Losing my Fidelity

Over the years I’ve watched my wireframes go from scribbles on the back of a napkin to architectural-looking blueprints complete with gradients and icons and detailed pagination mechanisms. And, truth be told, it saddens me.

Sharon Smith, Director of Product Management
#Design | Posted

Over the years I’ve watched my wireframes go from scribbles on the back of a napkin to architectural-looking blueprints complete with gradients and icons and detailed pagination mechanisms. And, truth be told, it saddens me. wireframe sketch on a napkinThe spirit in which wireframes were intended, way back when we first realized that websites had to be planned out, was to get ideas for content down on paper before we started plodding away at development. They should inform, not dictate, the information architecture, content development, and visual design processes that follow.

The general idea of wireframes is to create a simple sketch demonstrating page-level information architecture – essentially, the content contained on a page. The higher the fidelity of your wireframes (i.e., the more you’re dictating placement/arrangement of content), the less room you’re giving your designers for creativity, and the more you’re misleading your client about how content will actually look once it’s living on a website. I understand that this probably grew from the mindset that it’s easier for changes to be made in wireframes than in the visual design (i.e., Photoshop), but when did we stop trusting our designers to create such wonderful designs that we wouldn’t need to make so many changes?

So, I’m kickin’ it old school and losing my fidelity! No more will I dictate the placement of content on a page with rigid layouts and exact pixel widths. Never again will I create long lists of content with endless articles entitled, “This is an example of an article with a long title.” OK, so maybe I shouldn’t say “never” as there are cases where higher-fidelity wireframes are necessary, but they should be the exception and not the rule. They should come when something is so complicated that putting a box with an “X” in it doesn’t sufficiently explain the concept or when lower fidelity wireframes have sparked new ideas that need to be fully fleshed out before going to design and/or development.

I would say I’m starting a revolution, but it has already begun: http://rainypixels.com/writings/journal/back-to-the-future-of-wireframes/

Sharon Smith

Sharon Smith

Director of Product Management