Andrew Travers Andrew Travers is an interaction designer and researcher. He’s the author of Interviewing for research.

Andrew Travers


Those who can

Wireframes aren't dead - yet - but we have better tools available to communicate our design intent

Earlier today, I tweeted the following:

‘Those who can make, those who can’t wireframe’

I hesitated even as I tweeted it, and thought it was worth giving a little further context here than Twitter ever permits.

It was said not by me, but to me, in conversation with someone who isn’t an interaction designer, but works with people in that world. And it hit me square in the chest and got me thinking once more about when we reach for wireframes - because we will most likely always have situations where we’ll need to - but where wireframes should sit in the hierarchy of tools at our disposal for how we, as interaction designers, communicate design.

Making something true to the medium we’re designing for should always come before visualising a static state and annotating it.

I say this, in part, to chide myself for something I did in my final freelance assignment. I’d gone into that determined to sketch and prototype, not spend my time in Omnigraffle but ended up - through a mix of mis-communication, shifting scope and a little politics - doing just that. It caused us as a team to quickly get back to basics. And I reached for my wireframing tool of choice rather than quickly communicating the experience we wanted to achieve through code - and I’m kicking myself for it.

By doing so, we as a design team remained stuck in the world of the client deciphering meaning, reading not interacting and having to imagine rather than experience. Not to mention the unnecessary distance it put between us and our developers.

It wasn’t quicker, and it certainly wasn’t more effective.

As Alex Morris at Mark Boulton Design wrote recently:

‘We need much more proximity to the actual things we design, and we are incredibly fortunate in that the medium in which we work with on the web is free, simple to work with, flexible and disposable if needs be. Not many other industries have that luxury and yet we somehow feel the need to abstract this vital part of the design process through diagrams, convoluted software that mimics interaction terribly and end up working with static pictures of stateful and reactive things.’

Why wireframes are dead to me | Alex Morris

Some interaction designers choose not to code - and it is a choice, it’s not ‘can’t’ - but this particular interaction designer just reminded himself to always choose to make.