I recently volunteered to do a small project as a part of my interview for the role or UI / UX Designer. I used a collapsible sections for the filters:

enter image description here

One of the developer on the panel said this tree menu is a 10 year old design, said he last saw it several years back in an ASP.net application and resembles the old wordpress sidebar. Is tree menu unsuitable today? Is this even a tree menu?

Here's the full mockup incase you want to check it out. They weren't impressed with my work and I didn't get the job but just thought I'd ask it out just for my satisfaction.

(P.S. In response to their question "which website have you come across lately that you absolutely love", I said "ditto.com". To which they said, its looks plain and boring and there's nothing special about it, anyone can design it. — Really? Its not mind-blowing, but its great. If I remembered at the time, I'd have said xamarin.com or stripe.com instead.)

  • the ditto.com looks fine! Good, even.
    – NachoDawg
    Jun 19 '15 at 12:22
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    It sounds like the interviewers were playing devil's advocate by challenging your decisions and wanting you do provide rationale for your choices. They might not have disagreed with you, just wanted you to demonstrate how you'd handle that sort of questioning.
    – Matt Obee
    Jun 19 '15 at 13:26
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    Developers know about as much about design as you know about development. However, I have to agree with @MattObee - it sounds like they might have been trying to force you to explain your rationale for choosing those particular elements and patterns in a way that could occur during a client meeting. Jun 19 '15 at 16:09
  • @AndrewMartin I wouldn't interview a developer, and I wouldn't say something like .. Objective-C is old, Swift is new although its true but I just don't know for sure whats right in the current situation, because I'm not a developer.
    – Nimbuz
    Jun 19 '15 at 17:40
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    i abound interviews that ask you to do sample projects as they are, at best, void of context and at worse, spec work
    – DA01
    Jun 19 '15 at 20:56

I'd say the design of a tree menu is much older than 10 years. Windows 3.1 had a tree structure as part of the UI in it's File Manager.

Now, the fact that a design is 10 year old is no argument. Rolex is successful at selling watches of which the design is more than 50 years old and I don't hear anyone saying they don't understand user's needs.

About ditto.com I also don't share their view about being plain and boring.

It seems to me they where checking to see how you respond to unfounded and stupid criticism rather than anything else. Getting unfounded/stupid criticism is part of the life of a UI/UX designer and part of the job is to be able to deal with it in the correct way.

  • I argued that good design is subjective, what works in one case might not work in another. "Tree menu" just works here. To which they said, "just works" won't cut it, it has to stand out. So it gives me an impression they weren't really testing me, but actually believed it.
    – Nimbuz
    Jun 19 '15 at 12:36
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    I am not sure if good design is subjective. It depends on your definition of good. Your argument "Just works" is not a good response imo. You'd have to explain why you think it works. Have you for instance thought about alternatives and why they are worse? You could even have asked the interviewer: "what would you choose?" and then explain the benefits of your proposal. The interviewer's answer "it has to stand out" is exactly the kind of non-arguments you have to deal with in real life. It's another indication that he was just playing a role. It's what I do in an interview. Jun 19 '15 at 12:41
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    Nr1 requirement for a UI designer or UX specialist is to be able to communicate with ignorant people, never forget this ;) Jun 19 '15 at 12:42
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    Like I said, the fact that something is old is not argument for not using it. Stop looking at "old" as a negative term. Something that is old has withstood the test of time. I certainly do not think your design looks bad, let me tell you that. There are many aspects involved into choosing a certain solution, since I don't know all these aspects, I cannot judge if your solution is good or not. Jun 19 '15 at 12:55
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    We've also had buttons and links for as long as we've had the WWW as most people know it. Maybe we should get rid of those "old" controls too. ;) Seriously though, if you're going to be a UX professional you have to expect to spend half of your day defending and explaining UX to novices. Your reasoning needs to extend beyond "just works" and you need to understand that while the design (colors, shape, etc) may be somewhat subjective the control you use, how it works, the size of click targets, etc are not subjective.
    – John S
    Jun 22 '15 at 15:26

Unless there are additional levels of expansion within what you show here, I don't think this qualifies as a tree menu. It's just a collapsible list. If the client/employer thought it looked too tree-menu-like, minor visual changes could possibly improve that without actually impacting the underlying interaction or code. Make the expand/collapse arrows right aligned, add dividers between the filter options, etc.

If the role was truly a UX position, that may explain why your responses that "good design is subjective" and the filter menu "just works" were not well received. They may have been looking for a defense based on data, like past user testing or research, or best practice recommendations from other UX sources.

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