Wireframes should not be sketched or low fidelity, it must be the best artwork you have ever done
Every brief, storyboard or concept artwork, must be of your best abilities. If you start your initial product process from a unaesthetic powerpoint or unappealing sketches, it will only serve to set a low perception of credibility in your efforts and intentions. You must exhibit the same level of excellence in all aspect of your design process, as you demand from your final product.
The prototyping dilemma is in the level of quality. There are many theories and principles for creating your initial napkin prototype as a low fidelity prototype, i.e. post-its, sketches or mockups, to prove your concept, interactions or architecture. But when people are asked to judge or interact with products of low or inferior quality, they lower their perception of credibility. This perception results in invalid feedback based on the premise that; it is just a prototype and it will get better. Because of this, sketches often serve as a poor starting point, as this lowers the ambitions and perception of details. The details becomes unnoticeable and uninteresting.
We often tell our clients or senior management, that this prototype is just an initial draft by applying a sketched or low fidelity mockup style. We ask them not to judge the aesthetics to much, as it is clearly a work in progress, though we do expect them to approve the work. But this approach is both invalid and a waste of time, as it only serve to define the information architecture, not the concept or product. People can’t relate to low fidelity and they will likewise respond in low fidelity.
If we require serious feedback and valid interaction from our prototype, the napkin prototype has to be of the highest quality and fidelity, otherwise a simple mind-map or diagram would be sufficient. The design implemented should not be the final artwork, but it must be an attempt to explore a direction, as an experiment. This experiment will serve both the artwork and the emotional feedback required from our focus group.
Your napkin prototype must capture the principles of progressive design in its own stage and bond with your test and focus group. If the prototype fails to capture the emotions of your test subjects, it fails as a prototype. If you aim for immaculate results, you set the bar high from the beginning and inspire the entire design process and teams to do their best.
If your sketches only seek to understand information architecture, then you fail to understanding the customer and their needs. Design, even in an early stage, is about validating emotions, not text and buttons. The problem with sketches is that product design is more then simple elements, it is a wast and complex solution build on intelligent perception, information, interaction and empathy. If you keep working with sketches as a foundation for defining your path, you are blinded by the lack of fidelity in your wireframes, which doesn’t reflect the entire picture.
When you need to brainstorm or workshop your solutions, post-its, sketches or mockups are acceptable as a team challenge. When you need to validate, elaborate and preview your work, post-its, sketches or mockups only serve as a poor medium for your product potential. You must create high fidelity wireframes or mockups to gain the necessary feedback and foundation for your strategy.