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5 Common Mistakes Junior UX Designers Make in Their Portfolios

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Many junior designers follow a standard portfolio template without thinking about the ‘why’ behind a portfolio. Are you one of them?

A standard template might look something like this. You start off with the discovery stage, conduct qualitative and quantitative research, go through a double diamond process, support your findings from usability testing, and then present the final prototype. Unfortunately, it is hard for a portfolio to stand out if everyone follows the same steps.

The ‘why’ refers to the reason for your portfolio’s creation. Have you thought about why your portfolio was created? Is it to reflect your expertise in UX research? An eye for visual aesthetics? Or a strategic mind to enter a UX consultancy?

This article will address six common mistakes of junior designers creating their first portfolio. Read on to make sure you are not committing any of them.

We spoke to Ben George, a Design Head and a UX hiring manager from ReferralCandy. We asked him what mistakes junior designers frequently make. For the full webinar of the UX industry, click here.


  1. Presenting the same portfolio projects from bootcamps
  2. Lengthy portfolios
  3. Having the wrong expectations about what a portfolio is supposed to achieve
  4. Not providing a reason for hiring managers to read on
  5. Prioritising the quantity of projects over quality

Mistake 1: Presenting the same portfolio projects from bootcamps

One of the biggest problems for bootcamp UX graduates is a lack of varied portfolio projects. To put it crudely, all of the portfolio projects look identical.

“Let’s say, out of the 160 [candidates] that did the interview, or did apply, maybe some 60 or 70 of them were from one or the other bootcamp. I feel like if you were interviewing 70 bootcamp students, like when you start looking at the sea of the exact same format, everybody’s using the same things. And many times, you [start] seeing the same projects coming again,” said George.

He mentioned that this project replication stems from the project being a group project rather than an individual assignment. The only differentiating part is their respective roles.

Thereafter, all of the applicants detail the same processes. Instead, what they should do is highlight a specific skill set and what they did differently in that project.

Mistake 2: Lengthy portfolios

“I feel like most people end up writing this novel-length case studies. Now, a junior designer might take all of the tools in a toolbox to fix the table, let’s say. But a senior designer would know, ‘okay, I just need maybe the nail and the hammer and to get the table fixed’,” he said.

Ben mentioned that most hiring managers only spend two to five minutes per portfolio, even though most people design their portfolio for a 15-to-20-minute read.

The reality is that people have a short attention span. Yet, this is not something to feel sad about. After all, no one should be entitled to anyone’s time. Rather than lament the short attention time spent on your portfolio, ask yourself:

“How can I craft my portfolio such that it presents only the necessary skill sets of my role to solve the problem?”

For example, if you were the UX researcher for the project, and the research was something that you did differently, then you would want to highlight it. If you did little to improve the User Interface (UI) design, then don’t mention it. Instead, present a different project that focuses on improving the UI design.

If a hiring manager is only spending two minutes on your portfolio, you should be giving them all the information they need about you in that two minutes.

Mistake 3: Having the wrong expectations about what a portfolio is supposed to achieve.

“A good portfolio is a free pass to get you through the door for an interview. Not the job. No one sees the portfolio and then wants to hire you,” said George.

Some may think that a good portfolio might land you a job. That is far from the truth. In fact, it is a very risky mindset to have.

Suppose you are preparing a portfolio that is meant to get you a job. Since it carries such a high stake assessment of your competence, it can feel overwhelming. And what happens? You might just include too much information out of the desire to impress. Ironically, it is the redundant information that gets you rejected.

To avoid that, prepare a concise portfolio that promises an interview. The portfolio you design will be a teaser of your abilities. Nothing more, nothing less.

Mistake 4: Not giving hiring managers a reason to read on

Ben noticed that some junior designers fail to give their hiring managers a reason to read the full portfolio. Being a thoughtful storyteller is necessary to attract your readers. We were always taught back in school to grab the reader’s attention with an exciting hook.

The logic behind a portfolio is no different. What’s more exciting than the final prototype that you took three painstaking months to build?

Begin your portfolio with a presentation of the final prototype or the metrics you used to measure success. Conversion rates, drop-off rates, user-error rates, and system usability scales (SUS) are some metrics that you could use to measure the success of your product.

What if you have no access to such information? For self-taught UX designers, you can use other measures like the number of users who successfully accomplished a task before and after the changes were implemented. You could also insert a short video clip of your final prototype.

Suppose you can impress them with a particular data finding , keep it short and confident, without expanding on sections unnecessarily. Then, you can be sure that your hiring managers will want to read on.

Mistake 5: Prioritising the quantity of projects over the quality of them

Many junior designers ask how many projects should be in a portfolio. Is it three? Or five?

However, the question to ask instead is: Is it good enough to enter your portfolio?

“I feel like if you have one good project, just showcase the one. If you have three, then showcase three. This isn’t a set number. I think curation is as important as a case study itself,” he said.

Knowing which project to present shows that you have taste and know what a good work constitutes. It reveals the level of awareness about your work that any organization would be happy to have.


Now that you know what the five common errors of junior UX designers are, go forth and create your best portfolio! If you want to know more about user experience and its industry, do check out our other resources available on our websites, such as our articles, weekly webinars, and podcasts. CuriousCore offers both a 2-day UX Design Course and a 4-month UX Career Accelerator for those keen on transitioning into the industry. Click the buttons below to find out more.

Ben’s background

Ben’s career as a designer started after he dropped out of high school with grand plans of becoming a 3D artist at Pixar. After realising he didn’t quite enjoy it, Ben veered towards graphic and web design and began teaching himself.

In 2008, Ben took a risk and jumped on the opportunity to join a new design agency, Sourcebits, as one of their very first designers. He then spent seven years leading or participating in 100+ apps—a few of which have been staff picked by Apple and Google. His work spans a wide range of industries like e-commerce, entertainment, healthcare, enterprise products, and games. He’s had the honour of developing products and services for companies such as Intel, General Electric, SAP, Coca Cola, MIT Sloan, IBM, and US Army to name a few.

Ben has also led product design at FreshMenu, a food-tech startup where he led a small-size design team to improve the online food delivery experience. During his time there, FreshMenu expanded from a few to many kitchens across India with a net value of 24 million USD. Fast forward to a couple of years later, Ben now finds himself in Singapore heading the design team and shaping the future of customer retention ReferralCandy and CandyBar.