Why Wiggly Wireframes?

November 16th, 2009

Sketchy WireframeAaron Travis explores the motivation and payoff for developing low-fidelity wireframes for user interfaces during the design process. While I have my own reasons for loving all things lo-fi, this (web-specific) article really nails it. Their rationales are clearly thought out and expressed in a way that make them relevant to a wide variety of disciplines.

Read More for excerpts

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See Also :
Microsoft SketchFlow
Visio Sketchy Wireframe Tempates
Web-based iPhone collaborative mockup maker

(Via Boxes and Arrows)

Having used computer-based sketchy wireframes on a number of projects, I’ve found many ways that they can decrease confusion with teams and stakeholders:

* Clients and Executives – People in this group typically want to push projects forward as quickly as possible. Consequently, the more “finished” the wireframes look, the faster they will expect to see the finished product. You can do yourself a disservice by making your wireframes look more complete than they are. To quote Kathy Sierra, “How ‘done’ something looks should match how ‘done’ something is.”

* Programmers – Programmers who see traditional wireframes too early in the process may misinterpret their functionality as “signed-off.” Don’t be shocked if you hear frantic questions like “Did we agree to this?” Programming requires meticulous attention to detail, so programmers read wireframes with an eagle eye. Consequently, they may expect a level of specification from wireframes that isn’t appropriate in the early stages.

* Designers – Designers make their living with their visual creativity, and they resist anything that could constrain it. Consequently, in situations where designers must work with wireframes created by someone else, designers can perceive them as a creative straightjacket, or worse, as a threat. A sketchy representation can help reduce friction by removing unnecessary details and adding a certain amount of “fuzziness” to the wireframes, thereby giving designers more leeway in interpreting the look and feel of the interface.

* Users – In my research, I’ve found that users who are asked to comment on traditional wireframes can be intimidated by an overly finished look and feel. This is mirrored by a general consensus in the usability industry that the “less done” a demo looks, the more comfortable users feel with giving feedback. Where traditional wireframes can elicit comments like “I don’t like the font on those words,” sketchy wireframes are more likely to elicit comments like “I don’t know what those words mean.”

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