We're in process of developing a number of new apps and we're furiously working through sketches. We write a lot about sketches and it's an important part of our process. For us the real value of a sketch is not to look pretty, but to sell an idea.
Sketching with purpose means having an agenda for the conversation the sketch will start. Every sketch needs to be a micro-presentation that has a considered intention and direction. A business professional wouldn't come to a meeting to present with a pretty slide deck and no agenda to sell something. The same is true of designers. Sketches should have a clear value and purpose and not just be structural lines on a page. Here are some ways we use to make a sketch effective in selling an idea.
Less Is More
The reason sketches are so awesome are because they are quick and disposable. Designers love digging into the details, but sketches aren't meant for details. Consider the following sketches. Let's assume we want to convey that the new marketing page for an app needs a video.
The left-hand sketch is nicely executed, but the purpose is lost in the sea of details. In contrast, the sketch on the right is absolutely clear about the message behind the sketch. To convey purpose, less is more with sketches, so keep focused on the message and let the rest take a back seat.
Know Your Audience
Understanding your audience is critical for sketching effectively. Whether you are collaborating with a fellow designer or presenting to a client, consider your audience. This helps ensure that the purpose of your sketch is heard. A perfect example is chatting with a business owner about a design decision to restructure the homepage of their site.
The sketch on the left is clear about the intention of moving the primary call to action, but to what end? The sketch on the right was done with the audience in mind. Business owners care about conversion and, ultimately, profits (of course not to say there aren't other altruistic business motives, but we'll keep it simple for this example). Showing the financial results of restructuring the homepage is going to be selling point for working with the business owner, not the increased usability or visual balance.
Show Your Process
The ultimate purpose behind any sketch is to visually convey an idea to an audience. Sometimes one sketch is all it takes, but sometimes problems are more complicated and require guiding your audience through your process. Does this mean presenting sketches and ideas that aren't perfect just to share the thought process behind the final answer? Absolutely.
For more complicated ideas, understanding the investment and process can make understanding the purpose much easier.
At ZURB we love sketching for so many reasons and have written about why people need to sketch and secrets to successful design sketches. We think sketching is one of the most important parts of the design process, but what do you think?