5 useful tips to complete design challenges

november 28, 2018

In 2015, somewhere around Christmas I stumbled upon, and thought it would be fun to challenge myself. The fun ended very quickly though, completing one challenge each day was to say at least… overwhelming…

I only ended up completing the first challenge after 100 days of mail bombing. I said to myself that I would someday do all 100, thus I left the rest 99 emails unread until the day I would have time to do them.

Now 3 years later, I decided to revisit the Daily UI challenge with clearer goals and a stronger sense of why I wanted to complete them. I think that is essential to have before getting started, but today I am going to give you 5 practical tips on how to get the machinery going.

1. Set a schedule that fits you

First of all, you do not have to do one challenge every day if that does not fit your schedule. For example, I do a new challenge every week instead of every day. I will not be done as fast, but on the other hand I can see myself doing a new challenge every Sunday. I think it is important to be able to visualise that you can complete the amount of challenges in the given timeframe, if you can’t even see yourself doing it — then you won’t make it very far.

2. Time-box and record

This right here, is a game changer. Before, I did not time-box or record the challenge and could go on forever designing… and the weird thing is that I was less satisfied with the design output. The first thing I do is to decide if I am going to animate or not, sense that will impact the timeframe. Right now I time-box 1,5 hours for design without animation and 3 hours with animation. Remember — the important thing is not to stop when the time is “out”, rather to round up and see it as the preferable time slot you want to occupy for designing.

Time-boxing the session will force you to make bigger decisions faster, and actually completing the challenge instead of quitting to do the rest another day.

Recording will help you see how much time there is left, and forcing you to stay concentrated. When you are done recording, try speeding up the video. I promise that it will look supercool and you will feel proud over yourself!


3. Prepare a UI-challenge kit

Once you have started doing a few challenges you will probably see some patterns in your design that you like and can reuse or use as a base in future challenges. It is a great time-saver and makes the design look more cohesive. My UI-challenge kit currently contains colors, fonts, and ready to go Dribbble canvases for web and mobile.

UI challenge kit

Download the UI-challenge kit for sketch

4. Do it together

Engage with others around you and create a forum where you can hit the design challenges together, learn from each other, and most importantly — to stay motivated. I do these challenges together with people from work. Right now we are 21 on our forum with a mix of designers and front end developers. We use Slack as our primary source of communication and have a thread for each challenge.

Daily UI challenge

As I stated previously, before this fall I tried to complete the Daily UI challenges by myself, but failed very rapidly. I really think it helps me stay on track if I am doing it simultaneously with others. Here are some statistics:

  • 2015 — 1 challenge completed
  • 2016 — 0 challenge completed
  • 2017 — 1 challenge completed
  • 2018 — 9 challenges completed (aiming for 14 before the year ends)

If you are interested of challenging a group of people with design, you can read more about how we are doing it right now. We have written an article about it here

5. Share

The last thing in my routine is to share the result on Dropbox (with the group) and on Dribbble. Only then I can fully accept that I am done with the specific challenge, then I won’t go regret my design decisions and change back and forth.

Lastly, we get together one time each month to share how we approached the latest design challenges and give each other feedback. Definitely the best part of doing this journey is to do it together with others!

These are the 5 tips I have at the moment, and have applied for the past couple of weeks. Hope this will help you complete more design challenges or start with design challenges if you have not done it before.

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