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The 6 key components of a good UX researcher portfolio, according to a user experience career coach.
Let’s start off with the basics; what is a UXR portfolio and why should you have one?
Potential employers often ask candidates to present their portfolios or case studies in the interview process to understand how you think through research and address high-level questions that come up. This presentation tells employers and teams a lot about how you work and it is a preview of how you’ll present your future research findings.
There are a few things that separate a good portfolio from a great one and perhaps the biggest differentiating factor is the ability to show your reasoning behind what you did. If you take nothing else from this article, understand that when it comes to your portfolio, the ‘why’ is just as important, if not more, than the ‘what!’
Now let’s delve into the key components that should be in every UXR portfolio:
No matter what kind of projects you choose to include in your portfolio, you should be prepared to talk through what your general process looks like, for example:
Make sure to walk through your approach to research questions and how your research is influenced by the overall objectives of your team and the business.
You should also think through how long projects usually take you and how you adapt to different timelines based on the needs of your stakeholders. Touching on these will show your forethought and creativity as you lead research efforts.
And make sure to convey your role in each project that you choose to include in your portfolio. Don’t make your audience guess or assume your problem statement or project parameters, state them directly.
Finally, it’s always nice to include the research tools that you have experience with so interviewers know that you can hit the ground running. Showcase your go-to tools for different methodologies and prepare to talk through some of their pros and cons.
Employers will want a sense of how you communicate with your stakeholders to keep them informed and engage them as your strategic partners. Oftentimes, stakeholders come to researchers with lots of high-level questions or gaps in their understanding. Be sure to include how you advise the scope of the project, and think through some of the following questions as you put together your portfolio:
From choosing a research methodology to picking your sample and sharing your insights, you make tons of decisions as a researcher. It is important to share the decisions you’ve made and the thought processes behind them. For example:
Fold these details into the story to illustrate how you craft the path of your research and how you respond to constraints that arise.
It’s imperative to show what comes out of your research and how you use the information. Some of the best portfolios I’ve seen incorporate samples of the deliverables for a case study. If you can’t reveal the specifics due to privacy concerns or company rules about sharing research, a ‘clean’ or redacted sample can still help demonstrate your process to prospective employers.
Pro tip: To make your portfolio presentation stand out, speak to how you set expectations with your stakeholders in the beginning of your project, and how you follow through at the deliverable stage to make sure insights are actionable for each stakeholder? How do you socialize your insights and tailor them to your audience?
Possibly the most important point to touch on as you are presenting your portfolio is your impact! What changed due to your research? What was your return on investment (ROI)?
There are many ways to assess impact—explain how you’re measuring the results of your research and how a team, company, or product improved thanks to your work.
I alway make sure to wrap up a case study with a note on what I would’ve done differently if I had the chance. This shows humility as a researcher and that you are willing to learn and improve as you go. Would you have chosen a different method if you had more time, funds, or a bigger pool to recruit participants from? Include these details to demonstrate your commitment to continuous growth!
I wish you the best in building your portfolio and presenting your work! If you would like more tips on how to structure your portfolio and coaching to help secure your next (or first!) role in UXR, check out my website: eniolaabioye.com.
🎙 How to Break Into User Research: Career Advice for Aspiring UXRs
Eniola joined the hosts of Awkward Silences for a live podcast episode and audience Q&A on breaking into a user research career. Listen, watch, or read the transcript.
User Experience Researcher at Meta | Career Coach
Eniola Abioye helps UX Researchers improve their research strategy. From seasoned researchers looking to level up to new researchers looking to get their bearings, Eniola helps researchers focus their practice. With a background in biotech, healthcare, and fintech, she enjoys holding space for users to have real conversations.