Should We Kill Wireframing?May 13, 2009 In Design By Thomas Lewis
Should designers stop wasting time and budgets with wireframes and go straight to design comps?
A tempest stirred on 37Signal’s blog when they posted an entry called Why we skip Photoshop. It is a good read that turns convention on its head (which those guys are prone to do) but what was interesting is all the discussion that came from both sides as to should designers skip the pixel-perfect design comp step in the web design process and just do it all in HTML.
I took a look at what both sides were advocating. I then put on my lower-middle management hat and begun pontificating: Why stop there? What if we stopped with all the wireframing as well? I thought managers could then drive down design costs and we could get to what the typical manager or client want: What is my site going to really look like?
Ok, if you know me, you know that I have been stringing you along. Should wireframes be a part of the design process? ABSOLUTLEY YES! But, in difficult times of tightened budgets and timelines, I can imagine many a pointed-haired boss or client wondering if they could drive down their costs by getting rid of a step or two in the design process. I think this is wrong and here is why:
Wireframing helps focus the conversation. The last thing you want to have to deal with is “I don’t like that color. Those bullet points, can we make them actually bullets? Hey, we should use that font that I use in my joke e-mails I send around…yeah, Comic Sans!” With full design comps from the start, you are more apt to get feedback that is superficial. With wireframes, you can get them focused on the structure and how content should be prioritized.
Wireframing doesn’t have to be expensive. The cost is not from the tools, you can easily use pencil and paper. It is the time it takes to do the job right. This time used is not as expensive as a change request made after you have design comps and doing the actual work. I find that wireframes help prevent issues that arise later or expose missing items (like the Sign Up or Purchase page).
Wireframes are a great mid-project deliverable for feedback. No manager or client wants to sit down for business requirements gathering and then go into silence mode until the day the site goes live. Most don’t want to wait for the design comps. Wireframes provide a good opportunity to get sign off on the direction as well as get feedback earlier in the project. Around here, wireframes are put up on a big board for all to look at. They not only provide stakeholders to get feedback,but also cross-teams will stumble upon them and might spark something.
I have to admit,I do enjoy looking at wireframes. In fact, I find myself hanging out at I <3 wireframes. Also, Microsoft is getting into the business for Silverlight and WPF applications with its offering of Sketch Flow.
My question to you is this. Which side of the fence are you on? Do you find wireframes valuable or an endeavor that you would rather skip? Have you been asked by a manager or client to skip wireframing? How did you deal with it?
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