Wireframes. Creative or technical?

8 Jun 2010 - 4:45pm
4 years ago
25 replies
2370 reads
Jessica Boggs
2008

We are having an internal debate at our office.  We are a small interactive agency.  The debate is this: when you don't have a dedicated information architect, who does the wireframes?

There are two divisions: one side think the creative team should do them because they should indicative of the page layout and design. The other side say that the project managers should do them or someone on the technical tem because they are more like bueprints - a frame, not a design.  The second camp think the creative director should have input into the wireframes but not be the responsible party.

So, what's the consensus in the interactive world?

Thanks!

Comments

8 Jun 2010 - 5:02pm
penguinstorm
2005

I wouldn't let a visual designer do it.

I'd let whoever was responsible for writing the site's content. If that's the project manager, so be it.

 

(Alternative answer: you should hire me!)

8 Jun 2010 - 5:09pm
Matt Nish-Lapidus
2007

I think you should consider the purpose of the wireframes, and wether or not you even need to produce them.  What are you trying to figure out by making "wireframes"? The content? The layout? The functionality? Other? Then consider who is responsible for that piece of the project. Then consider if you actually need "wireframes," or if you just need a way to document the solution to that specific aspect of the problem. 

Wireframes as an object aren't inherently valuable, what's valuable is using the right tool to solve the right problem in the right way. The artifact is only as good as the solution it communicates.

8 Jun 2010 - 5:44pm
kabe001
2010

I agree with emenel that the "owner" of wireframing will depend on the use and function of the wireframes in your organization--each organization is quirkily different in their consumption of wireframes. Typically wireframes are meant to convey the informational display/architecture as well as provide guidelines to basic interaction. If this is the case, then I'd say that the person closest to owning the user experience or interactive design is responsible for clearly articulating or communicating his/her vision through the appropriate media (in this case wireframes).

Just my two cents...but please take them with a heaping dose of salt. Laughing

8 Jun 2010 - 6:33pm
mattinteractive
2010

If you lack an IA person, then I'd recommend that a designer execute them, but under the supervision of whoever is most familiar with the business requirements/strategy doc/site map. Just be sure that they are reminded every step of the way that they're not intended to represent visual design (so they don't waste time).

@penguinstorm: I disagree with you. A web/interactive designer should be a "functional/technical thinker" and should be able to produce the bi-products of IA/UX.

@emenel: Personally, I think if you're producing any kind of interaction (whether it be website/flash app/web banner/etc) then it should be wireframed.  Wireframing is meant to be a rapid process where technical and functional specs can be clearly, visually predetermined before moving into the more time-consuming design process. They're almost never a waste of time.

8 Jun 2010 - 6:54pm
penguinstorm
2005

A web/interactive designer should be a "functional/technical thinker"

A visual designer is invested in the final design. Wireframes, at least as I use them and understand their common use, are not a tool to work towards final design. There's a conflict there.

(Didn't notice the "reply" button before so I'm posting this again.)

8 Jun 2010 - 8:46pm
mattinteractive
2010

Actually, wireframes dictate layout more often than not.  Architecting the information usually involves making strategic decisions about where certain elements should appear in an interactive piece. For example, will a "Sign up" callout appear above or below the fold?  Something like that should be decided before a designer ever opens photoshop to create comps.  In my mind, an interactive design is just a pretty skinning of a wireframe. Think about a house: it has to be framed out before one can start putting up walls and then painting and decorating the walls, right?  But after the walls are up and painted, the structure of the house still remains underneath.

In my opinion, an interactive designer should be a well-balanced creative and functional thinker.  That's why I recommended that the designer assume the role of information architect when there is a need.

BTW, I'm not trying to lecture. Just sharing my two-cents and inciting discussion :)

9 Jun 2010 - 12:08am
mdostert
2010

I would agree that wireframes can be a tool used for discussion and creative problem solving. I don't think they are an end to themselves but instead they provide an iterative layout that provokes discussion.

Maureen

----- Original Message ---- From: digitalmatt To: mdostert2002@yahoo.com Sent: Tue, June 8, 2010 11:37:24 PM Subject: Re: [IxDA] Wireframes. Creative or technical?

Actually, wireframes dictate layout more often than not. /Architecting the information/ usually involves making strategic decisions about where certain elements should appear in an interactive piece. For example, will a "Sign up" callout appear above or below the fold? Something like that should be decided before a designer ever opens photoshop to create comps. In my mind, an interactive design is just a pretty skinning of a wireframe. Think about a house: it has to be framed out before one can start putting up walls and then painting and decorating the walls, right? But after the walls are up and painted, the structure of the house still remains underneath.

In my opinion, an interactive designer should be a well-balanced creative and functional thinker. That's why I recommended that the designer assume the role of information architect when there is a need.

BTW, I'm not trying to lecture. Just sharing my two-cents and inciting discussion :)

8 Jun 2010 - 6:51pm
Jessica Boggs
2008

If the person who is most familiar with the business requirements/strategy doc/site map is the project manager, then wouldn't it make sense to have them to it than having to explain/supervise someone else?

8 Jun 2010 - 8:32pm
mattinteractive
2010

I don't think so because a project manager or account supervisor shouldn't be expected to know how to execute the technical nuances of interaction design or information architecture. Their role is to manage the project and deal with the client. However, you do bring light to a very valid point I've been discussing at my company (marketing). Where does the line blur between strategy and user experience?  In the past I've been forced to sacrifice user experience for marketing strategies (ie. call-to-action locations and functionality, etc).

8 Jun 2010 - 6:55pm
penguinstorm
2005

what I said up there ^^^^^

8 Jun 2010 - 7:05pm
tessa
2008

collaborate. however you organize it and govern it - work together and not "over-the-wall". 

On Tue, Jun 8, 2010 at 4:25 PM, Jessica Boggs <jessica@alphazeta.com> wrote:

We are having an internal debate at our office.  We are a small interactive agency.  The debate is this: when you don't have a dedicated information architect, who does the wireframes?

There are two divisions: one side think the creative team should do them because they should indicative of the page layout and design. The other side say that the project managers should do them or someone on the technical tem because they are more like bueprints - a frame, not a design.  The second camp think the creative director should have input into the wireframes but not be the responsible party.

So, what's the consensus in the interactive world?

Thanks!

(((P
9 Jun 2010 - 12:08am
mdostert
2010

I would say that since there are so many job descriptions with varying titles and responsibilities, that are not consistent across any company, that is is really based on what the people in power say. It should be part of development since it is a tool.

----- Original Message ---- From: tessa To: mdostert2002@yahoo.com Sent: Tue, June 8, 2010 11:37:23 PM Subject: Re: [IxDA] Wireframes. Creative or technical?

collaborate. however you organize it and govern it - work together and not "over-the-wall".

On Tue, Jun 8, 2010 at 4:25 PM, Jessica Boggs wrote: > We are having an internal debate at our office. We are a small interactive agency. The debate is this: when you don't have a dedicated information architect, who does the wireframes? > > There are two divisions: one side think the creative team should do them because they should indicative of the page layout and design. The other side say that the project managers should do them or someone on the technical tem because they are more like bueprints - a frame, not a design. The second camp think the creative director should have input into the wireframes but not be the responsible party. > > So, what's the consensus in the interactive world? > > Thanks! > > (((P >

9 Jun 2010 - 6:06am
MichelGrignon
2008

----- Original Message ----- From: "tessa" To: Sent: Tuesday, June 08, 2010 9:58 PM Subject: Re: [IxDA] Wireframes. Creative or technical?

> collaborate. however you organize it and govern it - work together and not > "over-the-wall". > On Tue, Jun 8, 2010 at 4:25 PM, Jessica Boggs
> wrote: >>We are having an internal debate at our office. We are a small interactive >>agency. The debate is this: when you don't have a dedicated information >>architect, who does the wireframes? >> >>There are two divisions: one side think the creative team should do them >>because they should indicative of the page layout and design. The other >>side say that the project managers should do them or someone on the >>technical tem because they are more like bueprints - a frame, not a >>design. The second camp think the creative director should have input >>into the wireframes but not be the responsible party. >> >>So, what's the consensus in the interactive world? >> >>Thanks! >> >>(((P >> >

9 Jun 2010 - 7:34am
Maurice
2009


AS OF THIS DAY  JUNE 7th, 2010,     I  (me) declare myself as a "BEHAVIOR ARCHITECT".
(legal request required to state this title can be obtained by email or any other none electronic media such as: postal, water, DNA, Telekinesis, transmutaion, ... plus...other sources)

Here's the issue with wireframes!
Creative all the way!!
Without reading any of the comments.
Wireframes are meant to be the future of a design or a concept. PERIOD!

My experienced has proved that approaching visual concepts in the blinkers of a technical pro does not portray the real meaning of design. Accepting the fact that design is a 'broad board' that most designers know and most techs seem/try to grasp.

The fact is, people don't like numbers.
Visual ques are paradigm in stimulations, not logic.

Additionally... WHAT THE HECK IS A PROJECT MANAGER DOING IN THE MIX!?
The project manager manages time, costs and budgets, estimates, timeframes, timelines...whatever on that level.

Wireframes should be left to UI designers, Information Architects, UX specialist...period!
Don't call the plumber to plan the water flow for the city!

Surgeons do surgery, dentists do teeth, masons build, dogs/bitches have pups, designers do wireframe...
Hi or LOW fidelity wireframes...
I would even extend that to mockups, prototypes, interactive demos, presentations, webex, whatever...

I stand firm in my perspective with battle scared experience!

WHAT THE HECK IS A PROJECT MANAGER DOING IN THE MIX!?

Again:
Just another topic that confirms my previous post on the frustrations of, recruiters contacting talented individuals without the right conception of the roles.  (thanks to IxDA and Liz for the temp. fix!)

Link here: http://www.ixda.org/mailcomment/redirect/%3C28257.25647.77582.1275689797.62f2073b2b4a61369389df3cf4e3c588%40ixda.org%3E

P.S:
Ask your project manager for a previous sample of a wireframe, storyboard, moodboard or persona they've put together....I'm sure Axure, OmniGraff, Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign is on their roster.

Tip:
Have MS Project or Excel installed.

Signed:
Behavior Architet

(what do you all think of that title??? Uh.... I coined it.)

"FedUp and still looking for justice for the definition of our role and ready for scars"

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9 Jun 2010 - 10:21am
penguinstorm
2005

Yeah well, you lost me right here:

Without reading any of the comments.

If you're not even going to respect comments other people made, why would anybody read yours?

Plus this:

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You're using Internet Explorer? Blurg.

14 Jun 2010 - 8:20am
mattinteractive
2010

Laughing out loud!  Your post was eccentric, but I agree with all of it ;)

9 Jun 2010 - 2:30pm
Erik Johnson
2009

@digitalmatt:  Couldn't agree more.  Wireframes do dictate layout to varying degrees.  It's also worth mentioning (and maybe it was mentioned) that wireframes can/should exist in varying levels of detail depending on the project and timeframe to complete.  I generally prefer to start with a "sketchy" round, then move on to more defined lines/shaded areas.  You just cannot have someone responsible for the wireframe process of any project if they are not of the IxD persuasion.

@penguinstorm:  "Wireframes are not a tool to work towards final design."  Yikes.  Maybe I just am not understanding your point.  Wireframes should lay the groundwork for all final design to follow.  Maybe you just meant that a final designer will not start with the actual wireframe files..?

@mdostert:  "Wireframes provide an iterative layout that provokes discussion."  Totally agree - that's what they are best at.  The speed at which an IxD can generate multiple rounds of wireframes and generate discussions around the interaction and behavior of a system is incredible.

@jessica boggs:  Please don't let any Proj Mgrs work on your wireframes.  It's not their place, discipline, focus, etc, etc...

 

9 Jun 2010 - 3:26pm
Maurice
2009

@penguinstorm
Not sure what happened there with the:

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MicrosoftInternetExplorer4

I'm actually using Firefox.
Interesting. I've never seen that before.
hmmm.

 

9 Jun 2010 - 4:19pm
Jessica Boggs
2008

Project managers here are set up to do a lot of technical work and evaluation because we feel they need to be able to effectively communicate with the client on the fly.  For example, being able to discuss how a change will impact the back end of the site. Most of them have computer science degrees and is part of the reason why this task has resided with them for so long. My position was to have a dedicated IA that brainstorms with the creative and technical teams.

In the past, our wireframes have also served as technical documents, highlighting functionality only and as we are shifting to a bit different model, this discussion came up.  Having the creative team do them is tough in out process since the beginning of projects is really front loaded with creative/marketing strategy, which the team is already busy thinking about and preparing documents for.

You all offer interesting points to consider.  Thanks.

9 Jun 2010 - 10:32pm
Dave Malouf
2005

Wireframes are a tool. 1 of many and even then they are wielded as differently as there are people using them. As Ani Difranco sings, "Every tool is a weapon if you hold it right."

The point isn't who "owns the wireframes", but what does a WF even mean to your organization. your description of the PM is reminiscent of my understanding of the role of a Program Manager or Producer in roles I've had in the past. It TOTALLy makes sense that "this middle man" of sorts uses tools that helps them communicate to the broadest cross-section of the team.

Yes, we have ideals and mine would push me to have design own everything that is used to craft and describe the user experience. But reality is more complex than that and the key goals are to find points of collaboration and not points of ownership and transfer. 

Anyway, the problem is culturally complex, so I don't think anyone here can give you a direct answer. 
<plug type="sarcastic">If you'd like to bring a consultant on site, let me know</plug>

 

-- dave

27 Jul 2010 - 5:41am
flexewebs
2010

You have a hospital and a patient who needs a heart surgery, but there is no heart surgeon employed this month, but we have the ward nurse and the anaesthetist on hand. Who should carry out the operation? Answer: the heart surgeon of course!

Put the patient on some sort of a life support machine until you find the heart surgeon to do the job.

This is quite a silly debate really to be honest.

28 Jul 2010 - 8:18am
RichExperiences
2010

I have to agree, this is a silly debate.

The reason I say this that I think we should all be able to do them!

As someone who has lived in the freelance, small agency world for the past 10 years it is quite fascinating to hear all the opinions from those in larger groups. I don't want to dismiss the validity of those experiences. It sure seems big companies have made distinctions in all the functions and processes involve in interactive design and development where there really aren't any these days. Just look at the job listings. The vast majority of savvy companies post for staff that project manage, design, code and do IA, IX and UX tasks. New media professionals needs to have these skills. It is the new reality. To be honest, I feel that having all these functions split up in silos of skills and knowledge is simply a waste of resources and a hinderance to successful projects.

Rich

PS - I'm in the middle of a short internship at a very large corporation helping with all these tasks just so that I can brush up on them. Even though the IT and intranet bureaucracy is stifling at best, they have made an interesting call putting the much of the UX control in the hands of a single usability analyst. At least we can affect many of these areas in one small team. The exception is coding.

28 Jul 2010 - 1:05pm
xyeye
2010

okay this is when I chime in...

I have been a creative director and ACD in the interactive industry for at most 14 years...the thing that kills me about this conversation is the fact that it's been part of my job to understand strategy, the structure of the technological flow and building intelligent clear templates or wireframes the entire time I have been doing this...much more in the past then now cause it has been segmented into more detailed skill sets...most the people I know who do this work, really well, have a creative background with a grounding in interactive technological understanding...without a full understanding of both you can't really do your job correctly...there are two ways to look at this...you are either a tech production person who is building this wire frame for a creative team or you are a creative building it for a tech team...both apply because you have to fully recognize the importance of building a product that works, pleasing in the process of information flow or the usefulness of the product but you also have to brand it, package it, tell a story, make it fun/easy/enjoyable to use which in the end draw the crowds...

just some thoughts.

thx!
pamela.vitale

strategist & creative director for start-ups & entrepreneurs

http://www.linkedin.com/in/pamelavitale

347-268-1177



On Wed, Jul 28, 2010 at 1:41 PM, a_interactive <rich@ascendinteractive.com> wrote:

I have to agree, this is a silly debate.

The reason I say this that I think we should all be able to do them!

As someone who has lived in the freelance, small agency world for the past 10 years it is quite fascinating to hear all the opinions from those in larger groups. I don't want to dismiss the validity of those experiences. It sure seems big companies have made distinctions in all the functions and processes involve in interactive design and development where there really aren't any these days. Just look at the job listings. The vast majority of savvy companies post for staff that project manage, design, code and do IA, IX and UX tasks. New media professionals needs to have these skills. It is the new reality. To be honest, I feel that having all these functions split up in silos of skills and knowledge is simply a waste of resources and a hinderance to successful projects.

Rich

PS - I'm in the middle of a short internship at a very large corporation helping with all these tasks just so that I can brush up on them. Even though the IT and intranet bureaucracy is stifling at best, they have made an interesting call putting the much of the UX control in the hands of a single usability analyst. At least we can affect many of these areas in one small team. The exception is coding.

4 Oct 2010 - 5:05pm
Benjamin Barnett
2009

Rich,I do not agree that "we should all be able to do them". There are fields of expertise that are far deeper than just "brushing up on them". And while some visual designers can do a bit of IxD and vice versa - it is a rare individual indeed who can wear several hats with the depth and breadth of knowledge required to do a truly fine job. Maybe you are one of those rare individuals, but most folks aren't.


With that said - collaboration between the team's experts is golden. By that I mean true collaboration using the doc as a way of solving complex issues with the experts sharing what they know or postulating ideas where they may not be the expert. The time spent around a (virtual or not) table is key and using a shared document with respect for each other's knowledge and area of the document is a better way to solid solutions.


The way you make it sound is that there is no reason for expertise since what we do is so simple.
Thanks,Tess

On Mon, Oct 4, 2010 at 1:44 PM, Benjamin Barnett <benjaminserious@gmail.com> wrote:

Sorry to bring up an old thread ...

But this is an interesting discussion we run into as do all small
businesses competing against larger agencies. We have been
experiencing this force for 12 years+. I would suggest that most
"small business" (freelance / boutique agency) owners would agree at
this stage in the Digital Media business timeline, that this
consolidation / cross-over happened about 6 years ago. We tie this to
the rise of social networks (channels) and the fragmenting of "the
Internet" into multiple, proprietary, networks.

The day of large infrastructure / resource needs for knowledge to be
delivered as a reliable (content) service (on time) is long over. This
includes the tools to build them.

I will say, hiwever, if the $$ is available and such a diverse team
can be put together with a mgmt hierarchy established, the added value
could be ground breaking or a (big budget) bust!

Let's never discount the added value of agility though.

But, anyway, to your point, the exception has always been the
(business) (application) code ;)

Regards,
Ben

On Jul 28, 2010, at 11:56 AM, a_interactive
wrote:

> I have to agree, this is a silly debate.
>
> The reason I say this that I think we should all be able to do them!
>
> As someone who has lived in the freelance, small agency world for
> the past 10 years it is quite fascinating to hear all the opinions
> from those in larger groups. I don't want to dismiss the validity of
> those experiences. It sure seems big companies have made
> distinctions in all the functions and processes involve in
> interactive design and development where there really aren't any
> these days. Just look at the job listings. The vast majority of
> savvy companies post for staff that project manage, design, code and
> do IA, IX and UX tasks. New media professionals needs to have these
> skills. It is the new reality. To be honest, I feel that having all
> these functions split up in silos of skills and knowledge is simply
> a waste of resources and a hinderance to successful projects.
>
> Rich
>
> PS - I'm in the middle of a short internship at a very large
> corporation helping with all these tasks just so that I can brush up
> on them. Even though the IT and intranet bureaucracy is stifling at
> best, they have made an interesting call putting the much of the UX
> control in the hands of a single usability analyst. At least we can
> affect many of these areas in one small team. The exception is coding.
>
>
28 Jul 2010 - 11:45am
KWADbst
2010

It might be a silly debate, but I see a lot of points being raised that are rather valid. Just note, these are just personal opinions from experience... they only really carry weight with me, but I do enjoy sharing. :)

a_interactive, I'd like to address something you talked about, you mention all the roles in one (project manage, design, code and do IA, IX and UX tasks) that people have to live up to when applying for work these days - I agree that it is common and a reality, though it's due to the economy and not a "new" role/position, for the ages. Companies can not afford to hire out for each of these specialties. Those who can, do get better results in my experience. I'm not saying that you can't have multiple skill sets under your belt, (we certainly have to have multi-level thinking for solutions), and our experience brings a lot into each of the roles, BUT as the saying goes, no man/woman is an island. I don't believe that one can be the best at all of those things at once.

I haven't piped in for the ACTUAL original question - I have to say (IMPO) the role requires more creative understanding. The person is this role needs to understand design (structuring systems), functional capabilities, psychological paths, audience needs, layout and hierarchy - that being said, I'm not convinced that it requires an artist.

 

 

 

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