. She’s now building up her own UX team over there! 
This meet up was actually what compelled me to start my blog (shameless plug: uxisahammer.tumblr.com) and to start forming solid thoughts about UX. “A blog can be a great way to crystallize your UX communication skills” was one of the quotes of the night for me. And that it has - I’m beginning to become more observant of everyday UX and to take note of it. 
Needless to say, I took away a treasure trove of information from this event. As I start to build my portfolio over the coming weeks, I’ll keep much of this information at front and center.
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Jince is a UX Designer in NYC. You can check out his website here: jince.org

Anatomy of a UX Portfolio: There’s more than one path to being a UXer!

If you’re looking for a job or transitioning your career to include UX and want the secrets to creating your UX portfolio I’d highly recommend attending an Anatomy of a UX Portfolio event with Meaghan and Shannon. They began by going through the surprisingly different journeys they took that led them to UX. Meaghan came from from data and analytics, and Shannon was a visual designer. They walked us through their vastly different portfolios which helped them recently land new jobs and had great insights on the job search process, networking, and interviewing.

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Series #2 Wrapped Up: Zoraab knocking the socks off UX

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As a self-motivated (and self-taught) designer with a desire to focus on UX, I’m keen on learning as much as I can. Fortunately, there is a plethora of resourceful content available. However, as the field itself can be broad and roles can be blurred, the initial process in determining which methodologies and deliverables to use can be disorientating. As I’ve continued to read and take courses, even participated in hackathons & the Startup Chile program, and attended meetups and conferences given by the field’s associations and experts, I’m grateful to the community for being so informative; yet, what I still found lacking was the opportunity to apply the knowledge learned while collaborating with others designers …until I found the UX Lab!

Introducing THE UX LAB

The UX Lab consist of GUIDED HANDS-ON workshop(s) working in teams with other designers, ranging from new to experienced, in a supportive learning environment warmly led by Meagan and Sean. The concept of partnering up with a startup to help them build a better UX design is absolutely brilliant. The ability to brainstorm with feedback and see the different approaches and proposals resulting in a real live solution implemented soon is awesome! A win-win for all: the startup, the designers AND the users!

Introducing ZORAAB

During this series, we worked with Zoraab – a wonderful sister & brother team (Tina & Sunny) founded to provide an alternative to the bland sock lifestyle. It’s a beautiful site that not only offers an online retail section to purchase an eclectic assortment of mens’ socks, but a monthly “sockscription” service, where you never have to shop for socks again! A great concept, depending upon your needs and preference, different styles of socks will be deliver to you.

ZORAAB + THE UX LAB =

GET READY TO HAVE YOUR SOCKS KNOCKED OFF!

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Experiment #1: LiveCube and Hungry Designers

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Everywhere, people are asking for quality instead of quantity. Not just with the media they’re exposed to, but now also with the Meetup events that swarm the NY metro. While a lot of these meetups let you sit back and enjoy, UX Labs brings a different type of crowd. It’s an intimate workshop, with individuals driven to enhance their portfolios and see how others think.

This became apparent to me when I first showed up to the LiveCube workshop, and why I’ve continued to spend four hours traveling for each three hour event. It’s a chaotic and fun experience that brings out great people.

LiveCube is an interesting web-app that I learned of a few weeks earlier at Spark Summit in Hoboken. It powered the conference so to speak, keeping everyone engaged through a group messaging system hooked up to twitter, a leaderboard with rewards, and even conference-wide gaming. But when it was over, it left my mind. As a small Jersey designer, the thought of working on this seemingly established and cool service didn’t appear as a possibility. But there I was at UX Lab, hearing the presentation in a room full of UX professionals and up-and-comers from NYC, Portugal South America, and the beltway with knowledge in all sorts of industries.

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Lab #1 Series #3: Designing UX

Lab #3 in our series with Collaborizm was probably the most exciting one yet! The groundwork we laid in Labs #1 and #2 really came together and allowed us to have a very energizing and productive design session for Collaborizm’s signing up and getting started UX.

Once everyone was briefed on what Collaborizm is and where we were at in the research/design process, we spent 20 minutes individually brainstorming and sketching ideas for screens, flows, and copy that would make it easier, quicker and more enjoyable for someone to get onto the Collaborizm platform and find or start a project right away.

We then came together as a group and each person posted her sketches on the walls of Motivate Design’s conference room and briefly presented her ideas to the group. Once everyone had a chance to present, we all went around the room and “voted” for the ideas we liked the best by putting little checkmarks/stars/smileys on the sketches.

We took pictures of all the ideas we came up with and put them here.

One of the most interesting things about this process was how people tackled different aspects of the problem (e.g., website copy, filling in a questionnaire, starting a project) and produced a diversity of ideas for Collaborizm’s UX. I think the time we spent brainstorming individually (vs. getting stuck in "groupthink") was important for allowing this to happen.

As usual, we will be building on the Lab #3’s work for the next lab in this series, where we will focus on taking the sketches for Collaborizm’s UX and creating clickable prototypes with Omnigraffle.

Series #1 Lab #2: Exploration

After doing the difficult work of defining the UX problem we wanted to focus on, and creating personas and a user journey map for Collaborizm’s existing getting started process, we were ready to explore and see what we could learn from how others have met similar design challenges.

During Lab #2, we broke into groups and spent our time scouring for examples of how we could make the sign-up process easier and make answering the questions that Collaborizm uses to improve the matching process more interesting and fun.

We again used Mural.ly to present our results in a visual, easy to navigate way, and you can see one of our results here.

After exploring various solutions, we came up with a few helpful hints about making the getting started process easier:

  • Allow sign-up with social accounts (Collaborizm is in fact already working on this feature)
  • Only ask for the bare minimum amount of information needed in forms, and explain to the user why its needed
  • Let the user know how far along in the process they are
  • Identify what the user’s motivation for signing up is (e.g., joinig a project or starting a project), so you can tailor what happens after they sign up (instead of leaving them to make a choice from a lot of different options)
  • Questionnaires can be redesigned much more visually to make it easier (e.g., clicking instead of typing) and more fun to complete them

Lab #2 was productive and, of course, filled our heads with lots of ideas for Lab #3 (coming up this Wednesday, December 18th, and there’s still room if you want to join us!), where we will get our hands dirty brainstorming, sketching, voting, and presenting actual designs for Collaborizm’s getting started process.

Series #1 Lab#1: Defining the UX Problem

If you have been to our Meetup page, you know that we’re right in the middle of our first series of labs. Basically, we partner with a startup here in NYC and then get a bunch of UX designers together to help redesign a key aspect of the startups’s UX over a series of Meetups, or labs.

We’ve partnered with Collaborizm for our first series, and man has it been fun so far! I wanted to post some of the materials we produced during the first lab, where we explored Collaborizm’s platform and defined personas and a user journey map for someone getting started on the platform.

A little bit about Collaborizm

Collaborizm is a platform that enables collaboration from finding your ideal collaborators to starting and working on a project. I think of it as Match.com, Kickstarter, and Basecamp all rolled into one.

To build a healthy collaboration community, Collaborizm needs to be able to:

  • Attract people looking to start and/or join projects and convince them to click “sign-up”
  • Help them complete a sign-up process that includes making a profile as well as answering questions used to suggest potential collaborators/projects
  • Help them start a project that other people actually want to join, or help them find a project that is a good match
  • Make it easy for collaborators to communicate and start working together

Personas

After everyone had a chance to explore the site a little bit, we broke into groups and put together personas that would help us identify the user groups (and their specific needs, motivations, and attitudes) that we would be designing for.

We came up with 3 main user types:

  • A social media savvy individual in her early 20s, fresh out of college and looking for collaboration as a way to build skills and gain experience
  • An entrepreneurial individual in her 30s-40s with a big idea, looking to find the right team to get her product off the ground
  • An seasoned and successful individual, aged 50+, who has a lot of experience and wisdom to share with younger collaborators

Here is a link to the persona we created for our first user type.

User Journey Maps

After creating personas, we then methodically examined the experience of signing up for Collaborzim and getting started (the part of the UX we chose to focus on). We did this by capturing screenshots at each step of the process and annotating them with any observations, questions, technical issues, or pain points.

Ideally, you would observe people from one of your user groups go through the process; however, we were limited to more of an “expert review”. We used an awesome website called Mural.ly to compile the screenshots and notes into a visual user journey map.

So…

By the end of our first lab we had decided to focus on the signing up/getting started part of Collaborizm’s UX, had created personas for 3 primary user groups, and had documented the current UX as well as problems we would need to address in our design.

We were all set for Lab #2, where we would explore the web for existing solutions to similar design problems and figure out how to incorporate the best of the best into our own approach.

At first I didn’t really see anything innovative about this, they essentially stuck together an old-school kindle and any smartphone together back-to-back.  But then when he explained the scenario where someone could save the image of the map on the e-ink screen when your phone was on the brink of death…it all clicked! I can’t count how many times I’ve been stranded and begging people for directions because my phone died mid-navigation. Although I don’t think this will be picked up in the states any time soon, it has some hope for future advancements within all smartphones.  Let me know what you guys think?  What’s the point of the wedge structure? Have you ever been stranded mid-navigation?  

Behind the Scenes: The UX Lab

 

I was first introduced to the UX space a little more than 2 months ago.  As the newest employee at Motivate Design I wanted to make sure that everyone knew how committed I was to the job as the Business/Product Development Associate.  I immersed myself into all things UX-related and found that my Engineering background provided me with enough general knowledge to communicate well with the UX designers at my firm.

I wanted to learn more though and ran into Meaghan soon after I was hired and found that we both shared a similar want for a Meetup group to provide hands on experiences with real-world UX problems.  As we started making plans for what we wanted the group to be, I found myself at a networking breakfast with Steven Reubenstone the founder of Collaborizm, and the UX Lab’s first startup partner. 

Meaghan and I wanted to partner with startups for several reasons, but one of the main reasons is the willingness to receive feedback.  As opposed to most Fortune 500 companies that are set in their ways, startups are hungry for user feedback so that they can make their product better and better.  Steven was just the kind of guy we were looking for and as ironic as it was our UX Lab, whose goal is for its designers to collaborate within each lab to learn from one another, was going to be using the Collaborizm platform as their first test subject.  

How We Started

After moving from Canada not too long ago Meaghan Nolan began searching for a Meetup group that allowed her to continuously grow as a user experience designer.  As the Head of Human Experience at Superhuman, Inc. Meaghan has sought out ways to interact with the community while practicing hands-on skills.  Feeling that there was a void in the latter, she created The UX Lab.

Concurrently,  Sean Echevarria had joined the Motivate Design team as their Business Development Associate and he was looking to immerse himself into the space.  Finding The UX Lab, he quickly signed up and reached out to Meaghan to offer his company’s downtown office space.

After the first Meetup, they both knew that they were on the verge of something great.  If they could motivate participants to truly engage with a given prompt, the results would be phenomenal.  From there, the dynamic duo decided to collaborate with startups to provide them with a free UX consultation in exchange for open access to their product/service.