Design challenges are a common part of landing your first UX job. Although they can be intimidating, these challenges are an excellent tool for expanding your skills and showing off your talent to potential employers.
In this installment of the Guac, we will describe the different types of UX design challenges and share how you can find participate in one yourself.
Grab some chips and let’s dig in!
In general, there are two types of UX design challenges:
You may encounter both or neither of these challenges during your UX career journey. Although they differ in approach and scope, both types of challenges can help advance your skills and career.
A competition-based design challenge is an opportunity for a UX designer to showcase their technical skills, tackle new problems, and add a fresh project to their portfolio.
These challenges can be found all over the internet. They typically involve designing solutions for various institutions, from government nonprofits to large corporations. An example of one recent design competition was the Adobe XD Creative Jam for Scholastic Book Fairs, which prompted participants to create a new mobile app for sharing books among children.
In these challenges, participants often compete as part of a team, with two or more designers working together. This experience provides UX designers a chance to practice collaborating with others to enhance their soft skills, such as communication and receiving feedback. As such, joining a design competition is a great way to start building your professional network!
Employers use this type of UX design challenge during the hiring process. Design exercises help the hiring team observe an applicant’s thought process, technical skills, and problem-solving abilities.
The whiteboard challenge is performed live in front of the interview team and usually lasts around one hour. During this challenge, the applicant receives a design prompt and is asked to show their solution and process on a whiteboard.
The take-home design challenge is similar, but it instead allows the applicant to work on the design prompt at home over several hours or days. The applicant often completes these challenges using a UX design program like Figma or Sketch.
Although many second and third-round interviews for UX roles utilize these design exercises, they are not universal. UX designers can land a role without ever encountering a design challenge. Still, it’s a good idea to become familiar with design challenges as you begin your job search.
It’s also important to be aware that, in some instances, it may not be a good idea to perform a design challenge. If the design prompt is based on the interviewing company's product or service, they may be asking you to perform free labor. An ethical interviewer will provide a design prompt that evaluates your design process and critical thinking skills, without asking you to improve their product for free.
Performing UX design challenges is a great way to expand your portfolio and show interviewers your UX skills. However, these challenges can also be very stressful, since they involve competition, presenting your ideas in front of others, and finding design solutions in a short time frame.
To help prepare for these challenges, you can always try a few practice prompts to learn how to handle them. There are many design challenge generators online, such as Sharpen or Designercize, that provide prompts to help you improve.
You can also enter a competition-based design challenge, many of which are free to join and offer prizes for the best entries. Plus, competitions hosted by organizations like Adobe Creative Jams and Crowwwn are just plain fun!
If you’re curious about the UX field and want to learn from an experienced professional, schedule a free mentorship call with Avocademy! We’ll help you get started on your UX learning journey so you’re ready to tackle any design challenge that comes your way.