A thing that’s becoming more and more common in the games industry is design tests, especially for game designers and UX designers.

I find there are several issues with this practice, so I’ll go over them, perhaps to my own detriment. I have a tendency to speak out when I perhaps shouldn’t.

  1. You – as a hiring company – are asking people to do unpaid work for you. I’ve had people asking me to do tests that under normal circumstances contain design work that would last for weeks or even months. Are you going to pay me for the time I spend on the test? If not, consider how much time you can ask someone for without paying for it. Ideally, the answer is “no time at all.”
  2. The person applying, unless they’re unemployed1, only has so much time outside of work available to them. Fairness is sometimes used as a reason why a test is required. The problem is that it still isn’t really fair. Most of the people in the games industry are men. Men – in a heterosexual relationship – does 5 1/2 hours less housework than women do. A woman applying for the same position as a man may theoretically have 5 1/2 hours less to spend on a test. Life takes up different amounts of time for different people. Some may have 40 hours to spend, some may only have 3.
  3. Doing a design test in isolation does not teach you about work process in more than a very bare bones fashion. As a UX designer I work with people and players. I don’t work alone. Asking me to do a design without a context won’t teach you anything about my process or even how good I am at design. It only tells you if I’m okay at doing passable design tests.
  4. As a UX designer I need to be intimately familiar with the product in order to do something worthwhile. To become very familiar with a game takes a long time unless I’ve worked on it.
  5. I can’t use the 8 – 30 hour work I’ve done in my portfolio, because I’m not allowed to by the company that asked me to do the test.This means that I have spent time I could theoretically at least have used to brush up on my portfolio on work I will never be able to showcase to anyone.

Those are just the reasons I can think of off the top of my head. I’m quite sure that there are more arguments against UX design tests that go into a bunch of different topics.

My final point is that a design test says a lot about the company that required it.

A test also tells me something about the person writing it. What tasks do they want me to perform? How many tasks are there? Is the test time boxed per task? Are the expectations clearly stated? Are the deliverables clearly stated?

None of this of course makes up for the time taken, the request that a candidate work for free or the fact that a design test still won’t allow a designer to actually show their skills.

I can tell you that I’m crap at design tests, because I am a perfectionist. That means that I will spend a lot of time trying to understand the purpose of the test. More often than not, I fail.

Despite this, all of the people I work closely with say I’m a good designer. Some have even used the words “the best”. Either they’re lying or design tests won’t really tell you how good I am at my job. And I am very good at my job.

  1. Even people who are unemployed have things to do, like, say, get a new job. If you’ve ever applied for a job, you know this is a full time occupation.