Re: [IxDA] A hybrid prototype — the holy grail of wireframing

31 Aug 2010 - 6:07pm
1231 reads
Christopher Fahey

On Aug 31, 2010, at 4:30 PM, horvath wrote: > An ideal workflow would look something like this: > > <...ideal workflow snipped...> > > A pipe dream.

A pipe dream indeed!

It's perfect that this thread's subject is about seeking the "holy grail" of wireframing: Any time you find yourself calling something you desire a holy grail, it might be time to start asking yourself why you desire something that you know does not exist!

Part of being a good designer is being able to use little else besides your imagination to envision how a design or an interaction might work, essentially doing all the prototyping and user testing in your mind. Most design decisions are done this way, and that's perfectly fine.

It's also important to be able to use your communication skills (visual, written, verbal) to convey complicated ideas to your colleagues and clients quickly and efficiently. I fear that sometimes this "holy grail" vision, where you spend long hours doing the grunt-work of building a functional prototype to better communicate a design concept, is kind of an easy way out of solving a communication problem that otherwise might have been solvable using good graphic diagrams and good written explanations. Worse, it deeply invests you as a designer in that one single model: all that time spent building a functional prototype could have been spent exploring two or three other approaches at a lower level of fidelity.

I wholeheartedly agree that functioning prototypes help designers understand and explore certain concepts better than any static drawing can. And they can certainly help explain novel UI inventions to clients lacking the same imagination you the designer may have. It's important, however, to remember that not everything about your interaction design needs to exist in functional prototype form. For most web site projects, for example, it's likely that almost all of the interactions are easy to explain and imagine. Focus your prototyping efforts on those interactions where you simply can't imagine what it would feel like, or that you are convinced that no words or pictures could possibly ever communicate the experience to a client... otherwise you might slide down that slippery slope from designing to prototyping to actually doing the work that the engineers are supposed to do!

I wrote a nice bit precisely about this "holy grail" thing a few years back, too:

Cheers, -Cf

Christopher Fahey Principal / User Experience Director

Behavior biz: me:

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