User Interface Design Process: The Sketch
All design projects have a beginning, a middle, and an end. This is much like the story model. So what is the beginning of the UI design phase? Let’s call it ‘the sketch’ (we can assume at this stage general planning, audience research, information architecture, and content have mostly been completed).
Well a sketch in the world of UI design might mean slightly different things to different designers, but for the most part it’s the phase that we are laying out app or screen elements in a very quick and general manner. This is often accomplished by... you guessed it… sketching. Some people may prefer graph paper and pencil, others may use applications like: Sketch, Axure, Omnigraffle, etc. At this stage it’s not important what tool you use, only so long as it allows you to quickly iterate and adjust your designs (remember we have to consider mobile and multiple screen resolutions).
Why do we Sketch?
Sketching is so important, I can’t stress it enough. This is your chance to safely work out your ideas before moving to next phases (wireframing or more hi-fidelity concepts). You don’t even have to show your sketches to anyone really, they can just be for you… I usually don’t. When I am satisfied with my layouts, I move onto a wireframe model, something more robust, or even interactive. I can do this even more quickly and effectively because I took some time to sketch things out, and work out the major issues first.
How to Sketch
There are no hard and fast rules about this. There are common shorthand methods and many custom variations of these, but in the end all that matters is that YOU can understand your scribbles.
Sketching can be used to effectively and safely workout your various layouts and screens before investing too much time in wireframing or higher fidelity designs. It can often help identify gaps, issues, and provide solutions early.