Best practices and a step-by-step guide to better approach online whiteboard design Challenge during an interview for UX candidates

Ashar Iqbal
7 min readJun 13, 2023
Photo by Christina @ wocintechchat.com on Unsplash

Online whiteboard design interviews are becoming more common and popular as more companies adopt remote work and hiring practices. They are similar to traditional whiteboard design interviews, where UX candidates are asked to solve a real-world problem using a whiteboard and markers, but they are conducted online using digital tools and platforms.

Online whiteboard design interviews have many advantages, such as:

  • They are more convenient and flexible, as they can be done from anywhere and at any time.
  • They are more accessible and inclusive, as they can accommodate different needs and preferences of candidates and interviewers.
  • They are more collaborative and interactive, as they can enable real-time communication and feedback between candidates and interviewers.

However, online whiteboard design interviews also have some challenges, such as:

  • They are more dependent on technology, as they require reliable internet connection, devices, software, and hardware.
  • They are more prone to distractions and interruptions, as they can be affected by external factors such as noise, lighting, or background.
  • They are more difficult to establish rapport and trust, as they can create a sense of distance and detachment between candidates and interviewers.

How can you prepare and perform well in an online whiteboard design interview? In this blog, I will share some best practices and a step-by-step guide to help you ace your online whiteboard design interview.

Best practices

Before we dive into the steps, here are some general tips to keep in mind:

  • Do your research: Before the interview, research the company, its products, users, goals, and challenges. This will help you understand the context and scope of the problem you will be asked to solve, as well as show your interest and enthusiasm for the role.
  • Test your setup: Before the interview, test your internet connection, devices, software, and hardware to make sure they work properly. Check your audio, video, screen sharing, and whiteboarding capabilities. If possible, use a wired connection, a headset with a microphone, a webcam with good resolution, and a stylus or a mouse for drawing.
  • Choose your environment: Choose a quiet, comfortable, and well-lit place where you can conduct the interview without distractions or interruptions. Make sure your background is clean and professional. If possible, use a virtual background or blur your background to hide any personal or sensitive information.
  • Practice your skills: Practice your whiteboarding skills using the same tools and platforms that you will use in the interview. Familiarize yourself with the features and functionalities of the software. Practice drawing sketches, diagrams, wireframes, or mockups. Practice explaining your ideas and rationale verbally. Practice collaborating with others online.
  • Prepare your materials: Prepare any materials that you might need or want to use in the interview. This could include your resume, portfolio, notes, research data, sketches, or mockups. Have them ready on your device or on paper. If you use paper, make sure you can scan or take pictures of them easily.
  • Ask questions: A whiteboard design interview is not a test of your knowledge or skills, but rather a conversation between you and the interviewer. Therefore, don’t be afraid to ask questions to clarify the problem statement, the user needs, the business goals, the constraints, and the assumptions. Asking questions will also show your curiosity, critical thinking, and empathy.
  • Think aloud: One of the main objectives of a whiteboard design interview is to understand how you approach and solve problems. Therefore, it is important to verbalize your thoughts and explain your rationale behind every decision you make. This will help the interviewer follow your logic, provide feedback, and evaluate your communication skills.
  • Sketch and iterate: A whiteboard design interview is not about creating pixel-perfect mockups or detailed wireframes. It is about exploring different ideas and solutions through sketches and diagrams. Therefore, don’t worry about making mistakes or being messy. Instead, focus on generating multiple concepts and iterating on them based on feedback and testing.
  • Be professional: Treat the online whiteboard design interview as if it were an in-person one. Dress appropriately and professionally. Be punctual and respectful. Smile and make eye contact. Use clear and polite language. Thank the interviewer for their time and attention.

Step-by-step guide

Now that we have covered some best practices, let’s look at a possible framework for approaching an online whiteboard design interview. Of course, there is no one-size-fits-all solution for every problem or situation, but this framework can serve as a general guideline that you can adapt to your specific case.

Step 1: Define the problem

The first step is to understand and define the problem you are asked to solve. This will help you set the direction and scope of your design process. To do this, you can use the following questions:

  • What is the problem?: What is the pain point or opportunity that you are addressing? What is the current situation and what is the desired outcome?
  • Who is the user?: Who are you designing for? What are their characteristics, needs, goals, motivations, behaviors, and pain points?
  • Why is it important?: Why does this problem matter? How does it affect the user and the business? What are the benefits of solving it?
  • How will you measure success?: How will you know if you have solved the problem? What are the key metrics or indicators that will show the impact of your solution?

To answer these questions, you can use various techniques such as:

  • Paraphrasing: Repeat the problem statement in your own words to make sure you understand it correctly.
  • Reframing: Rephrase the problem statement from different perspectives or angles to uncover new insights or opportunities.
  • How might we…: Turn the problem statement into one or more open-ended questions that invite ideation and exploration.
  • User personas: Create fictional representations of your target users based on research data or assumptions.
  • User scenarios: Describe typical situations or stories where your users encounter or experience the problem.
  • User journeys: Map out the steps or stages that your users go through before, during, and after encountering or experiencing the problem.

Step 2: Explore solutions

The next step is to generate possible solutions for the problem you have defined. This will help you explore different options and alternatives that could meet the user and business needs. To do this, you can use the following questions:

  • What are the existing solutions?: What are the current or alternative ways that users solve or cope with the problem? What are their pros and cons?
  • What are the design principles?: What are the guiding principles or criteria that will inform your design decisions? What are the must-haves and nice-to-haves for your solution?
  • What are the design constraints?: What are the limitations or challenges that you have to consider or overcome in your design process? What are the technical, financial, legal, ethical, or other factors that could affect your solution?
  • What are the design ideas?: What are the potential concepts or features that could address the problem and meet the user and business goals? How do they differ from each other in terms of feasibility, desirability, and viability?

To answer these questions, you can use various techniques such as:

  • Benchmarking: Analyze and compare existing solutions in the market or in related domains to identify best practices and gaps.
  • Brainstorming: Generate as many ideas as possible without judging or filtering them. You can use prompts, stimuli, or techniques such as SCAMPER, Crazy Eights, or Reverse Brainstorming to spark creativity.
  • Prioritization: Evaluate and rank your ideas based on their importance and urgency. You can use methods such as MoSCoW, Impact vs Effort, or Dot Voting to facilitate decision making.
  • Sketching: Visualize your ideas using simple drawings or diagrams. You can use different levels of fidelity, such as low-fidelity sketches, mid-fidelity wireframes, or high-fidelity mockups, depending on the level of detail and feedback you need.

Step 3: Prototype and test

The final step is to prototype and test your solution with real users. This will help you validate your assumptions, gather feedback, and iterate on your design. To do this, you can use the following questions:

  • What are the key assumptions?: What are the hypotheses or beliefs that you have about your users, their needs, and your solution? How can you test them?
  • What are the key features?: What are the main functionalities or components of your solution that you want to test? How do they work together to create a coherent user experience?
  • What are the key scenarios?: What are the main use cases or situations where your users will interact with your solution? How will they accomplish their goals or tasks?
  • What are the key feedback?: What are the main insights or learnings that you gained from testing your solution with users? How did they react to it? What did they like or dislike? What did they suggest or request?

To answer these questions, you can use various techniques such as:

  • Prototyping: Create a tangible representation of your solution that mimics its look and feel. You can use different tools and formats, such as paper prototypes, digital prototypes, or interactive prototypes, depending on the level of interactivity and realism you need.
  • Testing: Conduct user testing sessions with real or representative users to observe and evaluate their interaction with your prototype. You can use different methods and techniques, such as usability testing, A/B testing, guerrilla testing, or remote testing, depending on the type and amount of feedback you need.
  • Feedback: Collect and analyze user feedback using qualitative and quantitative data. You can use different tools and techniques, such as surveys, interviews, observations, analytics, or heatmaps, depending on the type and amount of data you need.
  • Iteration: Incorporate user feedback into your design process and make changes or improvements to your solution. You can use different tools and techniques, such as affinity diagrams, user stories, task flows, or wireframes, depending on the type and amount of changes you need.

Conclusion

An online whiteboard design interview is a challenging but rewarding experience for UX candidates. It allows you to showcase your skills and abilities in solving real-world problems while engaging in a meaningful conversation with the interviewer.

By following some best practices and a step-by-step guide, you can prepare and perform well in an online whiteboard design interview. Remember to define the problem clearly, explore solutions creatively, prototype and test iteratively, and communicate effectively.

Good luck with your online whiteboard design interview!

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Ashar Iqbal

I am a UI/UX Designer. I believe that to create a good design, a great user experience is must. Linkedin: www.linkedin.com/in/ashariqbal02/