Problem-Solving with Sketching and Wireframing

Posted on: 04/03/2012
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Thinking Outside of the Process
Where some practitioners see deviations in historical IA and UX processes as the beginning of “the de-evolution of UX design,” I see a natural expansion and a genuine effort by the wider community to incorporate UX into their design processes.

This expansion can only be a good thing, because it means that more people are realizing the importance of UX and giving it consideration during their design processes. They’re trying out various methods as supplements—not substitutes—for content planning, and their eagerness to be less rigid and publicly resolute is reflective of the fact that UX designers aren’t robots following a process “recipe.” Our skills as UX practitioners lie in the way we think about problems and communicate our ideas—not the methods, tools or vocabulary we use.

This type of open thinking is exactly what helps us bring value to a design. Methods such as sketching and wireframing haven’t replaced IA. Rather, they are two useful tools in a toolbox of many for problem-solving and expression.

Sketching: Talking it Out
Sketching various views of a design problem during initial planning stages allows a UX designer to “talk out” the problem statement with himself, and to consider the possible paths from current state to goal state from various angles. Content relationships and question-generation, rather than interface elements, are result of this type of exploration.

Wireframes: Extending the Conversation
Wireframes are an extenuation of the problem-statement conversation meant to further inform the design process, not dictate it. Wireframes create a foundation for conversation where others can find holes, ask new questions and work together to create a better end result through collaboration.

Solutions over Prescriptions
What’s more important than the precise process you use is the ability of your methods to allow you to problem-solve and communicate effectively. So critique yourself and use the techniques that work best for you and resonate most with the rest of your team and stakeholders. Our ability to think outside of a cookie-cutter process approach is an asset, not a fault.

Simply ask yourself at the end of a design cycle, “Is this tool communicating my idea, and did it add value?” In the end, the final result is more important that the methods used to achieve it.