Reflections from my first design hackathon

Photo by Daria Nepriakhina on Unsplash

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to take part in my first hackathon as a designer. I learned SO much from this jam-packed session of brainstorming and building, and I wanted to share some reflections on my memorable experience.

Prioritization is key

With this UX hackathon, my team and I knew that time would be of the essence since Saturday was our only full day to design. We made sure to time-block our day so we knew how much time to spend on each phase in order to stay on track for the submission deadline. To our surprise, we actually didn’t fall too far behind on schedule during the first half of the day. I think what I really underestimated was the time needed for the visual design, which is admittedly also not my strongest point. By the time we arrived at our hi-fidelity designs, we also added on even more additional screens that needed to be polished, cutting into the time that we had allotted for putting together final video presentation. If I were to do it again, I would have liked to focus on the just the main flows and key screens in order to make sure those were executed to the best of our ability.

Presentation matters

My team really went above and beyond the challenge brief, building out a functional prototype with important fleshed out features that we collectively chose from our priority matrix. However, due to taking on more features than we could handle, we ran out of time to create and record a final presentation. While the feedback on our working prototype was positive, not having a presentation to showcase our process and give a compelling case of understanding the problem and the rationale behind our design decisions made it hard for others to understand the context of what we created.

Keep on learning and have fun with it

All in all, I really enjoyed tackling this challenge with my awesome teammates. Being glued to your screen for 12 hours straight isn’t so bad when the work is mentally stimulating, rewarding, and exciting. It was an extremely valuable learning experience to exchange ideas and build something cool with such an eager group of designers, so shout out to both of them for bringing their unique strengths, perspectives, and grit to our team!

Finally, this experience opened my eyes to how much room for improvement I still have, while also making me realize how far I’ve come in my design journey. Although there hasn’t been a moment where I’ve stopped learning, I now feel a renewed push to focus my energy on creating things that I genuinely enjoy, as I continue my ongoing process of learning, practicing, and growing to become a better designer.