Avoiding Common App Critique Mistakes



Updated October 11, 2023
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From my time as an interviewer, I’ve seen a couple of mistakes that designers make when doing critiques for interviews.

  • Stopping at aesthetics. Sometimes it’s tempting to dive right in and point out all the things that look off on the UI. Don’t get stuck on aesthetics. None of that will matter if the app doesn’t help the user achieve its core goal in the first place. Establish your first principles based on the frameworks above and work forward.

  • Stuck on one approach. If you have an app that you’ve already picked yourself, then you’ve already come prepared with how you’re going to critique it. But be ready to adapt your approach and consider different methods when prompted. Doing so also allows you to show off other tools at your disposal, and handling ambiguity is a sign of maturity as a designer.

  • All praise, no substance. I’ve encountered situations where instead of critiquing, the designer lavishes praise on the app. As an interviewer, this tells me that you can’t reflect critically on the work and you assume that whatever’s been launched is best.

  • Spending too much time describing the UI. Don’t get stuck explaining what you see or what the app does. If you’re not actively sharing your mobile app screen where the interviewer can see it, it’s ok to give some context but make sure you focus more on the critique itself. Interviews want to know your thinking, they don’t want you to to recite the UI.

important Always ask why. Why does this work well—what makes it good? Why does this not work—what things make it less effective? A critique framework helps you stay objective and avoid this pitfall. I also recommend looking at similar apps and comparing them against a user’s job to be done.

Getting Better at Critique

Like any activity, you’ll get better at critique with practice. To make the most of your practice, I recommend critiquing an app with a group, isolating your weaknesses, and comparing and contrasting similar apps.

Critique in Diverse Groups

Practice critique with a partner or two. Get a group of designers who have different strengths and feel free to include other disciplines, such as engineering. Practicing together with a diverse group will widen your perspective significantly, compared to practicing alone.

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