Bill Buxton, author of Sketching User Experiences, says the job of an interaction designer is to create a memorable experience when someone uses a product or visits a site. ZURB uses sketching as a communication and collaboration tool with entire teams. Visualization through sketching helps us to find unique opportunities that lead to amazing interfaces, which in turn enable great user experiences to happen.
Quantity is More Important Than Quality
The best way to a good idea is to have lots of ideas. - Linus Pauling
Sketching gives people the freedom to consider every wild idea without the fear of making a mistake. This is a creative, generative process that can not only discover great ideas, but create better teamwork. With lots of ideas on the table teams down into fuller, more amazing decisions in our products.
To illustrate this point, Buxton tells a story about a pottery teacher who splits their classroom in half. The first half was told their final grade would be based on one perfect pottery example. The other half would be graded based on the cumulative physical weight of their work. You would think the first group that had all semester to plan and master their technique with one perfect piece would create the best work, but it wasn't so. The second group that repeated the process over and over, without focusing on perfection, ended up creating not only the most work, but the best work. This is the reason why sketching is such an important part of the design process.
What Makes a Sketch, a Sketch?
Buxton talks about eleven attributes that make sketching valuable and important. Sketches are:
- Quick - We don't need to spend a lot of time mulling over our ideas.
- Timely - Its super easy to whip up a sketch in the middle of a meeting to help describe an idea.
- Inexpensive - All you need is something to write on and a pen.
- Disposable - If the idea doesn't last, it doesn't hurt to recycle some paper.
- Plentiful - It only takes a couple hours to jam through 40 or more sketches.
- Have a clear vocabulary - When someone sees a sketch, they intuitively know its just an idea or a "what if'."
- A distinct gesture - Sketches are loose and invite conversation and collaboration.
- Have minimal detail - Don't sweat the details, just get your idea on paper to spark something with your team.
- Have the appropriate level of refinement - The rough feeling of a sketch helps keep the conversations broad.
- They suggest and explore rather than confirm - We can ask questions and start a conversation about the problems at hand. We decide on details later.
- They are ambiguous - Sketches leave ideas open for misinterpretation and give people the chance to read into them further. This often leads to even better ideas and make people feel invested.
As ZURBians, we take these attributes to heart with our opportunity sketches, wireframes, and workflows. We can be efficient and get lots of ideas in front of our clients.
Why Should You Sketch as a Team?
Teams are a force to be reckoned with- each person has a specific skill-set to put on the table. Teammates learn and grow from each other through these skills. Sometimes the best way to work through a tough problem is to stand at a white board and sketch it out with a teammate. At ZURB, we challenge ourselves to learn all the time through any way possible. Sketching should be a go-to tool for any person working on a product or service they want to make awesome for people.
This book belongs on every designer's shelf or team library - it challenges us to think about sketching as a frame for all of our work. We can learn to think more openly and unite a ton of ideas into single, refined solutions for any design problem. We just need to remember that "just because something looks like a sketch doesn't mean that it is a sketch"'. Sketching is the act of asking, not showing. We need to open every idea for discussion until final decisions can be made.