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User Experience Toolkit

Sketching

Sketching is a low cost way to explore various possible solution paths. By comparing multiple quickly sketched possibilities, one can better choose the best path forward and and then iterate toward the best version of that solution with wireframing.

Sketching

  • Allows for a series of low effort changes, iterating towards solidification of the design
  • Reveals hidden issues early
  • Saves valuable programming time by exploring options before wireframing
  • Whether it is on a whiteboard, sharpie on paper or pencil sketches - "a picture is worth 1000 words"

metaphorical image depicting ideas as mountains

There are thousands of different directions that the design of an interface can take that would 'meet' requirements, but each such design has a varying maximum potential of acceptability, usability, accessibility, visual consistency, etc. One approach can be executed flawlessly, but if it is the wrong approach - it will still fall short. By sketching, wireframing and development time will be shortened when compared with a direct-to-development from requirements approach.

Where to start?

One of the most accepted methods for sketching is a technique called "Design Studio" which is a working meeting where stakeholders visually brainstorm to sketch out different interfaces ideas for a series of screens. Each person (concurrently and silently) sketches their ideas of what a particular interface could look like (timeboxed to 3-5 min). Individuals then pitch their sketch (1 min) and the group critiques each sketch (1 min), identifying pros and cons of each approach. After a round or two - an interface usually emerges that meets the requirements in the best possible manner. Most times it is an combination of various sketches and insights.

Tips

  • Have a clear set of requirements of what the screens need to accomplish
  • Gather examples of other screens from the project or other projects/apps that solve similar challenges for visual reference
  • Have a cross-functional group of stakeholders from both technical and business. (No more than 5-6 people)
  • Use Paper and Sharpies (no erasing!)... unlike a whiteboard, paper is portable
  • Timebox each series of sketches to keep the session moving

After exploring avenues by sketching, wireframing will be much faster. Dont worry about adding details to the sketches... they should have just enough detail to be understood.

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