Words on Wireframes

Design is a Job should be required reading for anyone making a living doing Design. I will write more on that later. For now, since I have become the lady who complains about wireframes (so not the title I was hoping for…) I’ll post this eloquent quote about working with the IA (whom Mike calls the Information Designer, as if titles weren’t fuddly enough) to produce good layout.

Profound and profane (don’t say I didn’t warn you)

Every day, all across the world, probably as you read this, there’s a designer presenting page schematics, or wireframes, to a client. A page schematic is a terribly confusing thing to be showing to someone who’s not trained to read them. Even for someone who runs a website. (Ever look at the electrical wiring diagram for a refrigerator? Yet you stick your arm in one multiple times a day.)

And as if showing them that very confusing document isn’t enough pain to begin with we also throw in the biggest lie we tell our clients every day:

“These don’t imply layout.

Oh, for fuck’s sake. How could they not?

This is generally done as a way to leave enough leeway for the visual designer to then come in and have the freedom to move things around as they organize the space and begin creating a visual experience. Which, by the way, we love. I once worked with an information designer who yelled at me for “moving things around!” (She’s no longer with us. The industry, I mean. Nothing was ever proven.) But we’re passing the problem on to our clients. We simply can’t tell a client to ignore the most obvious thing in front of them: an organized box! And think of all the meeting time we’d save by not having to constantly repeat that stupid phrase.

For years we’d go back and forth on ideas to make the river run uphill, and, well, the metaphor just gave it away. Let layout be layout. Get the visual designer and the information designer working together from the start. Get them to agree on a basic grid, a potential layout, core functionality placement, etc. And have everyone evolve that idea as the project moves forward so that every party is aware of what’s going on.