Just Say NO to Wireframing

I’m not against the process of Wirefaming. Wireframes are a valuable communication tool in every Experience Designer’s toolkit. It’s the term itself, Wireframing, that we need to push back on! This word is commonly misused and the cause of considerable frustration for those of us that design experiences. Yup, we Design Experiences. The problem is that in many organizations Wireframing has become synonymous with Design.

The misuse of this word highlights a fundamental lack of understanding of what us so-called User Experience Designers do and distorts the perception of how we do what we do to people less familiar with our craft. Worst of all, it instills a production mentality, of a conveyer belt that churns out wireframe after wireframe after wireframe…

If you are asked to wireframe something, correct them and ask whether they want it Designed instead.  This is not semantics, but a critical re-education of what Experience Design entails. By calling it what it is, Design, we invite a conversation beyond a diagramming and communication tool, a conversation which focuses upstream where the ideas and thinking live.

Design is not a straight path. Exploration allows us to think through the design problem to get the right design out of the many possibilities.  And you cannot design an experience in a vacuum – it relies on cross-discipline collaboration. This doesn’t happen in a diagramming tool. This is why we use Design Techniques such as lo-fi sketching to explore design options, invite commentary and gain design consensus. This is the heart of the design process, and it’s where the magic happens.

Once we’ve explored the design options, the final step in the design process is to communicate the experience; the interactions, behaviours, layout and much more. Many factors influence our choice of communication tool, and it’s important to agree the most efficient way to communicate the designs so that more time can be spent truly designing the experience. Wireframes are one of many tools available to communicate the experience. Wireframing Is NOT Design but it may be part of your design process

It’s still early days for our industry and it’s important we take every opportunity to help people understand what we do.  If we fail to explain our craft today, then tomorrow could be a dark n’ miserable world for User Experience practitioners.

[Image of the Grange Hill 'Just Say No' Campaign borrowed from Pink Label Marketing]

2 Responses to Just Say NO to Wireframing
  1. Sophia Reply

    Finally, someone writes about this!! I think my pet peeve regarding wireframes is the confusion between wireframes, mockups, and prototypes. It really is up to us to define these things and keep clients and colleagues on the straight and narrow, isn’t it?

  2. Walid Reply

    Thanks for sharing that! Personally, I try to use (and have people use) the word ‘sketching’ instead of wireframing to communicate the process and output. Totally agree with what you’re saying here.

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