What’s Wrong with Wireframes?

After an extensive search, I find I have not written this down (at least in a blog– I have referenced it in talks.)  Now, most of these points can be/have been addressed in one way or another. But one might ask yourself, what other deliverable is as criticized as wireframes, and could there be something better?

Firstly, wireframes emasculate the designer. Wireframes have often had a place in multi-disciplinary teams where the graphic designer had come from print, and didn’t really understand interface design. The interaction designer came from software and was making ugly terminal-esque interfaces. So in order to make sure the end result was palatable, the interaction designer (or information architect; I’ll use this term interchangeably in this post) would make a pig, and then the graphic designer would put lipstick on it.  This was 1998.

But as designers got savvy to interface, they started resenting the restrictions on their ability to creating compelling and useful designs. After all, a designers toolkit is essentially font, color and layout. The web browser stole the first, if the IxD steals the third they are relegated to the sorry position of kid with crayons handed a coloring book. Think hard of the last wireframe you saw. Didn’t it look a lot like a paint-by-number, with only the numbers missing?

How to Hire a Designer

A few days ago, I read an article with the same title as this post.  Oh, maybe it was How to Hire a User Experience Professional, or Interaction Designer or Information Architect, or whatever. I don’t recall. There isn’t so much difference anyhow.  I do remember it said things like “look at their presentation skills”, “see if their personas are based on research” and something about their wireframes. I tweeted that’s why I wouldn’t hire a designer, which caused some kerfuffle with my followers.  And it’s hard to clarify in 140 characters what teed me off about the original article.

Here’s why I wouldn’t hire someone based on wireframes, Powerpoint and persons:  it’s not because these are necessarily bad (well, except the wireframes, which are so 2001 that they are the mullet of deliverables, and like the mullet I cannot wait until they are finally gone and I’m not asked to stare at them any longer.) I was bummed because these are merely artifacts and not necessarily the  vital critical thinking skills you need to find in a decent designer.

I really don’t care if you never do personas, or if you make them up from a guy you talked to in the grocery story.  I don’t care if you use keynote, Powerpoint or Illustrator. And honestly, I would hire someone if they did wireframes even though I hate the darn things.

So how do I vet designers, if not by their paperwork?


In 1923, Frank Lloyd Wright completed the Imperial Hotel, a building commissioned in Japan. In 1923, there was a 8.3 magnitude earthquake. The hotel survived.

Wright was a midwesterner like myself, and had no experience with Earthquakes. When he arrived in Japan, that lack of familiarity was his strength; he passionately researched earthquake damage, and designed his hotel with multiple safeguards.

Terms of Art for the Heart

A term of art is a word when used in a professional context has a very precise meaning. I’ve been reading a lot about game mechanics and theory, inspired by Amy Jo Kim’s terrific talk given recently at Linkedin. Right now I’m half-way through A Theory of Fun by Raph Kosterner. It’s an odd, rambling book, and most it is familiar to anyone who’s been doing interaction design for awhile. But I do notice that game designers talk about emotion much more than we do, and they are crafting new terms of art and taxonomies that could be useful to anyone doing interactive (and particularly social) design.

Good Morning, Everyone

Welcome to a new and simple eleganthack design, finally live. The old eleganthack I’m moved to, and this lifestream blog I made my main interface. I kept thinking I’d do some fine tuning then starting writing here again. Six months later I realize the important thing is not to fuss around with it endlessly, but to get to writing again (and fussing endlessly will come when I’m procrastinating on writing.) You will have to resubscribe to the RSS, sorry.

So you’ve been wondering, what have you been up to, wodtke? Well, reading a lot about architecture, which is a passion I pickup after I wrote the chapter on social for my book. The result (so far) has been some insights on how the classic understanding of space can be applied online. I’ve presented this at IDEA, and I hope to further develop and extend these ideas at Interactions 10 Here are the slides from IDEA.

a makeover for eleganthack

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Anyone want to help me write a book?

First draft of a chapter for the second edition… love to get some help as I warm up.

Background: we’re trying to tighten up the book so it reads more quickly and can be accessible to more people. In doing so, we tried to collapse two chapters into one. I’m wondering if the section “those people” should just be axed. Yes, it’s useful information but is it really relevant to information architecture in particular and is it really necessary in this era in which there are so many good books on user research?

Please forgive dreadful formating madness… I exported pretty directly from Word, and we all know how well that works. But I’d rather spend time writing than formatting.

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