My note to Mr. Bias

Mr. Bias wanted folks to look over his new portfolio, and I was happy to help. He’s a new UX/UI Designer and what little appears on his site is promising. Here’s what I had to say:

Hey there.

I like a lot of what you have here, and you were smart to grab your own domain name. I’m sure it’ll look more impressive once you have a couple more projects on there.

As a hiring manager (who is, alas, not hiring at the moment) I’m interested in

  • seeing what your contribution to the project was (especially your THINKING contribution to the project)
  • seeing how decisions were made and what you learned along the way
  • seeing those insights made visible in the mockups or prototypes

I even have a rubber stamp that I use on resumes to see what characteristics or capabilities I can find clues about in a person’s materials:

  • Research (user research and secondary research)
  • Prototyping (self-explanatory)
  • Testing (user testing!)
  • Graphics (not a strict requirement for a UX role, but often helpful)
  • Delivery (quality of deliverables – are they organized, explanatory, easy to follow)
  • Communication (is organized thinking made obvious in speech and writing)
  • and bonus skills (is there anything else this person can do that might be useful or reflects intellectual curiosity)

So I’m watching for signs of people being interested in these topics, doing them, and hopefully doing them well or progressively better. Happily all of these things are expressible or at least hintable in an online portfolio such as yours.

Your writeup for Pay the Poet is straightforward and sensible, but it leaves me wanting a little bit more re the above items, especially what you (or the team) learned. I think this is mainly because you have some fairly uninformative statements in there such as “Poets love the Instagram UI.” This is a bit of a “so what”—what do they love about the UI? Emotionally, functionally, etc.? You do mention that they are used to Insta’s upload interface, which is specific. Specificity, plainly spoken, is your friend here.

Another, “PayPal is a popular and secure method of payment that users trust” hints that there’s more there, but you don’t go further. What other payment vehicles did you ask about? Is anything important beyond trust?

These things seem to me pretty easy to fix, but will require some introspection.

On the other hand, there’s a whole line of inquiry that could be useful to discuss coming off of “Poets want exposure and a means to build a following.” This is the sort of meaty starting point for an interesting app + service. Right after that you say “Poets want to be able to connect with fans and those who seek to book them.” I like this one too. I wonder if you have more to say about these.

Take care with statements like “after our first stand-up, we decided to create a screener survey which informed us what type of digital product to create”—a survey never tells you want to do, but that’s what you are saying here. My guess is that your interpretation of the survey results gave you clues about the way forward that you then needed to explore, yes? Probably not answers per se.

I like the “How Might We”s and wonder what more you might say about them that’s specific.

I like that you called out your specific contributions later on in the write-up. I’m hopeful that your other writeups will show off other capabilities. Early in a UX career there’s not much room for specialization.

It would be nice to know what unique or interesting interactions you were attempting to express in your wireframes. Wires on their own are rarely sufficient to explain to a developer what you are trying to make, and I’m watching for clues that you can relate the concepts you’ve put there in words as well as pictures.

I like that you express some insights from user testing. This is evidence of learning, an important signal for folks beginning their careers.

Did you or the team think of potential future work for this product? Features that aren’t core now but might be useful later? This isn’t required, but it’s a clue that you are thinking about the user’s needs and the product outside of the immediate context.

I hope this helps. Please feel free to ask me questions if you like.

Also, I dig your About page. There’s a kernel in there that might be useful in discussions with hiring managers, or could even get more play elsewhere on your site. Poor UX in software, hardware, services, or what’s often called CX (customer experience across channels) leads directly to customer pain and support calls, making products and services less profitable. At Belkin this was a real issue – if we made a design or technical mistake in the setup of a product, each individual call would suck up all of the profit for the device the user had purchased. So there was a lot of pressure to learn about the problems users were bringing to customer service to try to keep costs down through design and development – through improving quality. You are uniquely positioned to make good use of what your brethren in customer service are learning every day from customers.

Later in the discussion I finally made the point that I seem to have to make with every new designer:

I can guess that you did a lot of the right activities and learned some stuff when you speak in generalities, but learning and good thinking is made obvious when you speak in specifics. There’s something a little bit “college essay” about generalities, and business demands specifics. So if there’s something interesting or surprising you learned that mattered to the project, telling me specifically about that, in plain language, is more powerful.