Understanding how to Approach Whiteboard Challenges

  • Do you ask questions to gain clarity on the goal?
  • Do you focus on the users and their personal contexts?
  • Do you make valid assumptions and ask important questions?
  • Do you understand the fundamental design principles?
  • Do you mention weaknesses and improvements in your solution?
  • Redesign the ATM
  • Set up a cash payment system for our company
  • Design an ordering interface for an airport restaurant

Do’s and Don’ts During a Whiteboard Challenge

Do:

  • Work out loud. While you’re going through this exercise, talk through the decisions you’re making, the rational that’s going through your head as to why you’re making those decisions and share your design process.
  • Take a collaborative approach. Use your resources in the room to ask questions, clarify actions and use them as a sounding board for ideas.
  • Try to define the goal of the problem. Ask questions and be thorough about gaining an understanding of the whole problem space.
  • Don’t jump to crafting the solution straightaway. This may be an indication that says you haven’t thought through the problem properly and you haven’t given the time to really understand the context and background.
  • Don’t spend too much time on certain sections. This may leave you rushing at the end of the challenge, so don’t be afraid to ask the interviewer to give you a time check every now and then. This shows them that you’re quite considerate about time management and want to make sure you have enough time to get through your whole design process.

Approaching the Whiteboard Challenge in Steps

  1. Articulating the problem statement up on the whiteboard
  2. Gain an understanding of the context and goal
  3. Identify the main steps throughout the journey
  4. Sketch a few main screens to tackle the challenge (with labels)
  5. Summarize

Breaking down each Step

  1. Articulating the problem statement up on the whiteboard
  • Ask clarifying questions here. You may even want to recap, or repeat back to them your interpretation of the problem statement.
  • It’s really important that you have a good understanding of the problem space.
  • You want to make sure that you have a good understanding of what it is that they’re trying to achieve. What should we be striving for? This will be really helpful when it comes to making design decisions along the way.
  • When in this stage, ask your interviewer as many questions as you need. Maybe you’re wondering: Why is this a problem? What’s been done before? Is there already a solution in place? What has or hasn’t worked?
  • Try and get an understanding of who the key users are and what their role is in this problem. Use these questions to help yourself build a narrative that will help guide the story as you go throughout the rest of the process.
  • Set up assumptions and constraints. This will help you narrow your focus, you might set yourself a technical constraints.
  • It’s safe to assume that all the preliminary research has been done so we there is some foundational research and insights to allow for the design process to move forward and allow you to start making some decisions.
  • You may want to mention cross functional partners and how you might collaborate with others on your team. For example, you might get to a point and say: “here I would probably take this through user research so we can do some testing and get some valuable feedback from users.”
  • You are allowed to involve the designer or interviewer, during this problem solving part. You might want to prompt them to discuss what you’re working on and use them as a sounding board: “what do you think of this idea or do you mind walking me through that again?” This helps to make sure you’re on the same page and can help you get some signals from the interviewer of how you’re doing throughout the challenge.
  • Identify main steps and potential opportunities throughout the journey.
  • Think about the different users involved throughout the main steps.
  • Feel free to write potential opportunities down, articulate them and share with the interviewer: ideas you’re thinking about and how these are coming about. Run with the ideas that feel like a good solution to the problem at hand, are natural or exciting! Trust your ideations.
  • Focus on the key screens or a basic user flow. You don’t need to complete the end to end user journey, you can just pick an interesting part of it or just one of those opportunities that you uncovered earlier in the process. Focus on that as your approach to help solve the problem.
  • Let the interviewer know which parts you’re deciding to focus on. And maybe a little bit why you’ve chosen that part as well. Talk about your constraints and your assumptions that you set earlier.
  • Label your sketches with details about the different elements and key functions of the design.
  • It is important to summarize and talk through your solution at the end. This means, summarizing the story, walk through the flow and uncover some new opportunities or realizations about something that isn’t working quite as you thought it would.
  • It’s okay to make some small changes, self awareness is key and you don’t have to get the design perfect on the first try.
  • Talk about some alternatives. For example, what you might do if you had more time or had more resources available to you.
  • Taking time to do the summary at the end shows that you value the importance of critique and iterating on your work.

UX Design Challenge Resources:

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