Everyone’s been going on about the importance of UX design. It aims to provide a robust user experience, intuitive customer journeys, and answer user needs, ensuring business success.
But little is said about what comes before crafting the first design elements and layouts in a design app.
Thus, this article will examine one of the most vital yet often overlooked aspects of UX design: UX sketching.
We will discuss what UX sketching is, what a UX sketching strategy looks like, and what benefits it yields to your design process.
What is UX Sketching?
UX sketching is the process of sketching out design elements and layouts by hand. Designers use UX sketching to develop, communicate and refine their ideas – either for personal reference or to share with teammates, managers, or clients when working on a project.
This method is an efficient way for UX designers to explore and iterate on multiple design ideas.
UX sketching can include a variety of types of sketches, such as:
- Storyboards – a flow of illustrations important for designing storytelling and creating product narratives
- Maps – mind maps, information architecture, site maps, user journey maps, etc., used to visualize a process, hierarchy, or timeline
- UIs – utilized to visualize screen-to-screen interactions
- Rich pictures – doodles, words, symbols, or any other visual element helpful in analyzing complex design issues
UX Sketching Process
Every UX designer has their own approach to sketching – some put arduous efforts into sketching to save time and nerves later on; others pull an all-nighter to create a sketch for tomorrow’s meeting with the client.
Whatever your approach to sketching may be, keep in mind that the main goal is to evaluate different elements of your design project and determine the most efficient approach.
To start, prepare the right set of tools (pencils, papers, sticky notes, digital sketching pads – whatever suits you the most), find a comfortable place, and begin drawing basic shapes and elements.
Think of who will be the product’s end-users, how they will interact with your design, and what the client’s business needs and aims are.
Benefits of UX Sketching
UX sketching may seem like a waste of precious time when you’re already time-constrained in a project flow. Why spend time sketching when you can jumpstart your final design by creating wireframes right in your design tool?
Well, here’s why:
- Develop, examine, and iterate on ideas: UX sketching allows you to visualize the problem your client faces and your idea of how to solve it. Moreover, sketching is very useful in brainstorming different solutions and design layouts, getting feedback, and making any necessary improvements to end up with the most suitable design concept.
- Communicate design ideas: through UX sketching, designers can visualize the product design and share tangible ideas with teammates, managers, and clients.
- Set a good foundation: UX sketching is done at the initial stages of the design process, enabling you to lay the groundwork for further refinements and iterations of your idea. Besides, when you answer all UX challenges during the sketching phase, creating wireframes and final designs is just translating your drawing into an app.
UX Sketching Tips
Getting better at UX sketching takes time and practice, as everything else does. Don’t give up on reaping the benefits of sketching if you fail your first few tries at it.
As most of the design work nowadays is digital, it’s quite common to lose that feeling of drawing by hand. If it’s been quite a while since the last time you took pen and paper, watch some tutorials on sketching basics, such as drawing hands for beginners – just to hone your skills.
Besides, digital tools make it easy to add fancy design elements such as highlights, hover effects, and 3D graphics. These are hard to replicate in sketching, so many designers can feel inapt and abandon sketching altogether.
If you’re keen on investigating the sketching world further, here are a few expert tips on great UX sketching:
- Adopt and stick to UX pattern conventions: there are adopted conventions for drawing user interface elements (such as buttons, toggles, or a search box) that are understood by everyone in the industry. Try to follow those conventions, but if the project requires you otherwise, you can develop your visual library for marking these elements.
- Try hybrid sketching: combine your UX sketches with photos to add to the design’s realism and perhaps notice issues regarding the color choices, element placements, etc.
- Trace the real world: take a photo of an object or a situation and use it as a reference to illustrate an experience in a specific context. This method is really helpful if you’re not great at drawing, as the photos can help with basic contouring to create a sketch basis.
- Create prototypes: clickable prototypes can help you evaluate your design’s intuitiveness and find user journey flaws to be improved.
- Don’t get caught up in the details: UX sketches are meant to be brainstormed, rough drawings, messy and unfinished. Avoid trying to perfect every aspect of your drawing, and instead, keep developing your ideas.
- Document everything: sure, UX sketching is just you brainstorming design concepts, however, it’s important that you keep your sketches with iterations and ideas to revisit them later, analyze them, or learn from earlier oversights.
- Set deadlines for yourself: sketching is a fun, creative process that can easily get out of hand, especially if you’re toying with different concepts and ideas and keep tweaking them. Therefore, it is wise to set a deadline for completing your sketching drafts and move the project on to the next design phase in due time.
- Ask for feedback: UX sketching is all about refining your perception of UX design, user interaction and journey, and product elements and layouts in general. Therefore, you should share your sketches with colleagues, supervisors, or even family or friends outside the design industry. Receiving professional and laymen’s feedback will help you grow your UX design skills as you get to understand the perspectives of both fellow designers and product end-users.