Why a wireframe should be a wireframe – Reaction to Adobe Catalyst

Why drawing is faster - Try making an easy drawing like this in a program like Axure

Why drawing is faster - Try making an easy drawing like this in a program like Axure

There is quite a bunch of software on the market to create realistic prototypes, wireframes using the designs made in Photoshop, Illustrator etc.

It looks great but it partly misses the point in my opinion.

The whole joy of a wireframe is that it is fast, that you can check it fast and that it doesn’t look realistic.

Why realistic is no good

Imagine yourself in a meeting with developers, management, marketing and sales. You show a realistic prototype using the final design. What will be the reaction? “Great, so it is finished?” Well, it isn’t, that’s why it is a prototype.

Show a wireframe and they will start discussing what is good and what they don’t get. Or in other words, no distraction of the core purpose.

Why paper and pen is faster

Even for normal wireframes there is a lot of software on the market like Axure that is great in creating a prototype even for simple wireframes and they offer you the possibility to build towards a realistic prototype that serves for showing customers, usability testing and internal communication.

It does the job great but it takes more time than drawing and is no as flexible. So why bother?

As I am not working as a UX consultant and don’t have to present to my client a great looking prototype to defend my fee, I can save costs. I can imagine that for consultancy there is no way around it.

But even within a company a wireframe not done on paper can have its benefits. For example for internal communication between designers and developers.

How long does it take you to draw a wireframe? 3 minutes?

How long does it take to create an Axure wireframe? 15 minutes? You count.


12 Responses to “Why a wireframe should be a wireframe – Reaction to Adobe Catalyst”

  1. Very good post! 🙂

  2. 2 Joe

    Have you looked at Balsamiq? Great lo-fi prototyping tool.

  3. Yes, sketching is a fast way of wireframing but, thinking on the customers, an Axure document (or other tool) generates a high quality deliverable. Every document’s got its own place and time.


  4. 5 Blake Deeney

    Excellent post! Look into Bill Buxton’s “Sketching the User Experience”. He presents a polished argument for this stuff.

  5. 6 Sun Sunich

    I use rough sketches on the earliest stage to quickly visualize a couple of solutions that come to mind mind to choose a right direction and to quickly put down the ideas I have. Afterwards I usually create a Visio wireframe using a special sketch-looking stencils (kind of brushes). The board and sales love it and they don’t get distracted with the looks that Axure or any other wireframe would have. The benefit of doodling in Visio is that you can easily relocate the elements after you change your mind and want to move ‘this button here, and this panel there’. If i used pencil and paper prototype I would end up redrawing it like a hundred times.

    • 7 Remko Vermeulen

      Very true. Although quite often we go from sketch (normally 2 to 3 versions) to actual design (Photoshop) and skip the Visio altogether to save time. But problem that arises is that you never have an up to date version for communicating it before the visual design (Photoshop) is ready

      • 8 Sun Sunich

        Couldn’t that problem be solved if you only used psd for the very final brush-ups? 🙂

  6. 9 Remko Vermeulen

    Yes, but there is not a great need for it and like this I can skip the making and especially updating of digital wireframes. (Costs a lot of time)

    • 10 Sun Sunich

      Sounds fair. I have a lil’ bit different situation maybe. For programmers to actually get to the programming stage, and to for me to make illustrated documentation prior to that, I need to have something at hand (like rough visio sketches). They’re always quicker and easier to make than psd.

      Oh and testing requires the same sketches. I print them out for an early stage testing usually. Once again, a great advantage of digital sketch — it can be easily transformed for testing purposes. 🙂

  7. 11 Bo

    A brief reply to an old thread – but I find that doing wireframes as ‘grey-box models’ in either Photoshop or Illustrator (based on hand-drawn initial sketches) works quite well for me: Especially in Illustrator, you can move things around as easily as in e.g. Visio – but you’ll have the advantage that once you get to the visual design stage, you’ll already have a skeleton to build on : )

    And btw – if interactive prototypes are needed, both Illustrator and Visio will be able to export clickable HTML-prototypes (or will Illustrator – maybe Fireworks?)

  8. 12 elskid

    hope you can post also a video about Business Catalyst Alternative inorder for people to gain more knowledge about business catalyst.

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