UX Candidate Design Challenge – v1

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 challenge

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

  1. Frank makes a mistake and needs to search for the joke and fix it.
  2. Frank edits the text of the joke to fix a typo.
  3. 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:

  1. Limited thinking Why only design a browser? Why not build a tablet or smart phone app?  What about speech recognition?  What about machine learning?
  2. 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.
  3. Bad interaction design.  A radio button is round and a checkbox is square.  Don’t mix that up, or their behaviors.
  4. 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.
  5. Writing words and not designing.  It’s a design challenge.  Stop writing requirements down.  You are just trying to avoid the design exercise.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.


16 responses to “UX Candidate Design Challenge – v1”

  1. jvaln Avatar

    “Seeing more than one joke at a time. I have no idea why, but EVERYONE put multiple jokes on the screen at once.” — Because “Frank will do anything you ask if it will let him go faster”, so he WILL DO read more than one joke at a time. Seeing more than one joke at a time allows Frank to approve, edit, delete, categorized jokes faster – because “Speed is the #1 criteria. Saving every second helps.”

    It’s not a universal truth that “A radio button is round and a checkbox is square.”. For example, iOS checkboxes are round.

    “Writing words and not designing. It’s a design challenge. Stop writing requirements down. You are just trying to avoid the design exercise.” — I have to disagree. Design does not equate drawing. You can design with writings if it communicates well.

    “Slow motion. I am judging on your ability to go really fast. It’s not fair to slower thinkers.” — That means you failed assessing the time and scope for this challenge. It should be enough time to finish the test even for slow designers and then you can judge them on how far they go given the same period of time.

    1. Glen Lipka Avatar
      Glen Lipka

      Don’t sugar coat it jvaln. If you don’t like it, just say so. You are just being vague.
      Regarding the checkboxes, the person in question made a circle with a bullet in it. (A radio button) and allowed multiple ones to be selected. She was in a browser. It’s confusing and not standard UI.

      Other than that, I didnt read your comment that closely. Felt like a rant.

  2. Jeff Standard (@TheJeffStandard) Avatar

    Glen, interesting design task.
    I’m getting geared up to start interviewing folks for a UI/UX opening at my company. Had a couple of questions about how the exercise was conducted.

    – How much time did you give them to design vs. discuss?

    – Re: #2, was this just general nerves? I’m really interested in what you did with the new design challenge to alleviate this one.

    – Re: #5, what was the issue here? Were people substituting words in place of their designs? Wondering if this could have been solved by giving them a piece of paper with the requirements on it.

    Thanks for the post, helps make sure I won’t make the same mistakes!

  3. Glen Lipka Avatar
    Glen Lipka

    The whole interview usually is 45-60min. Maybe 1/2 the time is the design exercise.

    #2 Maybe nerves. Maybe just not talented. I don’t know.

    #5 they were stalling, just writing things. like, “Usable” and “Jokes”

    I did give them written requirements.

    Hope this helps. 🙂

  4. Ryan Avatar

    Hey Glen!
    I’ve read this challenge a few times. The question that keeps coming to mind for me is: Why does the site franksjokes.com exist? Why do people use come to franksjokes.com? What are people doing with the site when they use it?

    1. Glen Lipka Avatar
      Glen Lipka

      The same reason any joke site exists.

      Do a google search for jokes: There are tons of them. Are you being serious with this question? It’s not complicated. Are you a robot or real person?

  5. Rohit Jesudian Avatar

    I am gearing up for an interview at one of the Big 4 techies and these are really helping me. Never had to do a UX design challenge for an interview before so I appreciate it. Thought I would throw up some of my ideas for solving this and would appreciate any crit or feedback you might have. PS. sorry for the ugliness. https://www.dropbox.com/s/6xxsf4wr965ssi7/Jokes%20App%20Idea.jpeg?dl=0

    1. Glen Lipka Avatar
      Glen Lipka

      @Rohit Great job. A perfectly reasonable interface. I imagine you could do more to detect categories based on pattern matching, but a decent UI.

      1. Rohit Jesudian Avatar

        Definitely worth considering Glen. Would you have any suggestions of good examples or ideas of that?

        1. Glen Lipka Avatar
          Glen Lipka

          Like if the text says, “Yo mama so … ” that would auto-categorize as a Yo Mama joke. If it had the word Rabbi, God, Jesus or Priest in it, maybe Religious joke. Etc

  6. Johan De Silva Avatar

    “Seeing more than one joke at a time.”

    “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.”

    How can this be definitionally true? becuase I don’t see the research for this anywhere. This is how established management tools (e.g. Jira) often list their items inside categories. Then when you click the content the content slides in (there is an option to open an item in its own window). Remember they ordered by how funny they are so they would be listed in a list in addition to a query search box. The method of interaction (this part is interaction design) appears to be subjective.

    UX design is a collaborative method where UX designer works in a role to facilitate good ideas backed up by research, data and best practice.

    This is more of a test for a UI designer. Good design also takes time (source: Jeff Gothelf books) and personally you are probably doing good designers a service by not hiring them.

    1. Glen Lipka Avatar
      Glen Lipka

      This is an interview question, there is no time by definition. All interviews are subjective. Maybe you are just being argumentative? I am sharing an interview question for the public good. Try to be constructive, put your own question up. Grow up a bit and take the chip off your shoulder.

  7. Mariam Avatar

    Glen, I think your “retired” design challenge isn’t as bad as you think. As someone who once went through a similar design challenge I think here are some things to consider for the future:

    1. You don’t have to give them all the information right away. Wait for the interviewee to ask you questions. This will also reveal their way of thinking to you.

    2. If in the process the interviewee doesn’t ask questions that lead to the information you want them consider, just throw a little more info at them along the way.

    3. Based on my personal experience I can say that I was reluctant to consider some “crazy innovative” ideas at the beginning of the challenge since I didn’t know if the interviewer is open to that kind of thinking. So after I put down some of standard answers on the board, the designer interviewing me said something like this “OK, so everyone can come up with such a solution, what else can we do? Don’t limit yourself”. This helped me a lot and I started writing down ideas that really seemed impossible but were innovative—kind of from the world of magic. I got an offer.

  8. jigar Bhingradiya Avatar

    I’ve read this challenge a few times. I am gearing up for an interview at one of the Big 4 techies and these are above is really helping me. Thank you for theamazing Tip

  9. Andy Fletcher Avatar
    Andy Fletcher

    Fantastic interview question, thanks so much for sharing. This feels like the equivalent UX design question to the engineering ones I use.

    It feels simple and yet somehow 75%+ of candidates just can’t do it.

    Which is a good thing. We’re not trying to make something that everyone can pass. Otherwise there’s no signal and you may as well just ask them to count to 10.

    I honestly don’t understand the argumentative rants from other replies.

    Eg saying that there’s no research to show that showing the whole joke is better. That doesn’t need research, its common sense. He’s pulling unknown content from third party sources and publishing to his site. Punch lines come at the end and who is to say the end isn’t just a load of racial slurs? Clearly Frank has to read the whole thing, so why make him click to show it?

  10. Yana Avatar

    As a designer, it’s natural for me to visualize while working on a project. I am comfortable with making mistakes and can spend an indefinite amount of time exploring different design approaches. However, rushing the design process or making decisions without proper research and consideration of user experience is counterproductive to creating a well-designed UI or any other product. Crafting a design that truly resonates with users requires time, patience, and attention to detail, and there are no shortcuts when it comes to achieving a real user-friendly design.

Whatya think?