When I interview someone, I usually give a written design challenge and spend about 20 minutes on it with the candidate.
Unfortunately, people weren’t doing very well. So, I decided to upgrade my design test to v2 and try and make it clearer and easier to get good design out of people. Of course, I am not going to show you the new v2 test! However, I will show you the one I just retired.
You are designing part of an admin interface for http://FranksJokes.com (made up site)
The public website is already designed. It has 30 categories and many thousands of jokes. Every joke is categorized and rated (1-10).
There is already a system in place where jokes are pulled in from different sources. They come in fairly flat, just the joke. They are put into an internal database to be categorized and rated by Frank. The system automatically acquires 200 jokes per day.
Frank is the sole curator and need to process (categorize and rate) all of the incoming jokes. Unfortunately, Frank is falling behind. He wants to get through the jokes much faster.
Design a new admin interface that helps Frank process jokes as quickly as possible. Speed is the #1 criteria. Saving every second helps.
- A joke can be in more than one category.
- The types of overall categories are managed in a separate admin screen. (Don’t design)
- Only existing categories can be chosen.
- Ratings are 1-10. (more = funnier)
- Frank will do anything you ask if it will let him go faster.
Infrequent User Stories
- Frank makes a mistake and needs to search for the joke and fix it.
- Frank edits the text of the joke to fix a typo.
- Frank deletes a joke because it is not a joke.
The biggest problem was that there were too many details. My new design challenge is much simpler.
People made many kinds of mistakes, but here are a few common ones:
- Limited thinking Why only design a browser? Why not build a tablet or smart phone app? What about speech recognition? What about machine learning?
- Designing from fear. It’s hard to design if you are overwhelmed with fear and nerves. Relax. Just go for it and come what-may. Don’t talk yourself into a bad design.
- Bad interaction design. A radio button is round and a checkbox is square. Don’t mix that up, or their behaviors.
- Seeing more than one joke at a time. I have no idea why, but EVERYONE put multiple jokes on the screen at once. Frank can’t READ more than one joke at a time so it seems 100% distracting from the task and 0% value-add. Many people hid 90% of the joke and Frank would have to click to open it. This is definitionally slower than having the joke take up the whole screen. Drive me crazy how people would insist this is right, even though it is unhelpful at best.
- Writing words and not designing. It’s a design challenge. Stop writing requirements down. You are just trying to avoid the design exercise.
- No search or progress bar or delete button or edit button. All of the infrequent use cases were tosses on the floor. Design is hard. You need to incorporate all of the elements and capabilities.
- Slow motion. I know it’s like Top Chef Quick Fires. I am judging on your ability to go really fast. It’s not fair to slower thinkers. Life is not always fair.
Hopefully my next design challenge will elicit more creativity and intellect than this one.