Posts Tagged ‘sketch’

Reference Zone Wireframes (with Rough Events)

Wednesday, April 1st, 2009

Cutting corners on the level of detail is a popular approach during wireframing which has been noted in the past during exploratory phases. These reference zones (term taken from Wireframes for the Wicked presentation), or content labels, do just that. Block outlines have been drawn out which are then labelled in order to describe what is contained within. Hans here has also introduced a number of arrows which begin to explore rough flows or events within the interface (similarly to Vivi’s In Page Events sample). Perhaps another difference between Hans’ and mine sample is that mine combines these abstract reference zones with more detailed sections, whereas Hans’ sample is fully referenced. Either way, these ways of abstracting the representation is quick and works very well in stirring initial interface ideas.

Credits: Hans Nieuwenburg

Interaction Sketch Alternatives

Monday, March 30th, 2009

Inspired by the High Level Layout Aternatives sample, when I was sketching some ideas for fluidIA the other week, drawings such as this emerged. Even though the use of letters as a way to distinguish alternatives was borrowed, the intention wasn’t really about exploring layout. Instead the focus was more about exploring a number of various interaction alternatives where screen or state changes are interlinked with some form of action (mostly key presses in this case). The sample also makes use of a simple title suggesting a unifying idea for all alternatives. Just thought it would be worthy to share.

Credits: Jakub Linowski

Coloured Interface Sketches

Friday, March 27th, 2009

I think the technique of using colour combined with interface sketching has a great deal of strength. In this sample from Harold, amongst other things one can really see some awesome explorations emerge. The colours in this work really help to gain a richer understanding of the various interface elements across the screens. It also makes association easier and thus similarities and differences begin to stand out more so than in simple grey scale terms.

Traditionally, the general consensus around the use of colour in early interface design work was to avoid it. Early conceptual design, at least in wireframing, has typically focused more on things such as basic interface structure, flow, functionality and more general interaction. Seeing detailed colour on a computer screen too early was (is) perceived by many as detrimental from these more important issues. Myself included, I have resorted to the use of colour in wireframes for purely functional reasons. Could this constrained view be breaking down? According to agile approaches, it is completely valid and even desirable to “spike” forward with explorations. This sample does just that perfectly well in the context of colour exploration. Perhaps a coloured fill using the paint bucket on a computer is too rigid and too perfect for early design phases. However, such renderings as seen above still resonate with open and inviting incompletion which makes them more than suitable for conceptualization.

Here is another link of the evolution from sketch to final visual, along with an explanation.

For those thinking of spending some money, Harold has mentioned that he used Copic Markers, which are quite expensive but refillable. Amazon carries quite a few different sets amongst which include a greyscale set and a coloured one as well (they have other ones too). Jennifer has also stated here that she uses Prismacolor ones which are a bit cheaper and available in color or greyscale. I personally might just pickup and try a few colours first from a local art store, as well as compare Copics to Prismacolors.

Credits: Harold Emsheimer

Tab Order Diagram

Monday, March 23rd, 2009

I would guess that not many designers think of specifying or controlling the tabbing order of form elements. It seems that quite often this is the type of interaction which is left alone for the browser to take over and automatically figure out on its own. Most of the time when users press the TAB key, the focus switches between input fields quite well, and if it doesn’t then the mouse is used to correct everything. Hans however, shared with me a user interface sample which clearly makes the tabbing order explicit. He uses a very simple transparent arrow going across form elements in order to indicate the order. It works quite well.

Credits: Hans Nieuwenburg

Bubble Frames

Monday, March 16th, 2009

Bubble Frames – crudely rounded content areas with labels. Perhaps a merger of sorts between Rough Interface Sketching and Generic Content Labels. Chris explains it best:

Whenever I start a new web project, I want to conceptualize, and fast. Ideas seem to flow at a rapid pace in short intervals, making it hard to capture everything. I’m a huge proponent of rapid prototyping. I want to take as many of those ideas as I can, build a quick prototype, take a step back and then carefully analyze everything.

The best ideas are born in those critical few moments that you rapid prototype. And over time, those ideas can be melded into something that is truly incredible.

A tool that I use as part of my rapid prototyping process is what I call “bubble frames.” It sounds kind of stupid, I know. And it might not be all that unique. It’s really a mesh of things I’ve seen and read. But I thought I’d share it anyway to those who need some inspiration for their own rapid prototyping exercises.

The bubble frame is a watered down version of a wireframe. Instead of constructing exact boxes and labels as a skeleton for the web site, I use quickly drawn circles to represent what types of information will go where. I vary the size of these circles to represent the importance of the information they will contain.

Credits: Chris LeCompte

Sticky Note Pulldown Menus

Friday, March 13th, 2009

While sketching a user interface with the client, in this example popup overlays or pulldown menus have been drawn up using sticky notes. This technique has been around for a while (as probably seen in a lot of paper prototyping sessions) since it makes perfect common sense. Sticky popups stand out from the background noticeably and also can be easily removed and reattached as desired, which makes them ideal as a solution.

Credits: Hans Nieuwenburg

Tracing Paper Layers

Friday, March 6th, 2009

Here is an interesting technique which uses multiple pieces of tracing paper combined with sketching and scanning. It kind of reminds me of Photoshop layers except these exist in the real world. First, Jennifer drew various interface elements separate from each other on tracing paper and overlaid them together to form full page screens. These various combinations were later on also digitized using a scanner and then shared with others.

This technique shares some similarities in terms of flexibility with sticky frames. Just as with stickies, the designer can undo and rearrange elements very flexibly. Also, similarly to the sticky frame example where the designer used photography in order to reuse the various elements (and speed up the design process), here a scanner performed the same function. Tracing paper however has an additional characteristic of allowing to represent interesting transparency effects as is visible in the top right example suggesting an overlaying lightbox image. Tracing paper perhaps also affords a little bit more change and rearranging than sticky notes. All in all, such awesome tactics provide us with more speed and agility.

Jennifer writes:

We’ve also found that sometimes taking your design out of the computer screen forces your audience to focus on the concept rather than the execution, which is very helpful if your audience gets hung up on colors and buttons and the like. Frankly, it’s helpful to everyone involved: good design, I feel, serves the content, and all the flashy Flash/AJAX/JQuery what-have-you won’t save a poor design. I also believe that while good web design does not translate into good book design, etc., every designer should learn to use paper and pencil. Like the codex, it’s worked for 500 years; it’s not going anywhere soon.

Credits: Jennifer L. Anderson

Wireframe-Sketch Hybrid

Wednesday, March 4th, 2009

Sometimes the designer wishes to focus feedback and discussion only to certain areas of the interface. Knowingly that firmer and more defined styles suggest completion, while empty spaces and sketch styles invite discussion, the designer here has utilized this knowledge to channel feedback. This sample is a hybrid between a wireframe and a sketch. It has been started off using the computer and then printed out, while leaving a central area blank for sketching with the stakeholders. This interesting combination suggests to the stakeholders very clearly that the computer based areas are more defined and less open to feedback while the empty and sketchy areas are in need of refinement and more open to input.

Credits: Hans Nieuwenburg

Computer Based Sketchy Wireframes

Monday, March 2nd, 2009

Jumping over to the computer does not necessarily mean that the wireframe ought to look rigid and clean, suggesting a higher degree of completion. Occasionally, the designer still feels the need to communicate the interface with a style which invites change by suggesting incompletion. One way of doing this is by means of a more sketchy style. Here is a sample of Hans using Visio loaded with a sketchy stencil designed by Niklas Wolkert. Jonathan Abbett has later on revised the stencil here.

Credits: Hans Nieuwenburg

Graph Paper Layout Sketch

Wednesday, February 25th, 2009

A sketch drawn up by an interaction designer and a sketch drawn up by a visual designer will emphasize slightly different things. An interaction designer likely will focus more on multiple element states, and events (or links) which glue them together. Whereas someone with a more traditional visual or graphic design background will put extra effort on sizing, alignment, positioning and visual priority, which all work together in establishing proper visual relationships between elements. This second case is perhaps visible in a sketch submitted by Mike. The sample here makes use of graph paper, straight lines, and explores block and element relationships.

A sketch like this is just more evidence that the wireframe overlaps greatly with graphic design – a case made earlier. This overlap suggests once again that the wireframe can be grounds for collaboration between information architects, interaction designers and visual designers.

Craving more graph paper? Konigi provides a number of awesome stencils aimed at IA’s and visual designers which can be downloaded. Of course writing about graph paper and wireframing, one could not overlook another awesome blog about a similar subject matter over at

Credits: Mike Rohde