Home Paper Wireframes Adaptive Path Sketchboards

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The sketchboard is invented to communicate quickly with your customers, without a very specific and precise (detailed) level. It can be very handy to confront your customers with your sketch idea’s to reach consensus. After agreement, you can easely work your sketches out to a more sufficient level.

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The sketchboard is a low-fi technique that makes it possible for designers to explore and evaluate a range of interaction concepts while involving both business and technology partners. Unlike the process that results from wireframe-based design, the sketchboard quickly performs iterations on many possible solutions and then singles out the best user experience to document and build upon.

Designers love the “breakthrough moments” in a working relationship. Those times when you suddenly reveal a picture of a solution that really nails the problem and gives everyone on the team a reason to cheer. Such moments bring together many of the most valuable capabilities of a designer, as follows:

  • The ability to convey a solution pictorially
    Showing a solution is more vivid and far less abstract than talking or writing about it; pictures are both louder and more clear than words.
  • The ability to presuppose new solutions
    Despite incomplete information about the problem, designers make instinctual leaps to offer potential solutions that would not have been arrived at through deductive logic alone. Designers push the boundaries beyond the obvious alternatives.
  • The ability to fuse together a solution from competing constraints
    Design constraints solved one by one can create an unwieldy solution. Great designers arrange components of a solution into a whole that is more elegant than the sum of its parts.

The trouble is that these moments are all too rare on normal design and development projects. After a designer sinks time into communication, requirements gathering, and documentation, there is precious little time to create amazing results.

Where wireframes fear to tread

The wireframe—default design tool of most UX professionals—is a significant part of this problem. While wireframes are often necessary at the end of a process to clearly document and communicate the design, using wireframes earlier in the design process focuses time and attention on all the wrong details and activities.

Adaptive Path often find UX designers working to define and arrange elements on a page when the real issue to confront may be much broader in scope, such as “Does the page need to exist at all?” or “How best can these series of interactions flow together?” Wireframes force your design solutions into a certain level of granularity that can’t match the big juicy problems you face. A design process starts with struggles against scope, flow and gestalt. Yet wireframes arm you with mere dropdown fields and “lorem ipsum.”

Wireframes constrain your creativity. Given the time it takes to generate a wireframe, they find that most designers can only create one wireframe per page. Then they slowly revise and compromise. Adaptive Path calls this “the inch-by-inch trial-and-fail method,” where a designer slowly adapts his or her first idea for the page until it eventual meets all the criteria thrown at it, but slowly falls apart in the process. Such a process eliminates the opportunity to explore and choose amongst the myriad of possible forms an interaction could take, nor allows you to evaluate which approach might best adapt to the comprehensive set of criteria.

Wireframes also take designers into a hole. Wireframe development typically results in a designer slaving over a screen at his or her desk, not interacting with others, in order to improve upon the work. As documents, wireframes enable team members not to have to interact, which often results in work just getting thrown over a wall.

Simply put, wireframes are too slow and detailed. They aren’t going to deliver many breakthrough moments for you and your team. Instead, designers need to focus the early stages of work on techniques that achieve the following:

  • Ways that focus the designer’s time and attention on the big problems that need solving before tackling the details
  • Ways that quickly explore many different possibilities to find the right solution
  • Ways that can involve others
  • …but yet can still do it all pictorially!

The sketchboard technique unleashes your right brain to find and convey great solutions pictorially. You get:

  • Faster, but higher-quality design iterations that encourage heavy collaboration
  • Exploration of many ideas before investing time in polishing one design
  • Sketching and collage activities that provide design the same speed and focus that agility gives to coding

From a solution point-of-view, the team’s walkthrough of the sketchboard brings us to place where they have got a pretty tight idea of what solutions they need to take forward into a detailed design. A well-reviewed sketchboard is a visual specification of the solution, with certain elements of specific sketches highlighted and circled, lots of notes, and several new sketches conveying the important details they’d made decisions about. Only at this point do we feel we’ve explored enough ideas, confronted the right problems, and received enough team input and perspectives to move forward into the detailed structure of a wireframe.

Originally, they started using sketchboards for the ability to quickly iterate on interaction design, but in the process, they found these additional benefits:

  • Their design solutions are dramatically improved because there are more iterations on the right issues and a lot more people participate in the process
  • They earn greater trust and win buy-in from stakeholders because everyone understands why the chosen solution is the best solution
  • They rapidly move from loose requirements to a clear understanding of what to wireframe and prototype, and consequently, they are able to quickly produce higher fidelity wireframes
  • The sketchboard adapts well to almost any type of design problem they come across, and works well within different types of processes

the whole website about Adaptive Path can be found here!

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