Usually I recommend 2 rounds of wireframes (more rounds are ok during proposals).
If you still cannot move on after 3 rounds of wireframes this is typically a good indicator that your project has some sort of underlying problem that you should detect and address right now.
Typical Problem Areas
From my observation problems can arise in many different forms. The simple identification of such is half the rent to address them (and I will leave the resolution up to you here).
No real user need
Every project should have been initiated by a user need. Many times that isn't the case and that is when it becomes difficult to defend a design to new requests, just because pretty much everything sounds like a great idea. So how can one
- measure the usefulness of the overall site?
- accept/deny new ideas or requirements?
- define the importance of requirements and their conceptual representation?
- design the visual hierarchy without clear or shifting priorities?
That's tough, it's like going fishing without campfire. Educated guesses are more important and also difficult than ever. Define a story that follows a vision that makes sense.
Too many cooks in the kitchen
Is there a sense that every time you step into a design meeting the wind has changed 180 degrees? Indicators for a deeper problem are when the team cannot settle on a wireframe because of
- conflicting opinions
- never-ending subjective feedback
- scope creep
- YADRN (yet another design review needed)
- executive seagull effect
- design by committee
Try to make the best out if by asking lots of questions, a little evangelizing, prioritizing feedback, and plenty of skilled design balance.
Poorly defined requirements
Every requirement should serve the purpose of the site, i.e. the user need(s) that drive the vision and right of existence of the endeavor. Maybe your requirements need refinement because they are
- too vague
- missing a definition of WHY they are needed
- defined by committee rather than thoughtful (and curated) selection
Mockups will help you identify missing requirements or surface items that don't make sense anymore in the big picture.
Undecided project manager
Decisions have to be made, priorities have to be set, deadlines need to be met, requirements satisfied. Somebody has to sail the ship and make decisions. You know the project has a managerial problem when design decisions cannot be taken because of
- new requirements popping up like mushrooms
- another 360 (as the wind blows)
- lack of authority given to the designer
Find somebody that can make executive decisions or make the decision for yourself (I know, nobody likes to piss off their PM, but pick your battles).
Issues with the client aren't uncommon, and not always is the client the problem, but certainly some clients can be more challenging than others. Find ways to finalize your designs and move on when
- requests about the HOW increase
- nitpicking increases
- conceptual designs are dissected to the dot on the i
- changing their mind on a daily basis
Go back to the roots, ask questions about WHAT and WHY you are doing this. Ask specifically what you can do to finalize any given slide, let them tell you and move on.
Missing domain knowledge
Not everybody can be a subject matter expert, but somebody has to and this somebody needs to be available to clarify and consult. You know you are missing a SME when the mockups
- tell an incomplete story
- can't hold up to critical questions
- an actual expert doesn't understand the mockups
Involve domain experts early, listen to their advise and take it seriously.
Last but not least, the problem could be the designer himself. Sometimes the designer didn't have the time to get his head around the complexity of the project, he or she is
- missing the holistic view of the system
- is missing crucial information to design well
- is facing impediments that weren't solved in time
- got hung up on a failed design and didn't want to start over
- fell in love with a design and can't let go
- is purely not capable of designing/communicating well
Have peer-reviews, offer a mental break, mentor the designer in his/her creative blockage or inability to get their head around the subject. Create a culture of failure where it is ok to accept a u-turn and throw away a design in favor of a potentially better one.
I would love to hear about your experiences and especially how you resolved any issues.
- 20 HTML Best Practices You Should Follow (by Saqib Sarwar) - yes, we all know, but it's so easy to forget 😉
- 10 Essential Free E-Books for Web Designers (by Grace Smith) - free? freeeeeee!
- Self-Motivating Through Creative Blocks (by Cameron Chapman) - always love the sheer simplicity in which Cameron summarizes complex subjects, must-look.
- The power of brief speeches: World War I and the Four Minute Men (by Richard I. Garber) - Five minutes means a guess; four minutes makes a promise - that's why 😉
- A Complete Guide to Progressive Enhancement (by Cameron Chapman) - expaining why your website does NOT need to look the same in every browser, try to explain that to your client 😉
- Getting to Grips with Content (by Kristina Halvorson) - Prune it, Put it in front of users, Give it purpose - sounds easy? Look around...
- 8 Must-see UX Diagrams (by Andrew Maier) - yes, must-see...
- The GeoServices REST Specification: An open standard for GIS Web services (by Sterling Quinn) - now this is sweet, the full GIS capabilities of ArcGIS Server via REST 🙂
- Finding the Balance: Users’ Needs Vs. Clients’ Wants (by Oliver Gitsham) - have a rationale ready behind every decision and design choice that you’ve made!
- 7 Warning Signs of a Nightmare Client (by John Urban) - oh, I know the control freak, and well, the extra freebie guy too 😉
- 40 Great Resources for a Complete Roadmap to Freelancing (by Aidan Huang) - plentyful of good links, not only for freelancers.
- Putting Content Back on Top (by Felicity Evans) - on top of the sandwich, like thinking outside the bun hehe.
- The ROI of UX: Proving the Value of User Experience Design (by Erin Lynn Young) - "[...] holistic consideration of the user’s perspective will reap larger returns than other potential business investments", nicely said.
- 5 Web Files That Will Improve Your Website (by Alexander Dawson) - robots.txt, favicon.ico, sitemap.xml, dublin.rdf, opensearch.xml - yes, you can!
- 10 Free Wireframing Tools for Designers (by Grace Smith) - Online wireframing, I love it and you should too.
- Debunking the Myths of Remote Usability Studies (by Corrie Kwan, Jin Li, and May Wong) - some myths might seem obvious, but others - drawn from first-hand experience - are not. Anyway, lot's of good advise to be considered.
- How to Communicate With Your Clients (by Joel Reyes) - In short: Listen, Ask, Consult, Respect, Reason
- Beginner’s Guide to SEO: Best Practices – Part 3/3, Part 2/3, Part 1/3 (by hongkiat) - Search Engine Optimization is a must in all our toolboxes. Excellent three-part tutorial, thx!
- 250 Quick Web Design Tips (Part 2) (Part 1) (by Alexander Dawson) - about Browsers, Styles, Techniques, Marketing and all other good stuff.
- Agile UX and The One Change That Changes Everything (by Anders Ramsay) - Start Building Earlier through Rapid and Rich Communication and Just-in-Time Detail.
As always, send me your link or mention it in the comments. Anything related to this blog is much appreciated by all of us. Thanks!
"It was already one in the morning; the rain pattered dismally against the panes, and my candle was nearly burnt out, when, by the glimmer of the half-extinguished light, I saw the dull yellow eye of the creature open..." (Chapter 5). Sounds familiar to us geeky programmers out there? Yes, and the root of all evil are clients that design their webpage from a sushi menu, picking whatever they like.
Usually I encourage my clients to look around, get inspired and show me what they like. It gives me a sense of how they think and into which directions they want us to go. But never forget: Clients identify problems, designers provide solutions! Understand why the client shows you a specific page or design element and what exactly they like in it. Don't feel pressured to include every detail in your final design otherwise you wake up at 1am facing a yellow-eyed creature and you'll end up with a Frankenstein Design.
What are warning signals that your project might face a Frankenstein Design?
- Client mentions Stakeholders too often. Money makes the world go round, but will eventually ruin the user experience.
- Client fell in love with a bad design. Try to build solid knowledge about good and bad design principles so you can explain the pro's and con's of a particular design.
- Client needs to please too many interests. It's understandable that every party involved wants to see their logo on the page, but honestly, one is enough 😉
- Client decides on a color scheme. Besides corporate colors clients feel strongly about certain colors that either clash with your design, psychological theory or existing color schemes or are simply bad taste altogether.
- Client has no idea at all. That means trouble! Not now, but once you are done. Guaranteed.
- Got more?
What you can do
- Listen. Hear what the client tells you and try to understand why they say it.
- Feel. Sense what the underlying need is and translate it into design elements.
- Talk. Speak up, don't shut up, don't wait until it's too late.
- Fight. Pick your battles, don't let rules overrule what you think is right, at least voice it.
- Reconsider. Don't get hooked to an idea too strongly, be open to erase your white-board drawings and start over.
- Document. Make notes, sketch ideas, capture screens, summarize. Send these notes out.
- CYA. Cover your ass, seek consensus and approval, set it in stone through written acknowledgments (mockups help).
Send me your experiences? What is missing on this list?