More on sketches and paper prototypes

After “Designing with paper” in which I present the method I use to create prototypes with the help of paper sketches, other resources have been published that further explore this topic.

The Messy Art Of Sketching UX from Smashing Magazine goes into detail, illustrating the main techniques:

  • color to highlight the importance of certain sections
  • sticky notes while creating tool-tip, popups and modal windows
  • photocopies to make sketches a generative process

4 ways to prototype faster collects in a short article what I would suggest on this subject:

  • start the process working with paper
  • adopt a single software to create prototypes, not a selection of tools (Photoshop + keynote + Balsamiq + Dreamweaver)
  • look for a solution that can also produce the functional documentation
  • use tools that help you share your work

5 Sketching Secrets of Leonardo da Vinci presents some suggestions on how to improve the sketching process by looking at the works of Leonardo da Vinci. The comparison is perhaps hazardous, but not the suggestions:

  • make different sketches in order to create different perspectives of the same concept
  • complete the sketch with notes that help clarify the context and the elements that are not easily deduced from the single interface
  • the purpose of the sketch is to be criticized; the process is collaborative
  • the solution to a problem can come from different fields
  • learn how to categorize and save your work, so you have a database of alternative solutions

Behind the scenes of a project

You can’t imagine how much I’d like to write on this site regarding the details of designing and building an online project, especially one that involves large and many different professions.

But I won’t do it.

I won’t do it not because I do not want to share what I learned in those 15 years of work.

I won’t because I can’t.

I can’t because the first thing I am asked to do during my consulting activities (and, in the past, as an employee) is to sign a non disclosure agreement that states that I can’t share the details of my work.

If don’t want to judge if signing clauses of this kind is an effective strategy, but I regret not being able to share experiences and practical case studies that are difficult to find reading books. The reality is often different from what we read in academic texts.

Proposing non disclosure agreement, however, is a vice that propagates with a certain speed. If until recently this was a problem of larger companies, more and more often I hear friends and colleagues who are asked to sign an agreement of this kind, even for projects of a few bucks.

But that’s not what I wanted to discuss today.

There are indeed lucky ones that are not afraid to share their experience in detail, as in the case of the BBC.

An example is the redesign of the weather section of their website, which has been masterfully described by the team: BBC Weather Design Refresh in Pictures. Why masterfully?

  • Because they illustrate the entire design process and not just a part
  • Because they host graphs and charts (like the one on the 5W – Who, When, Why, Where, What) that open full screen, so you are able to read everything with no secrets
  • Because they list the parts of the old site they have deleted, and the reason
  • Because they are not ashamed to show that everything comes to life from sketches on paper (see Designing with paper)
  • Because they state their vision and how to reach it
  • Because they stress the importance of icons and infographics in a project of this type.
  • Because they knew that describing in detail the complex redesign would have attracted the (inevitable) criticism of those who prefer the previous version (see comments 12 and 13)
  • Because they write the names of agencies and partners who have helped in the design of the site, instead of keeping them hidden (perhaps by signing a non disclosure agreement, just to return to the opening theme)

The fact they share their experience in detail probably derives from the fact that the BBC is paid for by users’ taxes and this is a way to show how the networks is using this money.

It would be nice that the Italian Rai could do the same, but given the quality of the projects they are perhaps in the previous phase, in which they have yet to learn how to effectively design a site.