I understand that, for someone who’s just starting to put together a portfolio without any “real” projects under his belt, made up projects and scenarios are acceptable pieces of work to include. Perhaps I should’ve asked this question before going forward with my current personal project, but while fabricating a portfolio-building project with made up problems and solutions, specs/requirements and features is supposed to be okay.

  • Is it okay to also make up the results of the “pretend research” that was supposed to have gone behind it? I don’t mean reviewing analytics/stats/numbers.
  • How about the more audience-engaging, interactive aspects of research like interviews and surveys?
  • Stakeholder meetings?
  • Do I make up the users based on my own educated guesses?
  • Do I just look at the nature of the project and derive specs and requirements from these fictional users and stakeholders based on what I see as the current shortcomings/opportunities for improvement of the website or product?

My gut tells me it’s completely fine to do so, but I feel like it’s too easy to just conjure up scenarios and solutions. Is this okay?

  • 2
    I feel faking Stakeholder meetings, interviews, surveys will do more harm than good when you will be asked to explain your roleplay during portfolio presentation. Instead, I would suggest you assume specs and provide the WHY or Pros and Cons behind it. – tridip1931 Mar 27 '19 at 3:28
  • @tridip1931 so funny that you posted that when you did! Was just reading another one of many articles about how ultimately the WHY and HOW trumps the WHAT in terms of the demonstration behind one’s work. But thank you for the response! – user112471 Mar 27 '19 at 3:34
  • @tridip1931 would just like to make sure I’m understanding this correctly: whether this actually improves the product or website and wins the stakeholders’ praise isn’t as important (at least at this stage of my career) as clearly articulating the reasoning behind my approach TO and TOWARDS the solution. Correct? – user112471 Mar 27 '19 at 3:38
  • Yes, you got it correct. Since you are just starting out, the recruiters will be more interested in how you articulate things and tooling skills (Sketch, Figma etc). – tridip1931 Mar 27 '19 at 3:46
  • @tridip1931 very much appreciated 😄 – user112471 Mar 27 '19 at 3:47

You don't need and SHOULDN'T do that. The whole idea is that you work with data and the outcome of your work is data driven. If you make up numbers, your prospective employers may think "so, what is this employee going to do for me? make up stuff?" or simply don't care since you're not solving any real problem or doing any effort to get real data.

Now, the thing is that you CAN get real data. There's data anywhere, everywhere. Just get any public statistics on something and solve a problem related to those stats.

Remember you don't need to solve usability issues on every project, so it's OK if you don't perform usability testing. But even then, you can do have some colleagues or family or friends to help you as interviewees , or you can use remote tools like Hotjar or Google Analytics.

Also, you can offer an NGO to do some work pro bono, or help some friend with a site, or whatever. This will help you get more credibility with employers, you'll have "real life" experience and you'll probably get some recommendation letters or testimonials

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    Devin, thank you for that. The over analysis was starting to derail me. I look back and “oh... right.... of course.” – user112471 Mar 28 '19 at 3:31

The ability to test is also everywhere. Usability is not just about websites and mobile apps. It is about the world at large. I would suggest people watching. Go out and watch people and see where they stumble. When you start seeing what feels like something above the 20% of user population making the same kinds of errors start tracking, break the problem down with heuristic evaluation techniques. Then design a solution. Present the solution to friends and family for candid feedback and capture that as design testing interviews / paper prototyping. Compile all the information and present that as a case study for your portfolio.

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