UX sketching: the most basic level of the idea process

June 2, 2015

You’re a UX designer and you’ve been asked to come up with some initial designs for a project. Cool. Now, get rid of the idea that you have to have something beautiful to present, and just start with the building blocks of layout and design. Not easy, right?

It’s hard as designers to allow ourselves to do this. But here’s the thing: sketching is meant to be rough and horrible, and having that in mind will allow you to focus on the problem you’re trying to solve and not on the quality of the art. Some of the most effective sketches I’ve created were the sloppiest because I was thinking of ideas faster than I could get them down on paper. 

Sketching is an expression of problem solving at its most basic level. It allows teams to collaborate on ideas and learn how their thought process happens. The focus is on the research and how to solve problems with facts and data – there’s no attachment to visuals at this point. 

Once you have sketches, copy them or put them on a whiteboard and get your team in front of them. Nothing is safe from the wrath of markers and opinions. Layer your sketches – pencil, marker, stickies and scribbled notes all over them – then destroy those initial ideas and build on them. Collaborating at this level bring out ideas you would never have thought of individually and allows the team to become involved in the building blocks of the design.

As designers, our goal is to get feedback. Allowing the designs to be in front of people faster is key to having rapid iteration on your ideas. Allowing the clients and users to see these early ideas as sketches means they can focus on the real problem at hand – not just on the visuals. Rather than someone focusing on a blue vs. green button, they’ll look at why that button is there. People are more likely to give feedback to a piece that looks unfinished rather than an idea they think you invested a great deal of time into. In the end, this will save you valuable design time as the structure and layout choices have already been worked out.

Architech’s design culture is one where everyone is sketching and whiteboarding their processes, ideas and thoughts. This is a small part of what allows us to collaborate on a higher level and come up with industry-leading, innovative ideas. 

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