Why is it so difficult to stop and give a thought about our own presentation? I bet you've heard that your design is very good; it favors many people, that it has quality and depth. In other words, the products to which you devote many hours of your life are not for you. That's alright. Then it's time for you to make use of your own work, with due permission, adding it to your portfolio to tell the story of this project. Then you face a problem: The information needed to build a complete case hasn’t been documented (more common for UX Designers) or you realize how big the work is when revisiting a project in order to make it a presentable case (more common for UI Designers). Shall we deal with it?
Guess what we did? We talked to users. We interviewed several UX/UI Designers, from different expertise and companies, in different times, and we came to very interesting results. In short, this is basically the chain effect, where one thing pulls the other:
If you don't have enough information or what you’ve got needs to be redone, you can't build the storytelling. Without the storytelling, you can't make the case. Without the case, you can't update the portfolio. Here's the problem: You need to do this during the project, not when it's finished.
In our research, we raised 3 main points that create a blockage for the construction of a portfolio that faithfully represents it, based on the generators of the chain effect mentioned above.
When Monday comes and you had promised yourself you would invest time in the portfolio, there you go in search of project X information to build the case. Pick up a form from here, layout from there, wireframe from somewhere else and all the sketches are loose in the folder. With all that (or just that) in hand, you realize what's ahead: Remembering, gathering information, writing, searching for images.
As a result, and obviously, you can’t finish the same the day you start. Therefore, the tendency is simply not to finish, postponing it day after day. Also finding time to stop again, putting all the pieces together and creating the content become even more difficult, and a sense of guilty just increases.
When you reach that point of withdrawal, you realize that there are always those who say that the portfolio is not necessary, since there is already a constant harassment of companies and recruiters looking for someone with your profile. Let's agree to disagree: A new opportunity should not be the only goal of the portfolio. It is what puts you among the best in your business and inspires the less experienced people. Think: What would it be like for you as a professional without the references and influence of other more experienced people who have showed their skills?
In short, don't allow yourself to be carried away by the power of the chain effect. Are you aware that most people define their level of maturity through the way they are seen? In other words, your positioning makes all the difference to your career development. It's not the number of projects, either the salary, or the way you see yourself. For people who are already close to you in their day-to-day work, coming to a conclusion about yourself it quite easy. But how about the rest of the community? And how about the businesses?
Being more practical, we will separate different formats of documentation, considering the two main modalities we use: UX Designer (and specialties) and UI Designer (or similar aspects), as it follows:
Have the habit of writing down everything that happens in your daily life, like a diary. It's very important to go through the digital line: If you like to handwrite no problem, but be aware that everything will have to be typed, and that on paper there is no search bar. Bearing that in mind, and in order to be preparing to feed this document, get organized first, creating a script of your documentation process. Having this model defined, you will be able to implement it in all your next projects, simultaneous or sequential.
Name everything and everyone
It is essential to have a general notion of the whole universe of the project. Client, problem, people involved, time window, main prerequisites / blockers, and whatever else you consider relevant. With this information, you will always know the context in which you are inserted, which will connect the points at the time of compiling all the material collected.
Write it down. Write it down. Write it down. And don’t forget to write it down
Literally produce content and come out from scratch. No blank leaves. This is not the time to worry about things like grammar and information organization; from these "random" notes will come the main highlights for you to use later. Consider at this point the steps, findings, tools, team productivity, leadership, external interventions, results, business impact, etc., besides your emotions and impressions. It's also important to set the time in days or weeks.
Define the conclusion
All learning and results need to come to a single end. The conclusion may be the most important part of the documentation, because you must do it as soon as the project is finished. Leaving it for later is where the danger lies. While everything is still fresh in the memory, it's the perfect time to gather notes together, organize, correct mistakes, and finally create the long-awaited final document. With it, you'll be able to measure what went right or wrong, where you could have done differently, what it would have been like if you had had more time or money and so on, and of course produced a complete dossier - and ready to go to your portfolio.
For them the task is just as important, but the challenge seems greater when the vast majority is naturally inclined to disorganization. So if you are in this majority, immediately create the habit of always keeping yourself very well organized because if this is not done during the project, it will be much more difficult and laborious afterwards.
Find out about the visual scenario
Similarly to UX Designers, have a good overview of the whole project universe. Knowing the whole context, do your own creative immersion: Ask/produce everything related to the brand to know/establish your own creative limits, create boards looking for references, prepare all the visual components you need and study all the material intensively so as not to miss the basics.
One of the most difficult points in the life of a UI Designer is to maintain the order of his own files. Naming layers and artboards, treating and converting images to their proper sizes while keeping the originals, saving different versions of the same file, organizing folders with matching names, and exporting components correctly are among the main practices that avoid later problems.
Needless to mention, just showing the final screens is not ideal. You need to set the recruiter up from the beginning of your creative process, going through different stages to then show the final deliverable, so that everything makes sense in people's minds as being effectively the result of the process. In times of millions of templates and ready-made components, proving your creative ability through a process is essential. Create sequential sections and feed them with visually organized images, adding direct descriptions. This production must take place, just as UX Designers were quoted at the end of the project.
In both cases imagine how happy the client or project owner would be to receive a complete dossier of his project, and not only that, but also to know that you are proud of the work delivered. In this scenario, absolutely everyone profits. Your final product gets better, your client is satisfied, and your portfolio is updated on its own.
There is one more crucial point: We cannot trust our memory. It's impossible to remember everything that happened during the projects - but pay attention: they are what make up the bullets that we need to enrich the portfolio and add them to the curriculum or social media. The moments of challenge and solution are the ones that generate the most interesting information for recruiters. For your thesis to have the richness and solid foundation of the sum of all the events, be sure not to miss the opportunities to register.
Having the habits mentioned above will give you not only give you a timely view of the project status, but also a global view of the evolution of your career as a whole. One of the most important things in one’s career is to be able to look at these cases one after the other and really realize one’s own evolution. Memories go with the times, but what is well documented cultivates memories.