What I learned from my first UX Design Challenge

Maria Teresa Stella
5 min readJul 27, 2017

While in the process of interviewing with a company for a student intern position, I was asked to complete a challenge within 24 hours and present it to my interviewers. Here are some tips and observations I think you will find useful if you find yourself in a similar situation.

1. You have a lot of time on your hands

You are on fire!

The overwhelming feeling you get during the challenge is that you don’t have enough time to finish the project or that it might not be good enough. However during this experience I realized that, if you put your mind to it, you can accomplish a great deal in a few hours. So don’t despair!

If you have ever participated in events such as hackathons, you’ll know what I mean.

2. Organization and method is key

We all have been this guy at least once!

Before the challenge is sent to you, make sure your workspace is ready with all of the materials you might need (e.g. paper, stationary, laptop, a whiteboard, etc.).

More importantly, make sure that you have a methodology to keep as guideline for your UX project: it will help you make sure you have covered all the necessary steps to create a meaningful concept and will prevent you from freaking out.

For my challenge, I adopted the method which was taught to me during a Design Thinking workshop by an Experience Designer from Digital McKinsey:

  1. Create user personas (1+)
  2. Imagine the user’s journey together with its pain points
  3. Create a concept to solve the user’s problems
  4. Imagine the new user’s journey where the pain points are solved by your concept
  5. Prototype
  6. Present!

This method helped me to think more about the user’s needs to improve the concept without losing focus.

3. Practice makes.. faster

When it comes to the prototyping phase, you might find yourself creating several wireframes in order to present your concept features at best.

As I was learning about Visual Design 8 months ago, it took me quite a while to create my first design project as I still had to learn the basics of design itself and of the Adobe softwares. However during the rest of the academic year I had the chance to improve and expand my skills by participating in several projects which required the creation of posters, presentations, wireframes and so on. This helped me become quicker in creating basics designs.

Same course project, February vs May: you can tell something changed!

Undoubtedly I still have a long way to go, but at least I know that I can create basic artwork fast and polish it later by asking feedback to other designers or to potential users.

So if you have the time and means, put yourself to the test! (for example with the DailyUI challenge — I have started it myself recently!)

4. Keep up with the latest news

If you have a look at what’s going on in the tech and in the startup world, it will be easier for you to think of new ideas for the design challenge, as you have a bigger insight on what can be achieved nowadays and what is still missing. Just following some FB pages / Twitter or LinkedIn accounts such as TheNextWeb, Verge or Insider will do the trick!

5. Save time.. borrow.

An example of an iOS GUI kit from https://www.sketchappsources.com/

If you are creating a concept for a website or an application, take advantage of all the UI kits available on the web for most wireframing softwares. It will help you save a lot of time on the small details that make your prototype look more high-fidelity (e.g. the battery indicator on a smartphone interface) and help you keep the right proportions for your design.

Looking for inspiration on Pinterest, Dribble and in other design communities can also help. But don’t steal!

6. Focus on the process

Using pre-made wireframe templates like this is another time saver! (source: http://www.tripwiremagazine.com/free-printable-sketching-wireframing-templates/ )

When you are presenting the result of your work for the challenge, make sure that your UX Design process is reflected in your presentation. For example, you can show the result of a survey with potential users or say which features of your concept you decided to discard and why. This will help to show your skills to your interviewers.

7. Never forget your users

Sometimes bad feedback can be harsh but it’s for the best!

If you create online surveys with potential users or have the chance to interview them directly, both before and after the creation of the prototype, the quality of your concept will improve significantly. Keep in mind that the concept you are desigining is meant to solve a problem that the target users have and so they should be involved in the design process as much as possible.

8. Sell it!

When you are showing the result of the design challenge to the interviewers, present it to them as you were selling a final product. Keep it simple and as less academic as possible. This presentation is the one that has helped me the most not only during the design challenge but for other projects as well.

I hope these tips were helpful :) Good luck with your design challenge!