Why Web Design is a Good Career Choice for Students

If you’re trying to become a Visual Designer, you probably already know that your portfolio is the most important tool in your arsenal as you get ready to apply to jobs or look for clients. But when you’re just starting to build up your portfolio, it can be difficult to know exactly what sorts of projects you should be including in your portfolio. And once you do come up with ideas for projects, how do you build them into comprehensive case studies that will impress any potential employers checking out your site?

We chatted with hiring managers across the creative industry to find out what sort of projects they’d like to see in the portfolios of new junior designers applying for jobs. Keep reading for more info about the exact projects that you should work on to build up your design skills and show that you are capable of executing all the types of design work you’d likely be working on as a junior designer. And for all of these projects, we’ve created step-by-step project guides that will help you build up detailed projects in each of these categories and craft an amazing portfolio.

One note – we’re recommending a variety of Visual Design projects to help you get experience building different types of design projects from scratch, but when you’re actually getting ready to apply to jobs, it’s generally a good idea to decide what area of design you’re most passionate about and focus most of your portfolio site on those types of projects. Employers want to know that you have a deep expertise in your chosen field!

Solve real problems with your projects

Before we dive into the specific types of projects you should be working on, it’s important to note that recruiters across the board told us that they want to see projects based on real problems that exist in the world rather than just seeing pretty visuals. They want to know that you can solve problems with your designs. Here are two ways to start solving real problems with your designs, even early in your career.

Find real clients

It might seem daunting to approach real clients early in your career, but even if you’re not being paid for the work, reaching out to local businesses and nonprofits offering your design services is an amazing way to build your skills and impress employers. It’s as simple as walking into local businesses asking if they need help with marketing campaigns or branding, or emailing nonprofits to ask if they need any design support. Employers want to know you can work within real world constraints, so this is a great way to show that you can incorporate constraints!

Come up with ideas for problems you want to solve

Even if you’re not doing “real client” projects, it’s important to ensure that all of your project ideas attempt to solve real problems that exist in a particular industry or field. So when you come up with high level project ideas (e.g. doing a branding project), spend some time thinking about the industries you want to work in. Then look at a few companies in those industries and see how their brand or business could be positively impacted by a redesign. You could even come up with your own business or brand from scratch based on a gap you think exists in your target industry, and design a project for them from scratch. As long as you are trying to solve real problems and test your designs against mentors and peers, you’ll be good to go.

Finally, be sure that instead of diving straight into Illustrator or Photoshop, you spend time following the proper design processes for each project – research the industry and problem, come up with personas, ideate and sketch, and validate your designs with someone else.

Alright, let’s dive into the 7 projects every aspiring designer should work on!

Personal Branding

When you’re getting ready to apply to jobs or reach out to clients, a strong personal brand can help make you more memorable, showcase your style and tone of work, and convince anyone looking at your portfolio site that you’re truly passionate about design outside of your 9-5 job. It also shows that you have an opinion or point of view about design and are willing to boldly attach that opinion to yourself for everyone to see!

Assume for a moment that you are an employer looking through hundreds of design portfolios every day, looking for the perfect candidate to add to your design team. You decide whether or not to pass on most portfolios within about 10 seconds of landing on their homepage. Your personal branding, just like any other strong design project in your portfolio, should follow a design process — the same process that you go through when completing a Branding and Identity project for any client. You need to spend time ideating about what you want your branding to say about you, sketching ideas, refining a few of them, and then choosing typography and a color palette that matches.

Branding and Logo Design

If you’re interested in branding design, then it’s a no-brainer that you’d want to include at least a few branding and identity projects in your portfolio. For this branding project, you should come up with a totally new company in an industry you’d like to work in, or find a company in that industry whose branding you think might be holding it back from greater success. You should go through the entire research → moodboard → ideation → sketching phase before diving into Illustrator. For your final project, include a new logo, typography, colors, and overall look and feel. You can present all of these deliverables in a Style Guide for the brand.

Iconography

Being able to develop iconography with a consistent look and feel is an important skill for most designers to have. Even though there are tons of incredible icon services out there, like Noun Project, you should feel comfortable developing your own icons from scratch if you want to work on the design team for a larger company (or even a smaller studio). For this project, focus on building out a full set of iconography for a digital product or website of your choosing.

Before you dive into research, you should decide where in the client’s product or website these icons will be used and what they’ll be used for. Are they going to be used to accompanying text and information or are they more navigational icons? Write down details about what types of icons you’re going to be designing and where they’ll show up in the product or website. This is a necessary step to take prior to conducting research or sketching.

Marketing Campaign

Being able to create effective marketing collateral for employers and clients is an incredibly valuable skill and something you will definitely be involved in at various stages of your career. For this project, come up with a theoretical product or find an existing product that you like and design a digital and print marketing campaign for the client. In your final deliverables, include 2 Facebook ads, 1 Instagram ad, one print poster (24×36”), 4 display banners (sized at 300×250, 300×600, 728×90, and 970×250), and one 4×6” postcard. Be sure to include copy and strong calls to action. For your final presentation, mock them onto relevant platforms.

Packaging Design

If you want to focus primarily on digital products, this project might not be for you. But if you’re interested in working at a company that sells physical products, being able to design packaging and a label for the products is a great way to stand out from the crowd. For this, you’ll help a client create compelling packaging that speaks to their brand identity while also informing consumers about relevant aspects of their products. Your final presentation should include dielines of your designs as well as the final label design in vector format. You can also include a style guide with things like color, typography, and overall look and feel.

Print Collateral

For this project, you’ll identify a client and develop a set of print collateral for their business, ranging from business cards to posters to postcards. Being able to create effective marketing collateral for employers and clients in a variety of print formats is an incredibly valuable skill and something you will likely be doing at some point in your Visual Design career. For the final deliverables, include on set of business cards (front and back), two print posters (24×36”), two 4×6” postcards, and one additional 4×4’ sign to be used in an outdoor marketing campaign.

Typographic Poster or Album Art

For this final project, you’ll be focusing on showing your ability to generate unique typographic layouts and improving your familiarity with typography in general. You can create a typographic poster for a film or cover for an album, with a strong emphasis on using typography and type lockup to create a mood and visual look. You should only use very minimal photography or graphic elements in your design. This project will focus on helping you become familiar with typography in design and is designed to show you the broad range of emotion that type can elicit. Recruiters love to see well-rounded designers, so even if you’re focus is on web design or product design, showing that you can use typography to create a more emotional response in viewers is incredibly important!

What next?

Working on those 7 projects will give you amazing exposure to the 7 types of projects that recruiters have told us they’d want to see in most junior portfolios. You don’t need to include all of these in your portfolio (in fact, you probably shouldn’t), but working on these projects should help you broaden your design skills and identify the areas of Visual Design you want to focus on in your career. From there, you can start to specialize and deepen your skillsets in one or two of these areas. If you want a more comprehensive step-by-step guide to building out each of these projects, check out our Portfolio Starter Kit, and if you’d like to build up your portfolio with a mentor, check out our Career Bootcamps!

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How To Sell UX Design To Skeptical Ecommerce Merchants

With its thin profit margins and heated competition, getting ahead in the online selling world takes a tight grip on spending. Many merchants get started as solo entrepreneurs, and some stick with that approach in perpetuity — as long as they can handle their daily tasks, it’s a great way to save money and make life easier.

Supposing you’re a UX designer, though, this can make it a major challenge to sell your services. Your skills need compensation, but digital entrepreneurs are inclined to be skeptical in general, and UX can easily sound like it pales in significance when compared to something easier for the average seller to comprehend (search rankings, for instance).

You need a smart plan of attack to break down that skepticism and convincingly advance the notion that your design service is the key to spending less and selling more. You’ll need a great portfolio to showcase your skills, of course — but past that starting point, here are some tips that you should definitely follow:

Ask them about how they shop online

The main reason why people doubt the value of UX is not that they believe it doesn’t matter how much someone likes a website: it’s that they don’t really understand what UX means. Sure, they might know that it stands for “user experience”, but that isn’t the same as knowing how it factors into someone’s online activity.

To address this, I suggest starting the discussion with a prospective client by asking them about how they shop online. What are their favorite stores? Why do they prefer visiting them? And when they buy from them, what do they like about the process? Do they enjoy the copy, the visuals, the functions?

This will be beneficial to you in two ways:

  • Firstly, it will give you some insight into how they think and what they care about. This will make it easier to sell them on particular elements.
  • Secondly, it will help them understand why UX matters so much. Talking about their favorite store elements will make it clear that they like those stores for UX-related reasons, which will show them that UX alone can make a huge difference.

After going through their personal buying experiences, you can expect to find them a lot more receptive to whatever else you have to say. Make it count.

Explain how it can cut back on support time

One of the biggest challenges with advancing UX design is explaining the ROI. It can certainly be done using metrics such as conversion rate, but unless you have a particular UX ROI case study under your belt (or think you can get somewhere pointing to general stats), that approach might not have the impact you’re looking for.

But you don’t need case studies or stats to show the value of a lightened support workload, nor do you need to get deep into UX specifics to explain why improvements can lead to fewer queries. You need only point to the questions they already receive, and note how much more time they’d have to work on other things if their system worked better and didn’t confuse people.

Sellers already know the importance of investing in the right platforms. They’ll even be willing to migrate their stores if it’s needed to get the performance and support levels they’re looking for, and you can exploit that existing conviction. For instance, if someone would migrate to Shopify (with its widely-praised 24/7 service) to improve support for their Magento enterprise store, they’d surely be open to a similar argument in favor of some UX customization.

And if they worry that the time spent discussing UX will soak up the saved time, reassure them that modern collaboration tools such as Invision or Figma make it simple to get through proposed changes without needing lengthy meetings or even calls.

Use their competitors for leverage

Argue that someone should spend money for you to help them in a way their still find unclear, and you won’t get very far. Point out to them that all their top competitors are investing heavily in UX, however, and you’ll suddenly be making a lot more headway. Sellers will stubbornly cling to the status quo until industry moves around them and they have no choice but to adapt, so make it clear that they’re being left behind and they’ll hasten to catch up.

How you go about this specifically is up to you. If you can point to stated UX budgets from competitors (they may have announced online how they’re investing their money) then that will work best, but if you’re not privy to such figures, you can simply visit their websites and explain all the UX work that has gone into them (using a tool like Wayback Machine will help you clearly display how those websites have changed over the months and years).

Furthermore, once you’ve been through competitors, you can allude to the changes you’d make to their site to outperform those competitors. Faced with the prospect of not only catching up to their rivals but also moving past them, they’ll have all the reason in the world to find the money to discover exactly what you can do for them.

 

UX design can sound somewhat abstract to the less tech-savvy among us, and ecommerce merchants don’t necessarily know much about tech — today, they can rely on simple tools and SaaS companies to get by. To convince them to invest in it, you’ll need to make the practical benefits so much clearer. These tips should help.

The Impact of UI/UX Design on Your Website Impression

When speaking of UI or UX design, most people jump to conclusions far too often. While it is true that UI and UX curation is prominent in mobile app development, it doesn’t even begin to explain the terminology. This is why many business owners or site administrators forgo professional UI or UX optimization for a more DIY approach.

However, these elements can have game-changing effects on your website’s perception and first impressions. Studies have shown that 79% of people are ready to pack up and leave a website if their initial impressions are poor. After all, no website is alone in any given niche. Let’s take a look at several ways in which both UI and UX design principles can affect your site’s performance and relevance on the market.

 

Clearing the proverbial air

Implementing UI and UX into your existing (or future) website is all about understanding the groundwork. With that in mind, let’s talk about what each of these acronyms stands for on their own since they shouldn’t be mixed up.

UI stands for User Interface, or as some would like to say user interface “design”. It covers the literal, technical design of different quality of life aspects of your website, mobile app or any other digital medium. The most prominent UI elements are the navigation bar and its subsequent drop down menus and buttons. This is the most basic and fundamental description of what UI is and how it can be viewed.

UX on the other hand stands for User Experience, or also as user experience design. This process revolves around understanding your core demographic, what their needs are and how you can fulfill them. It leans on psychology, customer profiling and testing above all else, forgoing the literal design process.

While visuals do have their appeal, the UX element of a website usually takes the cake when it comes to boosting sales and popularity. Mixing well thought-out UX principles and high-quality UI elements does sound appealing. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some pivotal reasons as to why you should care about UI and UX in your website starting today.

 

1. It adds up to your SEO

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) represents the lifeline of online businesses. If you don’t optimize your content per Google’s regulations, your traffic and revenue will suffer because of it. While it may sound drastic at first, Forbes published a convincing argument for SEO in digital content. It highlights the importance of having a lightweight website with as much accessibility and responsiveness as possible.

If this sounds exactly like UI and UX design to you, you are on the right track. Implementing smart, user-friendly UX solutions to your website will ensure that SEO flags your site as positive and ranks it adequately with search engines. This will result in a higher click-through rate and more new visitors each day.

 

2. Higher conversion rates

Conversion rate represents the percentage of people who stuck around with your website after their initial visit. More importantly, it highlights how many people “converted” into customers, subscribers and active participants. Usually, you will want your conversion rates to be as high as possible to ensure organic growth of your business and website over time. There is no better way to do this than by adding new UX principles to an already well-rounded UI.

For example, one of the best ways to spread your site’s influence globally is to offer different UI languages. Platforms such as The Word Point feature numerous options in regards to translation and localization which can elevate your site above the competition. Remember that your conversion rates represent the end-all metric in regards to your growth – don’t skimp on UI and UX innovations in this regard.

 

3. It helps your word of mouth

When a product or a service is well-designed, word of mouth spreads like wildfire. People like to talk about the things they love with their acquaintances and family members. In today’s digital age, this translates to social media sharing and liking of good content. By offering a professional user interface solution with user experience features that cater to your audience, you will have achieved just that.

There is no greater pleasure than to see your website’s landing page spread around through blogs and social media platforms without direct marketing. By focusing on your website’s UI and UX instead of advertisement, you will effectively communicate your customer-centric business model to the public.

 

4. High return on investment (ROI)

It’s true that web design and UX cost money, time and manpower – but so does traditional marketing. Recently, UX Planet published an article which disputes the notion of UX and UI costs being too high to be worth the trouble. In their article, they explained the idea of paid marketing and how it is a one-and-done deal with recurring costs.

When it comes to website design, iteration and development, costs are set in stone and don’t bloat over time. This is great news for small firms and startups with limited budgets, especially for those in competitive industries. By turning your attention to UX and UI innovation, you can forgo traditional paid ads for organic SEO and search engine traffic.

 

5. Communication and feedback is a given

There is always room for improvement in quality of life features and UX design. In this regard, user feedback and communication play huge roles. Mopinion published a piece about the benefits of feedback in ongoing UX development, touching on the points of costs and brand loyalty.

Your customers are the biggest and most important providers of feedback about usability, ease-of-access and overall accessibility of your website. When all is said and done, you are implementing UI and UX principles to your website for the betterment of the end-users’ experience. Make sure to give them a voice through surveys and live chats, and listen to what they have to say.

 

In summary

As you can see, the implication of UX and UI principles can make a huge difference in the long run. People want instant access and user-friendly features without the hassle of long load times or mandatory requests.

Do a website audit and see how your site performs currently before making any drastic changes to the formula. First impressions matter more than anything, so make sure to do what is best for your customers and let go of impractical features and design choices.

Figuring out what type of design career is right for you

There are so many fields of design out there, trying to figure out what type of design career is right for you can feel overwhelming. You might be the kind of person (like me) that wants to learn everything about everything. This article contains tips on how to go about figuring out which type of design career might be right for you, as well as defining a few areas: UX, UI, Branding & Identity, and Print.

Now, you might be asking ‘Do I have to pick just one area?’. A valid question. Different recruiters and employers have slightly different opinions on specialization vs. generalization, but one opinion is generally consistent: unless you’re truly hoping to be a generalist, you should try to focus on building up deep expertise in one or two areas of design. Then, you should showcase those projects most prominently in your design portfolio for relevant jobs, while also showing a few projects that demonstrate your breadth of abilities. So, you certainly can learn many different areas of design, but it might be best to put focus on one or two areas you’re most passionate about.

Speaking of different areas of design, here’s some information about a few, as well as some links to websites where you can find out more information and/or view design portfolio work…

UX (User Experience) & UI (User Interface) Design

From Wikipedia, User experience “refers to a person’s emotions and attitudes about using a particular product, system or service”. So UX design is design based on how a person feels (e.g. positive vs. negative) when interacting with a product.

To quote Y Media Labs: “UX work happens ‘behind the scenes’. You don’t think about it unless it’s done poorly. If you ever ask yourself ‘what the heck am I supposed to do now to complete my task?’ then you are looking at a bad user experience”.

This video from UX Mastery mentions that if you’re the type of person that asks a lot of questions, UX Design might be for you. It also has a good general overview of UX Design. The UX Mastery website itself also has a trove of information and resources regarding a UX career.

If UX Design happens ‘behind the scenes’, UI Design is what happens ‘on stage’. UI is everything users interact with directly, what they see, touch and hear. It’s the layout, colours, typography, animation, sounds, styling and location of different elements such as buttons, etc.

So, a UX designer is concerned with how the product feels to users, whereas a UI Designer is concerned with how it looks and is laid out. Co.Design’s article goes into more detail about the specifics, tools of the trade, deliverables, etc. You can also see examples of UX & UI portfolio work in Behance’s UX/UI category.

 

Branding & Identity

Brand is the perceived emotional corporate image as a whole (i.e. how people feel about a business). For example, Apple is a brand. Identity is the visual aspects that form how consumers see and experience the overall brand (e.g. websites, business cards, products, packaging, etc.). The elements that make up each of these components include typography, imagery, logo, color treatment, etc.

A large portion of a brand’s identity lies in how easily recognizable it is to consumers. Apple has an incredibly strong and distinctive brand identity, from the instantly recognizable apple logo to the overall look and feel of their products and advertising, which use cohesive typography, color, and other design elements to instantly tell consumers that the product they’re looking at is intuitively an Apple product.

If you’re interested in the idea of translating a company’s products, mission, and overall mission into a cohesive and recognizable brand identity, then this field could be great for you. If you find yourself swooning over the gut feelings that logos like the Airbnb Belo or the

You can find out more about branding and identity from this article by Just Creative, and look at the Branding catagory on Behance for inspiration.

Print Design

Print design is “design printed on a tangible surface, designed to be printed on paper, as opposed to presented on a digital platform” (from Wikipedia). So, it differs from web design, having different things to take into account. Canva has a very good article about the difference in designing for Print vs. The Web.

If you work in print design, you’ll be primarily focusing on traditional Graphic Design, using Photoshop and Illustrator to create amazing packaging, print materials for businesses like posters and business cards, marketing collateral, etc. To see some examples of print design projects, check out Behance’s Print Design section.

 

What now?

If after learning about these different areas you’re still unsure on what you’d like to specialise in here’s some questions you could ask yourself:

  • From things I’ve done in the past (either in education or as a hobby), are there any major themes or similarities between my favorite projects and/or the projects I think show my strongest work?
  • What are my current strengths and weaknesses in terms of design?
  • What aspects of design are most interesting to me?
  • Do I feel most passionate about a particular type of work?

If you don’t have sufficient past work to answer these questions, that’s fine. You could always look on websites like Behance and Dribble, and see what of other people’s designs you’re most drawn to/interested in instead. If you look at a type of design work and think: ‘I wonder how they did that, I’d love to learn how to’ then that could be an area worth looking into.

If you still can’t decide, then it’s fine to just try a bunch of different types of projects and see what you like best! Test the waters across various disciplines and types of work, and see what is most exciting to you. Once you know that, then you can start specializing in that area or areas. This will also demonstrate your breadth of abilities in your design portfolio, as discussed earlier in the article. You might also find UX Mastery’s article about design ikigai beneficial.

That’s it for this article! If you found it useful, I’d appreciate you sharing it, so that more people can benefit. Good luck in your search and future career!

How To Get Freelance Clients Passively

If you’re trying to launch a freelancing design or web development career, having an effective strategy to find and retain clients is crucial. But how do you grow a client list when you’re so focused on projects for your existing clients?

In this article, Michael Houghton, a freelance web developer based in Ireland with over 15 years of experience in freelancing, shares some amazing tips to help anyone trying to launch a freelancing career get clients passively. Enjoy!

How to gain clients passively

With a new year, comes a fresh start.  Why not make 2018 the year that you make a start on gaining clients passively.  There is no better time to start thinking about getting your message out there, than today!

Most of the time when we hear the word ‘passive’, we think of passive income.  We know that if we can create passive income, we are doing something right!

But passive income isn’t the only thing businesses should be targeting.  Freelance designers and developers typically wear many hats – for many of them, doing the actual job – the writing, the programming, the designing etc, is only half the job.  The other half is spent on bookkeeping and finding new clients – making sure the business actually runs!

It is human nature for us to focus on the actual cost, but we rarely focus on opportunity cost.  By reducing the time needed to run your freelancing business, there is opportunity to take on more clients and to increase your income.

One of the biggest improvements that I made to my freelancing business that changed the way I operated was to adopt passive marketing.

 

Passive marketing

Passive marketing is simple – let clients come to you rather than you finding them!  The truth is, the best clients, the best opportunities aren’t advertised.  Clients actively go looking for those freelancers.  When clients find you, the ball is 100% in your court.  You’re able to dictate the working terms and rates.  The whole game changes.

I had a client contact me last year who needed a Laravel developer with experience leading teams but who also had a solid knowledge of accounting and finance.  It wasn’t a position worth advertising because so few developers would have the required skill set.  In fact, I suspected I was one of only a few people they could find with the right background for the role.  It is no surprise, then, that there was no negotiation needed when I presented my offer to work with them – they were happy to pay whatever I asked for because they knew I was the right fit and would deliver the results they needed.

This is the power of passive marketing.  But how should one go about implementing such a strategy?  Before I list the specific resources I use, the first thing you need to define is what message you want to put out there.

For passive marketing to be successful, you need to think about your ideal client.  Who are they and what sort of keywords or phrases are they going to be searching for to find you?  This largely comes back to knowing what your niche is and specializing as a freelance designer or web developer to find your target market.  For example, rather than simply be a writer, what if your skill set was writing about the stock market? I am a web developer, but I would get lost in a large ocean of web developers if I were to just brand myself as a web developer.  That’s why focus on being a ‘Laravel developer for startups’.  I put myself into a very specific niche so that the right type of client will contact me.  What good is it if a client contacts me to help them with a WordPress website, if I don’t know anything about WordPress?

So your messaging is important.  And even if you are still finding your niche or learning a new technology or skill so that you can move into a niche, remember you are writing your message for a future client.  So even if you don’t yet have the right level of experience or if you’re still upskilling,   don’t be afraid to target your message around who you want to be – even if you’re not quite there yet.  Of course, that doesn’t mean you should lie on your profile, but let your message also act as guidance for the type of client you want, while keeping you in check on your own goals.

For example, let’s say you’re a developer who wants to get into artificial intelligence.  Maybe you’re extremely interested in AI but you haven’t been given the opportunity yet.  But you’re learning, you’re reading all the time and working on your own projects.  That’s the kind of detail you should list in your message.  Don’t be afraid to target your message towards the market you want to move into – even if you aren’t quite there yet!

So you now have your message.  Let’s run through some strategies that I have implemented successfully:

 

LinkedIn

LinkedIn is a hugely powerful way to connect with clients. It is by far the easiest way to gain an audience quickly, and when done right it can be a great source of leads.  At least half of my leads (and some of my biggest clients) have found me through LinkedIn.

The best part is that it’s super easy to set up a profile and get started.  The best advice I can provide about LinkedIn is:

  • Target your message towards your ideal future client.
  • Complete every single step that LinkedIn suggests when building your profile.
  • Have a very clear headshot for your profile image – ideally with you smiling!
  • Focus on your tagline and summary, as this is what clients will read first.  Remember to be specific in your tagline, e,g “Laravel developer for startups” rather than just “Software engineer”.

 

Personal website / branded website / portfolio

Forbes recently published an article which shows that freelancers with a website earn 65% more income than freelancers that don’t.

Yet so many of the freelancers I talk to don’t have their own website. Whether it is branded as a company or agency, or is simply your-name.com, the main priority is to get your message out there.

Of course, the real power of having your own website comes from the content that you write and the way you target your keywords.  I recently ran an experiment on my own website michaelhoughton.com.  I wanted to target keywords that were as niche as possible.  One easy way to do this, is to simply target location-based keywords.  In my case, I targeted the phrase “Laravel developer in Limerick, Ireland” and I set this as my main meta title on the home page.

Within three days, my Google ranking for “Laravel developer in Limerick” jumped to third.  My ranking for “Laravel developer in Ireland” jumped to seventh. I had changed nothing else, but by targeting a very specific niche, I was able to target my ideal client.

 

Blogging

Blogging is hard.  I enjoy writing, but I still struggle to find the time to blog.  I often feel as a freelancer there is this constant feeling that we should be blogging.  In my experience however, blogging will give you that extra 20% of client leads but it won’t make or break your success.

Get your message and initial content right first for your website – this is the priority.  From there, focus on writing blog articles that will do the following:

  • Target your ideal client.  Don’t just write about anything – target content that will show that you know your niche or will attract a client to you.
  • Focus on search engine optimisation – your article should be designed to improve your Google ranking on certain keywords.  Ensure your blog articles are consistent with the overall message of your website.
  • Focus on quality, not quantity.  You may hear messages like “you should be blogging every day” – the truth is, it is very difficult to maintain quality content when writing every day.  Aim to write when you feel inspired and take the time you need to get your article right.

 

Open source contributions

Github is a great way for clients to find you and writing open source contributions is a great way for clients to see your work in action.

The downside of open source contributions is that it can be time consuming.  Like blogging, it requires constant work, unlike LinkedIn and a website, which if done well the first time, will bring in leads for a long time.

My advice on open source work is to do it primarily because you enjoy it.  Open source is a lot of fun and is a great way to boost your profile, but your primary motive should be because you enjoy a particular project or want to make a difference.  Your motivation to write open source code to boost your profile may quickly falter, but if you are truly passionate about a project you will see it through.

Other than that – keep your open source contributions consistent with your niche.  For example, if you are a PHP developer, your contributions should be based around PHP ideally, so that your potential clients can see your PHP code before they work with you.

 

What about now?

All of these suggestions are designed to help you gain future clients, but what if you need clients right now?  What steps can you take today to gain clients quickly?

Websites such as UpWork and Freelancer.com are marketplaces that require you to submit proposals to gain work.  This is far from passive – in fact, the win rate through freelancer marketplaces can be very low.

Thankfully, there are a couple of freelancer marketplaces that actively do the searching for you.

 

Toptal

Toptal is likely the biggest freelancer network in the world, with more than 3,000 developers, designers and financial experts and a team that is growing fast.  I was fortunate enough to be a Toptal developer for three years, and while getting into Toptal is difficult, once you are in, recruiters will work hard to match you to the right client.

You can be based pretty much anywhere to be part of the Toptal network and the work is fully remote.  Feel free to read my article on the Toptal interview process for more information.

 

X Team

X Team is a company which targets the world’s top developers, much like Toptal.  While I haven’t worked with X Team specifically, the feedback I have received from other developers has been positive.

 

Developer Fair

Developer Fair is an Irish-based freelancer marketplace.  It’s still in the startup stage, but I have worked on a couple of projects for them and it was an enjoyable experience.  They target developers and designers.

 

Conclusion

If you are willing to invest your time now, you can set yourself up to have an extremely profitable freelance business in the long run.  There is no doubt that the most successful freelancers have implemented this strategy.

There is a quote by Mark I. McCallum which goes “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now”.  As freelancers, we all know that we should be working on our profile and message to future clients, yet we continually put it off. Let today be the time to start getting your message out to your ideal client.

5 Great UX/UI Design Portfolio Projects for Beginners

So you’ve decided to start a career in UX/UI Design. Great! The market for User Experience and User Interface Design jobs is booming and there’s never been a better time to become a Web Designer or Product Designer. To get a job in the field, however, you’ll need a great portfolio. But when you’re just starting to learn design fundamentals and play around with the technical tools of the trade like Sketch and Illustrator, how do you come up with ideas for projects? Enrolling in a flexible and super affordable UX Design bootcamp is one great way to get started quickly (follow that link to check out one of the best short-term UX bootcamps around!)

Pro-tip: We recently launched the ultimate short-term (and super affordable) mentorship-driven bootcamp to help you build an amazing design portfolio that will land you a job. Read about it and sign up right here!

One of the most exciting things about design is that there are so many types of projects you could work on, from app design to website design. The most important thing early in your education is to try out lots of different types of projects to see what you like. Once you get a feel for the type of design you enjoy most, you’ll start to specialize and come up with your own concepts for projects that solve real problems. Employers love to see junior designers who have chosen a specialty and developed a deep expertise in that field, filling their portfolios with comprehensive projects backed up by user testing and solid research.

But like we said, early on you should experiment with lots of types of projects to see what you like best! In this article, we’re outlining a few simple UX/UI design portfolio projects you can work through to let you experiment with lots of different ideas quickly.

Ready? Let’s go!

 

The right process to follow for these projects

For all of these projects, start with research. Look at the designs on the websites and apps of similar companies to see how they’ve solved the same problem. Take notes and write down what you like and dislike about similar digital products.

Next, create user personas to understand who will be interacting with these designs and to help you visualize what their goals will be when they land on the page you’re designing. After that, brainstorm and sketch! Get out a pen and piece of paper and sketch out high level ideas for the design based on your research. Get as many ideas on paper as you can in 10 minutes.

Next, open a tool like Sketch (hint: you get 3 free months with our Portfolio Starter Kit) and create a wireframe of the page you’re designing. If you’re feeling ambitious, you can create a digital prototype in InVision to show what actually happens when a user interacts with each element of the wireframe.

Then show your designs to a friend and ask them to provide feedback as though they were a real user of the product. Once they’ve given you feedback on the design, incorporate it into your wireframe and then start creating the high fidelity version of the design. Add color, typography, copy, and make it look as slick as possible.

Be sure to research grids, color theory, and typography so you understand how to use these elements harmoniously to create a beautiful final product. Alright, now that the basics are out of the way, let’s get on to the projects!

 

Product Page for an Ecommerce Website

In this project, design the product detail page for a product on an ecommerce website. A product detail page is the page on an ecommerce website that describes the product you’re considering buying, showcases it visually, and lets you actually add it to your cart or purchase it directly. Depending on the product, a visitor might be able to customize specific features like size and color, read reviews, and view other technical specifications.

Start by coming up with a company. For this project, you can either choose a real company that sells products online or a fictional company you come up. If you choose a real company, think about industries you like and identify a company whose ecommerce conversion rates or overall user experience could be strengthened by a redesign. If you come up with a fictional company, think about industries you’re interested in that sell some form of product online and choose a product to sell. This could be anything from fashion to digital products.

Your final deliverable for this project should be a high-fidelity version of the product detail page for one product.

Portfolio Site Splash Page

In this project, you’ll design a static splash page for your personal portfolio site. A splash page is a non-scrollable landing page that visitors to a website see before they continue to the main content of the website. Splash pages are generally used to quickly introduce and/or promote an organization, product, or individual. Think of it like a visually pleasing greeting card that gives visitors a quick overview of who you are and entices them to learn more.

Splash pages generally include a strong call to action and button to encourage visitors to continue on to the main website. If you don’t have enough projects to have a full portfolio site yet, a splash page can also serve as a great temporary landing page so you can start to establish an online presence while you work to build up your portfolio.

Start by reviewing your current portfolio site. And if you haven’t created a portfolio site yet, take some time to put together a list of the information you’ll want to include on your splash page. Generally, a strong splash page includes this information:

  • Your name and/or logo
  • A brief description of who you are and what you do
  • One or more Calls to Action enticing visitors to visit your full site
  • A beautiful background image or original graphic element
  • Social and/or email icons

 

Pricing Page for a SaaS Startup

For this project, you’ll design the pricing page for the website of a Saas (Software as a Service) startup. A pricing page generally includes detailed information about the price and features of different tiers of a company’s product. Most pricing pages generally include the following information:

  • Unique names for each plan
  • Pricing for each tier (including options for monthly and/or annual plans)
  • The main product features of each tier
  • Calls to action to learn more or sign up

For this project, you can either choose a real SaaS startup or a fictional startup you come up with on your own. Try to include at least 3 price tiers in your final design and choose one of the tiers as the “target tier” that you’ll try to convince people to purchase with your design.

 

Startup Landing Page

For this one, you’ll design an above-the-fold landing page for a startup’s website. A landing page is the first page that a visitor sees when arriving on a company’s website. Since first impressions are crucial online (and since most visitors will only spend a moment or two before deciding whether to invest additional time learning about a product), a strong landing is a crucial factor in a startup’s growth.

The page should include a short description of the product, a few main benefits or use cases, and a clear call to action to compel the visitor to continue learning more or to sign up immediately. If you choose a real company, think about industries you like and identify a company whose conversion rate could be improved by a more effective landing page.

 

Mobile App Homepage

For this project, you’ll design the home screen of a mobile app of your choosing. For this project, you’ll choose an app and redesign the first screen you land on after logging in or signing up. The home screen of most mobile apps serves as an informational landing page or dashboard that showcases relevant information to a user depending on the function of the app

Think about the experience of a user just landing on a client’s app for the first time. How do you convey the necessary information simply and effectively while also clearly showing them the different options they have to navigate to other parts of the app? Get experimental with the structure for your page!

 

Conclusion

You can spend as long as you want on these projects, but we’d suggest limiting yourself to a couple of hours in order to get used to the types of constraints you’ll likely encounter in a full-time job. Most of all, have fun with it! Use these projects to experiment with different ideas, layouts, and graphic elements. If you’re happy with the final design, you can develop it into a more comprehensive portfolio piece using the projects in our Portfolio Starter Kit, but your initial focus when working on these mini projects should be on testing and experimentation.

Want more help coming up with ideas for detailed projects and then building them up into fully-formed portfolio projects? Consider our short-term Build Your Portfolio program where you’ll work with a mentor over a few weeks to create an amazing portfolio for yourself!

And if you want a more detailed step-by-step guide to help you work through projects like this, our Portfolio Starter Kit includes more detailed versions of the projects in this article as well as 30+ more projects and tons of resources to help you create an amazing portfolio!

Learn UX Design with Our New Partner

If you’re reading this, there’s a pretty good chance you’ve already started learning design skills online. There are a ton of amazing of ways to learn design online, and our goal at RookieUp isn’t to reinvent the wheel. Instead, we want to pick up where most online courses end, by helping you build an amazing portfolio of detailed design projects that will land you your dream job in the creative industry.

At the same time, we know that design education is an ongoing process and when you’re spending so much time building up your portfolio, it can be hard to make time to continue your education and find new sources of inspiration and learning.

So to help make things a bit easier as you deepen your knowledge of design fundamentals and principles, we’re excited to announce our new partnership with the Interaction Design Foundation, a global independent nonprofit initiative with one goal: to raise the level of design education through an incredible curriculum of UX Design courses and an amazing community of global designers.

Every week, Interaction Design Foundation publishes new articles, community discussions, and courses to help spread design education to an ever-growing audience of aspiring creatives around the world. We’ve spent the past few weeks going through some of their courses and are constantly amazed by the sheer quality and volume of content they’re been able to create and distribute at such low prices (and as a RookieUp student, you get 3 free months of access to all of their courses!).

If you’re curious about the type of content they have for new designers, check out their Become A UX Designer from Scratch and Get Your First Job as a UX Designer courses.

 

To give you a bit more info about their organization, we asked a few questions to Mads Soegaard, their Editor-In-Chief, about their mission and how they create their amazing curriculum.

 

How do you approach creating your courses?

The majority of content on our platform is completely free, with a quality superior to that seen in some of the best publishing houses in the world. We have contributing authors like Clayton Christensen (invented the term “disruptive innovation” and serves as a senior advisor to the White House) and Don Norman (invented the term “User Experience”).

For one course, we flew to Germany and spent several days recording a world-renowned German professor, Marc Hassenzahl, in order to create a completely free textbook on User Experience. All the videos are professionally edited and are completely free to watch.

We also flew to Cambridge University with a film crew, persuaded a museum let us film after closing hours, and had professional editors compress it to 2 short videos.

 

How large is your community across the globe?

We’re also proud of the fact that we currently have 471 Local Groups in 84 countries. The IDF Local Group Initiative has the goal of educating, stimulating and inspiring the global design community through vibrant local groups all over the world where people frequently meet up and have quality interactions. At these meetings, both members and non-members can meet up and smile, laugh, learn and advance their careers. A global movement to advocate great design and what great design can do for humankind. Nothing less.

 

How does your curriculum work?

The primary value added for members is unlimited free access to top quality courses in the field of UX design. Courses are self-paced so you can continue your day job while learning in your spare time, and receive industry recognized certificates on successful completion of courses.

There are instructors for every course to clear up any concerns, and members can learn with and from hundreds of peers across the globe. We encourage the community learning aspect as it’s a way to meet future friends, collaborators, and employers on.

Our courses combine both text and video based lessons, and are full of both case-studies for example-based learning, and interesting theory for research-based learning.

 

By now, hopefully you’re convinced that the Interaction Design Foundation is an amazing resource for you as you take steps to launch your UX career. And remember — RookieUp students get 3 months for free! So what are you waiting for? Go check out their courses and see how IDF can help you launch your UX career.

7 Projects You Should Include In Your First UX Portfolio

Pro-tip: We recently launched the ultimate short-term (and super affordable) mentorship-driven bootcamp to help you build an amazing design portfolio that will land you a job. Read about it and sign up right here!

As an aspiring UX designer, your portfolio is the most important asset you have in your job hunt. A well-researched, focused, and comprehensive portfolio can help to show employers your unique perspective as well as your deep expertise in a particular area. Taking a short-term and affordable UX Design Bootcamp is a great way to quickly learn the fundamentals and start building an amazing portfolio, but if you’re just starting to learn User Experience and User Interface design, you might be wondering what sorts of projects you should be working on to get a job as a junior UX or UI designer. Luckily, we chatted with tons of UX recruiters and designers over the past few months to ask that exact question and to hear their tips for building a UX portfolio full of amazing projects that truly stand out and showcase your abilities. In this article we’re going to outline the different types of UX/UI projects you might be working on in your your career. By the end of the article, you’ll understand the types of projects employers might expect to see in your portfolio and understand how each type of project can convey to recruiters that you understand the value of each project type from a business and user perspective.

Follow process and always consider the user

Before we dive into the 7 projects you should consider working on, we want to make a quick point of emphasizing how important it is to follow process when working on UX projects. Every employer and recruiter we talked to told us the number one thing that makes them pass on a portfolio is a lack of explanation or context. Many young designers make the mistake of diving straight into Sketch or another wireframing or prototyping tool before conducting necessary research. This is a bad idea! Employers want to see a portfolio site that explains why you made the decisions you made rather than just seeing the final deliverables mocked onto a desktop or phone. If you’re studying Visual Design, your final portfolio might be a bit more abstract, with designs based on your moodboarding, ideating, and sketching rather than deep industry research and usability testing. However, as a UX designer, it is crucial to base all of your design decisions on research and to constantly be iterating based on user feedback and usability testing. While a branding campaign or icon design project might be difficult to tie back to specific results, all of your UX/UI work will likely be directly tied to specific KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators) that your client or employer will use to determine whether the designs are successful at achieving their goal. So be sure to research your industry and client prior to starting any projects and then create personas and use cases so you understand how users will be interacting with your designs. And once you create an initial prototype, review your designs with users (this can be friends or mentors), watching how they interact with it and iterating accordingly.

The 7 projects every aspiring UX designer should work on

Here are the 7 types of UX projects that you’ll likely experience at some point in your career. We’d suggest trying out one or two projects in each category so you can at least be familiar with the process for creating each and also get the chance to see whether there is any particular part of the UX world that you’re especially passionate about.

Digital Publication or Blog

This might be a UX project type that you’d normally skip over, but multiple employers told us that being able to craft a unique digital blog or content site is a great skill to possess. While you might think that the availability of thousands of DIY blog templates available on platforms like WordPress and Squarespace makes the need to design a beautiful blog from scratch a thing of the past, this might make a case for the importance of this type of design work. Companies are putting more and more money into content marketing (creating owned written content that is used as a lead gen tool for acquiring inbound traffic) and most content marketing is tied directly to a business’s marketing budget and growth. Being able to design a unique blog that optimizes for lead capture and is beautiful enough to convince visitors to come back over and over again is a great skill to be able to promote in interviews! For this project, we’d suggest designing a homepage, category page, and article page. Your final deliverables should include sketches, wireframes, and a working hi-fi prototype of the final site including a basic Style Guide.

Ecommerce Website

If you’re interested in working in an industry that focuses on selling products (physical or digital), it’s probably a good idea to have some experience designing ecommerce sites. For an ecommerce project, you should focus primarily on maximizing conversion rate for visitors to the website, with a product search page that makes filtering and searching simple and intuitive, as well as a product detail page that makes it easy for visitors to gather information about the product and purchase it. While metrics are a key focus of any good ecommerce site, you should also try to create a compelling and unique visual look for the site to differentiate it from the millions of other ecommerce sites on the web. For this project, you should choose a client in an industry you like (you can either make up a fictional client that sells a product you’re passionate about or choose a client whose ecommerce site you think could benefit from a redesign) and design the Product Search, Product Detail, and Checkout pages for this client.

Lead Gen Landing Page

One of the simplest but most impactful UX projects you might work on for employers and clients is designing a simple landing page whose sole purpose is to convert visitors into signups or leads. This is generally done via signup forms, lead gen forms, or simple user registration widgets! Your job is to design a page that maximizes the number of visitors who submit their info (i.e. become leads) so the client’s sales team can follow up with them afterwards and try to convert them into paying customers. For this project, come up with a client in an industry you’re passionate about and think about the type of information you’d need to gather from a visitor to convert them to a lead. Also consider what information they’d be most interested in learning before being convinced to “convert”.

Mobile App Design

Mobile app design is one of the most popular UX/UI specialties and for good reason. People spend more time on their phone than on any other device, so being able to design simple and intuitive apps that delight users is a highly desirable skillset. For this project, think about problems you encounter in your everyday life and think about how a simple app product could solve those problems. This could be as simple as a productivity or reminder app or as complex as a social network. For this project, think about designing a simple onboarding flow, as well as the in-app screens and user dashboard or profile. Your final designs should include personas and use cases as well as sketches, wireframes, and a final prototype beautifully mocked up.

Email Drip Campaign

This is another one of those projects that might seem nonobvious or less-than-glamorous. However, it’s another project that can show employers that you understand their KPI’s and are able to convert those metrics into beautiful designs that help them grow their business. Emails are an important in the marketing and acquisition funnel of most companies and there’s a good chance you’ll have to design at least a few early in your career. For this project, you’ll identify a business client and design a series of 4 emails for them, designed to convert new subscribers or trialers into paying customers of their product. Come up with a product that these users have trialed and think about the flow of information they’d be receiving over the 4 email series, with a focus on moving them down the acquisition funnel.

Marketing Website

Similar to a lead gen page, a marketing website is a customer-facing site that a business or startup uses to promote and explain their product and to convert visitors into customers or trialers. For this project, come up with a client in an industry you care about. Think about how your design can showcase relevant information about the product and help them reduce their high drop off rate and help move visitors from the discovery phase (search engine, social media marketing) to the conversion phase on their marketing website. Research successful marketing websites to understand how brands optimize their marketing website for conversions.

Web App Design

Finally, we’d recommend working on a web app product. Similar to a mobile app, a web app is a digital product that users engage with via their computer. A few popular web apps are sites like Facebook, Gmail, or Trello. For this project, think about a problem that exists in your target industry that could be solved by a simple (or complex) app. Then design the signup flow, in-app screens, and dashboard for the app, presenting your final work as a comprehensive case study including sketches, wireframes, and a hi-fi prototype mocked onto a device.

What next?

Now that you know the types of projects employers want to see in UX/UI portfolios, jump into it! Try as many projects as you have time for and once you find yourself being drawn to a specific field of UX or UI Design, start to deepen your expertise in that area. Employers love to see subject matter experts who have experience across a variety of different types of work, so remember to keep practicing multiple types of work even if you decide to focus on just one. If you have an idea for a client or product you want to design, but aren’t sure how to get started or what process to follow, never fear! We developed our Portfolio Starter Kit and Career Bootcamps to teach you how to take your ideas and turn them into well-researched projects that follow the proper design process and will impress employers so you can stand out from the competition.

Introducing the RookieUp Career Bootcamps

Today we’re launching four new products on RookieUp to help solve a lot of the problems that aspiring creatives face as they get ready to launch their careers in an increasingly competitive job market. Our new products, the Career Bootcamps and the Portfolio Starter Kit, are based on feedback we’ve gathered from hundreds of people on both sides of the job field — both the new designers applying for jobs as well as the recruiters and managers hiring them.

We started RookieUp earlier this year to create a simple and accessible way for anyone, regardless of background, location, or personal connections, to easily connect with high quality professionals in creative fields and get feedback and advice in unstructured video-based mentor sessions. Our mission from the start was to help aspiring creatives improve their skills and launch their dream careers, but we weren’t quite sure what form that would ultimately take. But after being live for a few months, we started to see themes in the types of problems that most aspiring designers were facing, problems that no current platforms were solving.

Here are some of the recurring trends we’ve seen…

 

From mentor sessions

While we expected that a majority of mentees would want to focus on asking technical and conceptual questions to their mentors, it quickly became apparent that an overwhelming majority wanted to discuss how to improve their portfolios and land jobs in their field. Most mentees seemed comfortable with their ability to learn creative fundamentals and technical skills from other services, and wanted to work with mentors to build better portfolios so they could actually land jobs in the field.

The takeaway here is that while there are hundreds of amazing ways to learn design skills online, most aspiring designers still feel like they need significant help building up their portfolios and understanding how to position themselves to land jobs (even after finishing intensive bootcamps or online programs).

 

From employers

We started talking with recruiters and employers in the creative industry a few months ago to understand their perspective on the current design job market. The main feedback has generally fallen into two categories. First, there are a lot of junior designers entering the job market. A lot. With the surge of new bootcamps and online courses teaching design, it’s easier than ever to learn basic design skills, which has resulted in thousands of new designers applying for jobs every month.

The second theme is that many of the people applying for these jobs have nearly identical portfolios. Online courses and bootcamps assign the same cookie-cutter projects to every student, leading to thousands of portfolios filled with the same projects for the same theoretical clients. Projects like this make sense in the context of a fast-paced curriculum because they let students practice basic concepts and skills quickly, week after week. However, they don’t focus on the types of comprehensive problem-focused projects that young designers will actually be working on in full-time roles, and they completely ignore each student’s actual industry and role interests.

The takeaway here is that most current design courses largely ignore the importance of helping students work on comprehensive projects that are customized to their specific industry and role interests in favor of the scalability of assigning one-size-fits all projects. Simple projects that focus on individual concepts are a great way to learn the basics, but they aren’t enough to stand out to employers. But how can students learn the right design process they need to work through to create detailed projects when they’ve never been taught?

 

The Problem

The main problem has become pretty clear — while there are hundreds of platforms to learn creative skills, creative education generally stops short of helping students achieve their real end goals: starting a career in the creative industry. Even bootcamps that promote career placement opportunities generally stop helping students within a few weeks of graduating. Some graduates might land jobs quickly, but many are left wondering what they should do next. Those students then need to spend months on their own coming up with new projects and repositioning themselves to actually be attractive to employers. Even more so, programs that do offer career help only offer it to people going through their entire program. Once someone has already learned the basics of design and graduated, they’re on their own.

In a world where there are so many amazing ways to learn design, why, we wondered, were there no programs or schools that focused primarily on helping aspiring designers launch their careers after they’d already learned the basics. Why wasn’t there a program focused on helping new designers build up comprehensive portfolios, hone their skills, and learn to think like real designers?

The solution

So we built a product to help solve that problem. We’ve taken feedback from hundreds of people, spoken with recruiters across the creative world, and developed an affordable solution we think will be incredibly helpful to anyone looking to take the first step in their creative careers.

The Career Bootcamps

Our three new Career Bootcamps are 4-6 week programs where you’ll be paired with a mentor based on your specific career goals and then work with them to take major steps towards your career goals, whatever they may be. They’re built for people who have already started learning design, whether through a bootcamp, online course, or self-studying. The three bootcamps are…

  • The Build Your Portfolio Bootcamp is 4 weeks long and is focused on helping you create your first in-depth portfolio projects and hone your portfolio site.
  • The Get A Design Job Bootcamp is 6 weeks long and focuses on helping you build comprehensive portfolio projects, polish your portfolio site, practice your interviewing skills, perfect your resume and elevator pitch, and actually apply to jobs!
  • The Become A Freelancer Bootcamp is also 6 weeks long, and focuses on the same comprehensive portfolio projects in addition to helping you take major steps towards launching your freelancing career, as well as finding and building long-term relationships with clients.

At the core of our new bootcamps are projects – you’ll choose a series of projects and then work on them over the first four weeks of the bootcamp, getting multiple rounds of written feedback from your mentor each week and then finishing each week with a video session to go over the projects in more detail and discuss next steps.

As we were starting to outline the bootcamps, we realized that most online design briefs and project assignments were too generic and not particularly useful for someone just getting started in their career. If you’re just getting started, how do you know what design process to follow for a particular project, what deliverables you should include in the final designs, how to conduct research, and even how you should showcase the final product on your portfolio site? So we built the RookieUp Project Framework, the most comprehensive project framework you’ll find anywhere, that guides you step-by-step through the entire process of building up comprehensive portfolio projects while still allowing you to come up with clients, products, and problems that match your unique interests. Every student gets access to our 30+ Frameworks, which include the exact types of projects, ranging from Branding + Identity to App Design, that hiring managers want to see in junior design portfolios (trust us, we asked them)!

We’ll also have monthly Real Client briefs that students can work on with actual nonprofits and startups, in addition to frameworks for everything from starting your own side project to crafting your personal branding. We recognize that working under constraints and working on real world work are important skills to possess, so we’re doing everything we can to provide projects based on real clients, real problems, and real student interests.

In addition, the bootcamps provide tons of exclusive resources we’ve created to help students find jobs, build their portfolios, find clients, and more! We’ve also curated hundreds of hours of curriculum from the best sources of the web to help students continue their education even as they work to build up amazing portfolios, as well as exclusive perks to design tools like Sketch, Balsamiq, AND CO, Skillshare, and more.

For people who want our portfolio resources but don’t need the structured mentorship, we’re launching a fourth new product called the the Portfolio Starter Kit. It includes all the resources and frameworks from the Career Bootcamps (in addition to 25% off RookieUp mentor sessions), just without the mentorship. We know that many people like to work through things at their own pace, so we made sure to build an offering suited particularly for them. And the Starter Kit includes 25% off traditional RookieUp mentor sessions, so that mentorship is accessible even outside of the Bootcamps.

We’re so excited to release these new offerings into the world to help aspiring designers continue to improve their skills after they’ve already learned the basics. We’d love to hear from you if you have ideas, thoughts, or feedback on our new products.

10 UX/UI Projects to Help You Build Your Portfolio

Starting a new career in UX can be a daunting task, particularly when you’re starting from scratch. Maybe you’re a visual designer wanting to expand your design repertoire, or perhaps you’re a product manager wanting to cross the bridge into product design. No matter where you’re starting from, what is really going to help you along and make you stand out is building a portfolio of UX work.

Pro-tip: We recently launched the ultimate short-term (and super affordable) mentorship-driven bootcamp to help you build an amazing design portfolio that will land you a job. Read about it and sign up right here!

Building a portfolio can be very time consuming—most do it over months if not years. When you’re just getting started, sometime it’s helpful to work on simpler projects that can help you master the basics of User Experience design. These smaller projects will jumpstart your creative problem solving for end users, which will ultimately inform how you think through larger scale projects.

The first step to becoming a UX designer is to learn the principles and technical tools used throughout the creative process, but once you’ve done that—whether it was through a book, an online course, or even a bootcamp—what’s next? You’re probably itching to start designing your own projects. There is an endless list of potential projects you can work on to hone your skills and you’re probably overwhelmed and unsure of where to start, so we’ve put together a list of a few simple and universally applicable projects you will undoubtedly encounter as a professional UX designer, which are great places to start practicing. The projects listed here will be UX components that you’ll be designing and reimagining throughout your career, optimizing them for the company or product you’re working on. As such, being familiar with them, and able to design them with the end user in mind is crucial.

One of the most important things to do when working on portfolio projects is ensuring they fit the industry, field, and type of projects you want to be hired for in the future. If you’re interested in mobile app design for financial technology products, don’t fill your portfolio with web design projects you created for fictional zoo or soft drink companies. In general, use commons sense and only work on projects that are actually interesting to you. However, don’t let that stop you from going outside your comfort zone to learn new skills or areas of UX design.

Your Process

In order for the projects in this article to become good candidates to include in your portfolio, we’d recommend coming up with a specific client (real or fictional) that you’re going to build these projects for. Before beginning design work be sure to ask yourself some essential questions, and if the client is fictional, improvise the answers. Who is this product for? What problem is the product solving for them/what are they trying to achieve? What device will your user mainly be encountering your product on?

Next, be sure to organize that information in a way you understand and create a user flow. This can be simply written on post-it notes. The goal of a user flow is to visualize the path you want a user to take through your product to achieve their goal.

Then, allow your user flow to inform how to begin wireframing the product. Keep information architecture and design hierarchy in mind when wireframing—this is the phase to visually organize all of the information you’re trying to provide to your viewer, including calls to action.

Finally, once you are happy with your wireframes, begin a higher fidelity design process introducing color, typography, and graphics or imagery. Once you have a high fidelity mock-up of your product, it’s crucial to put it in front of potential users in order to watch them interact with your product and make iterations based on your observations. Since these may only be fictional products to start, getting input and feedback from a UX mentor can be a great place to start.

Now that we’ve laid out the basics for how to work through some of the projects, it’s time to get started! Here are some UX projects that will be applicable across pretty much any client/product you work with…

Landing Page

Think about the experience of a user just landing on a client’s website for the first time. How do you convey the necessary information about the product simply and effectively while also clearly showing them the different options they have to learn more, sign up, and navigate to other parts of the site? Design a basic landing page for your client. There’s no right or wrong information to include, but for anything you do include, be sure to justify it in your process and briefly explain why you’re showing it in the way you’ve chosen.

Subscribe / Lead Generation Page

Many clients will want to have lead generation pages that maximize the number of visitors who turn into email subscribers, or leads. Design a few possible lead gen pages designed to maximize conversions. Consider what information your client would logically want to capture from visitors, and how to make the email capture process as simple and intuitive as possible.

Signup flow

Similarly to the lead gen page, design a user signup flow that simplifies the signup process for anyone creating an account on your client’s website or app. For this, you can decide whether the signup flow should be web-based or app-based, depending on your client. Should the signup flow be a simple modal on one page or is it a multi-step process that requires you to capture more information than name and email?

Login Page

So your user has registered. Great! What does a login page look like for your client? Do they need to sign in manually or can they choose to sign in via an existing platform like Facebook or Google? What if they forget their password? What happens if they input the wrong password? Consider all of these to create versions of a login page for every possible scenario.

Settings

Once a user is signed in, how do they change their settings? Create a flow that guides a user through the relevant screens on the settings page. Consider things like changing passwords, adding/deleting payment info, tracking orders, and more. Remember to only include applicable elements for your client.

Profile page

So what does your user’s profile page look like? What information is actually relevant for them to provide in order to have the best possible experience on your site or app? This is another situation where less is more—don’t ask someone to include information about themselves that will never surface in their use of the product. Will this information be public facing or private? Does the information affect the look of the actual product or is it only used on their profile page?

Analytics Chart

This might not be relevant for every product, but if you are building a technology or SaaS product, there’s a good chance that paying users will have some sort of dashboard to view data, reports, or information about their customers or users. Consider your client and think about what sort of information their users might want easy access to? How do they want to view the data on this page? Should it be pivotable, sortable, downloadable? How do you want to present the different options for viewing reports?

Search Page

No matter what type of product you’re working on, there’s a good chance that there will be some sort of search functionality. For this, consider what the initial search screen looks like. Does it live as a bar at the top of the site or does a user need to click through to a dedicated search page? After searching, what does the results page look like? Can the user sort results by any specific criteria?

Donation page

Again, this might not be fully applicable to every client, but a donation page is something that many sites in the nonprofit or government space rely heavily on for their businesses. Create a Donation page—similarly to a Lead Gen page, focus on optimizing the elements of the page to maximize donations by visitors.

Product Page

For e-commerce websites and/or apps, design a product page laying out all of the products for sale. Are they categorized? Can you sort by product type, by color, by size, etc? How many products display per page? What information is displayed alongside the image? Perhaps there is a “Quick View” or an “Add to Cart” button. Is their pagination or an infinity scroll? These are all good questions to ask when designing a product page.

Product Detail Page

For e-commerce clients, design a sample product page for any of their purchasable items. What information and visuals do you need to convey? On a single page, how does a user change quantity, size, color, etc.? Are there user reviews on the page? If so, where do they surface? Do you show related products? If so, what aspects of the product dictate the type of related items to show to the user?

Shopping Cart Page

Once a user has added items to their cart and is ready to checkout, what does the final shopping cart page look like? Think about things they’d want to do on this page—maybe change quantity, delete items, and move to the final checkout page.

Checkout Flow

Once the user clicks “checkout” on the shopping cart, what pages do they need to go through to get to the final Confirmation page? When should they input credit card info in relation to seeing the final price with tax and shipping included? Where do you include the ability for them to redeem offer codes?

Help/Support Page

Finally, what does your client’s help or support page look like? Depending on the product, this could include various things. If it’s a Saas product, there might be a dedicated customer service team available for live chat or phone calls. If it’s a free-to-use product, there might only be a Q&A page and email address for serious issues. Consider how and when you want to present different options to people. Think about how you can answer as many user questions as possible before they feel the need to communicate with you directly via chat or email.

So there you go! We’d recommend picking 3 or 4 projects from this list that you think are the most important for your client’s (real or fictional) product and focus on them. Include high-level process and reasoning for your decisions in your final portfolio. Most recruiters recommend not writing pages and pages of process for a single project—just include the necessary information and justification for each aspect of your design to show that you are thinking about things from a user perspective and only making decisions when they are in the best interest of the user.

And if you want to review your projects with a professional UX designer, you can schedule mentor chats with a UX mentor at RookieUp anytime you need some inspiration, project feedback, or portfolio advice.