Futureheads

Do User Researchers need a portfolio?

Andrew Rogers

Andrew Rogers

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In the past 18 months, we have seen the demand for user researchers explode and it is great to see businesses finally take this part of the design life cycle seriously. The contract market has become a very lucrative place for researchers. This is partly down to the government sector paying attractive day rates but this has snowballed into other industries as well as impacting the permanent market. In the past five years, research has always played second fiddle to the more recognised UX Architect role but now they are on a level playing field, if not slightly edging it. One question we are continuously asked is "how do I showcase my projects and do I need to be creating a portfolio?"

With this in mind, what do you need to demonstrate your skills, tools you use and more importantly project experience? The normal outputs from your projects can range from expert reviews, competitor analysis, user testing reports or workshops with clients. This is all good stuff but doesn't always look easy on the eye and can be difficult to convey. In addition, you might only be involved in part of the project e.g. discovery phase to help identify the requirements for the project or coming in at the end to validate designs before going live. 

I think a key part to any user researchers marketing toolkit is a well-written CV but also with a 2-3 detailed one-page case studies. The CV should demonstrate your skills and notable projects you have been involved in over the past five years but should also highlight all the good stuff. If you have been involved in setting up processes, building labs or implementing tools. Get this up front and central in the intro summary rather than hiding it in the body of the CV. 

As mentioned, I think the best option is to create 2-3 case studies. These can be one-pagers that simply outline the project but allow you to cut through the noise using bullet points to focus on your input. I do suggest similar tips in my UX portfolio tips article but i would suggest a much leaner version. 

  1. Choose three projects that vary in industry or role you played. E.G. user testing versus exploratory research
  2. Have an intro about you and also highlight the quant and qual tools you have employed along with the soft skills
  3. Create consistency. Have a template structure for a project then roll it out across the others. This is good for introducing new case studies
  4. Make sure you set the scene by explaining the client, brief and your role. However keep it light and punchy - use bullet points and facts
  5. Use numbers where possible. E.g. 5 rounds of testing, 25 participants, etc
  6. Include any images that you think are relevant e.g. workshops, competitor analysis
  7. Key learning/takeaways – always a good way to show what you have learnt from the project and would do differently next time
  8. Results - what did you deliver and what were the measurable of success

The market for researchers is the best it's ever been but making sure you stand out from the rest or at least present your skills and experience in the best light possible, I believe you need to have some tangible case studies. 

If you would like to chat in more detail, even implement the above for one project for me or the UX team at Futureheads to review then please get in touch at andrew@wearefutureheads.co.uk