Don’t Just Wireframe – Tell the Design Story

The growth of the User Experience Design field is astonishing, but well deserved. Thanks to UX Designers all over the world, the quality of products has increased dramatically. Design really does matter now. It’s not only Apple on the scene anymore. Samsung gizmos look better than ever. Google has redesigned all of its products. Literally every successful startup looks and works beautifully and popular iOS apps are just gorgeous…

This is the decade of User Experience Design” – we’ve heard this many times during meetings with inspirational people such as Dave McClure, Paul Singh (both 500 startups), Hiten Shah (KissMetrics), Brandon Schauer (Adaptive Path), when together with my team, we’ve visited Silicon Valley to validate our long-term strategy. Since we’re not only UX Designers, but also creators of tools for User Experience Designers, this particular declaration made us jump for joy.

Is the future bright for us? It certainly is, but we still need to work hard on the way we act as a community. User Experience Design must show its merits in front of stakeholders and prove its value in financial terms.

Here comes the danger

I have a feeling (based on my UX Manager experience) that many people consider UX Designers as wireframers. By wireframers I mean unfortunate people who just do wireframes and perhaps clickable prototypes from time to time.

It’s about time to state: UX Design does not equal wireframing. Let’s make it clear: anyone can wireframe – it’s a rather simple activity, but not everyone can design experiences.

What does it mean to design experiences? What’s the real job of a User Experience Designer?

To design an experience means to plan and act upon a certain set of actions, which should result in a change in the behavior of a target group (when interacting with a certain product).

A UX Designer’s work should always result in a change in behavior. This means that we need to:

  1. Plan an experience using a different means of communication (Personas, Flow Charts, Sitemap, Wireframe, Mockup, Prototype…) and our knowledge (cognitive psychology, HCI, interaction design, research…)
  2. Tell the design story in such a convincing way that the whole product team and stakeholders will actually want to create the product that we designed.

These two points above cannot be separated. To create a stunning user experience for our users we need to do both – design & tell the story. If we just create a wireframe based on our own opinion (not knowledge and research) and tell a very persuasive story to stakeholders – we’ll risk creating a poor experience. If we design the experience well, but don’t tell a persuasive design story – the final experience will be poor as well. After all this, our well-crafted product won’t exist.

Tell the design story

You may wonder – why not just create a wireframe? Simple as this – a wireframe without a context is meaningless. It doesn’t represent the design, nor does a clickable prototype.

Why? The design should solve certain problems for a certain group of people. Wireframes and prototypes do not present the problem that needs to be solved and do not describe a targeted group of users.

Wireframes are only one chapter of the design story that we need to tell. Accompanying diagrams and documents are meant to help you communicate your design. Tell the whole story not just one chapter. It will help your team and stakeholders understand your intentions.

Final piece: collaborate

Most probably, you can’t create a product on your own. You need your team to believe in your design. There’s only one right way to do it. Engage them in the process as early as possible. Define the design problem with your developers, product manager and visual designer. Share all the research you have. Let them prototype with you…

Let them co-author the design story and watch them getting highly motivated

Tools

We all know there’s couple of decent wireframing and prototyping tools on the market. The question is how can we add more chapters to our design stories? How can we make them really speak clearly?

  1. Have a look at this great list of tools by the Information Architecture Institute. Tons of ready-to-use templates may guide you through the process. I’d recommend, for the sake of collaboration, you upload all the templates to Google Drive and use it in Google Docs. Equal access to information will help you build a great team.
  2. You can upload all the chapters of your story to UXPin – The User Experience Design Tool.
    UXPin lets you create wireframes and interactive prototypes, convert paper prototypes into digital html wireframes and add additional deliverables (Persona, Project Canvas, Business Model Canvas templates – included) to projects formed as stories. Have a look at the video.
  3. Usability tools – a set of tools that will help you improve the usability of your site. Mainly testing tools, but there’s also a ”persona creator”, which may form a nice chapter of your design story.

Author: (5 Posts)

Marcin Treder is a design enthusiast who literally lives for creating best user experience possible. After years working as a UX Designer and a UX Manager he focused on his own startup UXPin - The UX Design App, that provides tools for UX Designers all over the world and was supported by some of the best investors in the world including Andreessen/Horowitz (Facebook, Instagram…), Gil Penchina (Linkedin, Paypal) and Freestyle Capital (Typekit).

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