Over at Signal vs Noise Jason posted a reply to someone’s comments. I’ll post it here:
I used to do all that stuff (wireframes, personas, sitemaps, etc), but discovered they’re about process, not productivity. In the past few years I’ve come around to being productive and working on what’s real, not working on process and abstractions. That’s what Getting Real is all about. And once you get it, you’ll wonder how you ever did it the other way before.
I would only suggest people do what works for them. Wireframes, personas, sitemaps don’t work for me and never have. I was blinded by process thinking that if I did that stuff then the rest would just fall into place. What I discovered was the only thing that really matters is what’s real — not representations of real, not diagrams describing real, not charts that simulate real, not fake personas that represent real people.
Has 37 Signals determined that these steps are no longer necessary?
For us they are no longer necessary. I think those steps are a complete waste of time. Your mileage may vary, but I’d challenge you to try to do without them. Once you do you’ll realize how insignificant they really are.
I had to comment on this since a significant part of our business at Tornado is spent building wireframes for the various types of sites we build.
I do think the wireframe process is valuable most of the time. I’ve been involved in projects where everyone involved had built so many sites that with a short discussion, a few minutes at the whiteboard, and bam we had a great idea of what we were going to build. And we could get to work immediately.
I think wireframes come in handy in three ways:
- Client communication — Simplifies communicating web site structure and page elements between client and design team.
- Collaboration among teams — I don’t care what you say, a wireframe is really handy in communicating page level functionality. Especially if teams don’t work together every day (outsourced or distance working).
- Forcing me to think about it — Putting it on paper forces me to think about it before I waste time designing and coding.
For example, Tornado recently assisted a company in the specification of a web application and the customer had never built a web application before. We didn’t have the development resources in house to build this application and so we built wireframes and site maps to help him communicate his project to development firms and to his investors.
We met with about eight development firms (all who responded that were of the right size) and I can wholeheartedly say that having a completed site map with dozens of wireframes made this a significantly easier project to discuss.
The best part was that all of the development firms that chose to put a proposal together were working from the same blueprints. That was amazingly valuable and reduced the potential confusion.
Do user personas and all kinds of use-cases make sense? They don’t to me. I muddled my way through hundreds of use cases back in 2001 and it was horrible. Looking back it was exactly what Jason wrote above. A huge muddled process where you think you are making progress however nobody is productive — they’re just busy.
It’s a good wakeup call and I’m glad for his post.