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Practicing Better with Whiteboard Prompts
The best way to get better at whiteboards is through practice. Baseline yourself initially to gauge your progress. If you haven’t done any whiteboarding, grab a marker and start sketching. Don’t worry about perfection, just get familiar initially.
The prompts vary depending on the company and the space they’re in. Some exercises range from pragmatic to design fiction. Interviewer guides usually include the prompt, variations, and questions interviewers might ask, plus grading criteria. As an interviewee, you’ll be presented with the prompt up-front and then be asked to walk the interviewer through the process. Here are a couple of starter prompts to experiment with:
Growing Gardens, Growing Business
Prompt. Growing Gardens targets suburban families who are interested in gardening but have little to no formal knowledge. The business primarily sells plants but is also extending into additional products (pots, fertilizer) and services (landscaping). Create an application to help people learn more about gardening and getting them to
Assessment. As an interviewer I’d like to see how you think about the opportunity space, which platform you decide to use for this prompt, and how you balance user and business needs.
Designing an Interior for an Autonomous Vehicle
Prompt. An automaker, Edison, has been experimenting with a completely new car design for their model Z vehicle. This car is fully autonomous, so doesn’t require any human interaction. As a designer, you’ve been asked to reimagine the car interior. What should the interior look like?
Assessment. I’d like to see how you think about blue-sky projects, and how you define a problem space and generate novel ideas accordingly.
Prompt. Scientists recently discovered a way to time travel. People can now go back and forward in time without any consequence to the timelines—no need to worry about the butterfly effect. As one of the first designers of the time machine, you’ve been tasked with creating an experience for time-traveling tourists. What experience would you create?
Assessment. The open nature of this prompt gives you many possibilities to go after. You’ll need to think through constraints, analogous experiences, and how to scope the problem meaningfully.
Baselining Your Whiteboarding Skills
Now that you have some prompts and core criteria, you can start practicing by yourself. Imagine you’re running a think-aloud usability study, but instead of moderating, the participant is you. Record your first-time through and be sure to time yourself. Play back the recording and look for patterns where you pause, don’t speak, or speak too much.
Take a photo of the whiteboard and do a self-evaluation based on the criteria we mentioned in the beginning:
What did you wish you could spend more time on?
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