Skipped On Wireframing

I recently read an article by Brad Shorr over at Six Revisions called, “The Benefits of Wireframing a Design” and realized that I’ve allowed myself to skip that step more-and-more lately—I started wondering why that might be.

At first thought, I started to believe that it was because it wasn’t necessary or I’ve just grown beyond the need. Then I started to realize I was actually trying to justify my own laziness.

Truth is, I never really stopped wireframing my web designs. I’ve just started doing a lot more sketches on graphing paper and left over scrap print-outs. Realizing I’ve not abandoned wireframing, as much as I’ve just deformalized it—I started to ask myself why that might be. I’ve come to the resolution that it’s due to my recent self-employment.

Yes, being self-employed has made for poor wireframing. There, I said it.

It may sound ridiculous at first, but when you start to think about it—it all makes perfect sense. Here are a couple of reasons why being self-employed might cause you to develop a less formal wireframe.

1. Singularity

Most self-employed freelancers spend the majority of their time working alone, and although we may bring in another designer or developer from time-to-time, for the most part, we try to do what work we can—solo.

Why would this be a contributing factor?

Because wireframing is a stage of the overall project that is typically used for presentation and collaboration with other key members of a team to help communicate the varying needs of the content provided or manipulated by those team members. If there is no team, there is less of a need for this type of visual representation. Or is there?

The fact of the matter is that although we have a tenancy to think we don’t need to bother with wireframing, “because it’s just us and we know what we need to do”—that’s not true at all.

There is even more of a need to develop a wireframe when there is just one individual on the project—if not simply for a point-of-reference and a chance to unload your mental picture onto something more real.

We all know it doesn’t always work out like we “thought” it might. A wireframe helps you work out those mental translations, even if there’s no one else to collaborate with.

2. Time is Money

As self-employed freelance designers we often have the mentality that there is too much to do and not enough time. And although that may be true on many occasions—it’s never a reason to take a shortcut.

You may recall that I started this article by admitting that I’ve slacked off a bit with my wireframing, and after reading Jacob’s post—I’ve got to admit that a lot of it is because I feel like I’m saving time by just sketching it out on the nearest clean surface.

What I sometimes fail to realize is that in my effort to stay efficient and save time, I am actually causing myself more work in the end. As Brad points out, it takes a lot longer to hash-out a full web design than it does a wireframe. And as we all know, our sketches don’t always translate to pixels as well as we might hope—if designing websites were as easy as doodling on the back of a notebook, then you’d see a lot more designers out there making the big bucks.

Conclusion

It’s easy to fall into habits of deformalization when your only work companion is a beagle named Tucker, but remember that most of the steps we’ve used in big business have been tested over and over by agencies, designers and publishers alike—and found to have merit. Sure it’s easy to sketch up a wireframe while watching TV and enjoying a beer with the guys, but are you really designing at your greatest potential when propped up on a TV dinner tray?

I’m not saying that wireframing is for everyone. I know some very talented web designers that have never even thought of wireframing a design, but that works for them and their schedules allow for design exploration on a more detailed level without the need to plan out their strategy through wireframing.

As freelance designers we have many distractions, and we’re asked to wear many hats. Accountant, secretary, office manager…

Just remember that when your wearing your designer hat, work like a designer. Think creatively, intelligently and don’t try to save time so that you can move on to your next task. Block out the accounting chores for a few moments and remember that planning ahead and using a wireframe saves you time and money in the long run.

Do you Wireframe?

I’ve given my 2-cents, how about you? Are you sketching on graphing paper, using Illustrator or Photoshop?
Who uses something like MockingBird or Balsamiq? Something better maybe?

Your turn to share.

8 thoughts on “Skipped On Wireframing

  1. I’ve been wireframing for years, and don’t know what I’d do without it. Anyone not wireframing their designs doesn’t know what they are doing.

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  2. Thank you @Stephanie and @Alex for the complements. I’m hoping to get better.

    @Sr. Web – I feel like your statement is a bit strong. I’m willing to bet there are any designers out there that are very capable and have never taken the time to wireframe a design. Perhaps they should, and it would most likely be of benefit—but I feel they are capable non-the-less.

    @QuickCode – you sound like a Six Revisions employee (kidding). I agree that in most instances what you say is tru. There are very few occasions that I have disagreed with the postings of Jacob Gube and the rest of the writers at Six Revisions.

    How about the question? Obviously many of us wireframe, but what are you using for your composition? I’ve considered doing a review on MockingBird later this month.

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  3. The truth hurts. If you aren’t using wireframing than you’re not a professional. You might think you are, but truthfully your just kidding yourself.

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  4. Great post but Sr. Web is showing his immaturity in making a statement like that. I’ve been a web designer since the early 90s and although I started out blueprinting all my designs, I rarely go that far now unless the project reaches a level of complexity that demands a blueprint. Visual maps are necessary for some and just another step for others. Many clients will require a blueprint, and in such cases I’ll provide one. Otherwise it’s up to my discretion and most of the time I opt to avoid the extra step. I’d like for Senior Web to tell me I’m unprofessional to my face.

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  5. I can always remember my professor insisting on comp layouts, and I hated it. I always felt like I could do a better job if I’d just throw myself right in the mix and design. Now I know he was right. Many mistakes and redesigns later and I now use wireframes for all my designs.

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