Acing the Whiteboard Challenge

Brittany Nguyen
3 min readSep 28, 2020

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When I first practiced my first virtual whiteboard challenge, I freaked out. Luckily, my friend Sarah Joung, a fellow product designer, was the proctor and kind enough to give me feedback on her best tips and practices — which worked well in my favor for a real whiteboard challenge a few days later! I’ve laid out the solid process below:

Prep

  1. Ask the proctor for expectation of solution. How do they want to see the breakdown of the solution? What would be easiest for them?
  2. Ask the proctor if they’re acting in a collaborative or an observer role.
  3. Ask for a timestamp at halfway point so that you’re not rushing at the end.
  4. Write down on the board with a bullet list of expectations and a high-level or stages for the challenge: understand, brainstorm & design, reflect.

Understanding the Problem (50%)

  1. Ask questions that takes into consideration of the user, business, and the design.

Design

  • What kind of device should this design be for?
  • What’s the goal of the design?
  • What are the physical experiences I should consider?

User

  • Are there multiple types of users that the company wants to target? If so, is there one that takes highest priority?
  • What are the common use cases?
  • What are their behaviors like?
  • What are the common user flows?
  • What does the typical user journey look like?
  • What benefits should I provide?
  • What are their motivations?
  • What are their frustrations?

Business

  • What are the constraints? (time, budget, resources, etc)
  • Who are the competitors?
  • How does this product tie into the business’s goals?
  • How is the business measuring success or KPIs?

Brainstorming & Designing (40%)

  1. Come up with 2–3 solutions.
  2. Make an impact vs. cost chart to choose a solution based on business needs.
  3. Write down the main steps of the story with one use case / user journey.
  4. Draw a few critical wireframe screens.
  5. User flow the wireframes.

Reflection (10%)

  1. Leave 10 minutes to tie back to original scope on how you solved the problem and why you took that approach.
  2. Recap on points of interest or challenges that had a significant impact on your work.
  3. Speak on next steps (user testing, iterations, etc.) or what you would’ve done with more time.
  4. Be prepared on how you would iterate current wireframes or alternative use cases.

General Tips

  1. Always think out loud your process and communicate every decision at each step.
  2. Efficiently organize your screen space so that it’s easy for the proctor to follow your process.
  3. Reword and state back all the facts to make sure you understand the problem.
  4. Iterate as you continue the challenge to show that you’re not stuck or tied down to one solution.
  5. When the interviewer asks a question about your design, listen and iterate based on the feedback. Defend your design only when needed.
  6. Always tie what you’re doing back to the expected outcome of the challenge and the problem being solved.

Well that’s it! This isn’t the only approach to doing a whiteboard challenge, but it is certainly a good one. Comment below if you think this process could be improved on.

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Brittany Nguyen