High Fidelity Wireframes (Photoshop Mockups)

By Jed Grant

high fidelity example thumbnailI personally believe that the first two steps of gathering requirements and understanding the customer and then creating wireframes are essential; however, while I do those things I am constantly looking forward to the time where I get to make it come alive with color layout and form. That’s exciting to me. While some people may consider the aesthetics to be unimportant I believe they play a vital role regarding the user’s perception of the application and potentially their efficiency.

The Importance of Design

The focus of my design revolves around page flow and interaction. These two things, if designed well, allow users to be more efficient in accomplish business goals. There are other elements to design. Some examples are color, size, contrast and layout. Each has more than aesthetic value. For example, color can establish themes to help users draw connections between similar portions of a large application. Size of page elements can assist with page flow, which is the order in which elements are viewed by users. Contrast also has implication regarding what order people will view page elements. All of these elements contribute to how a user views the application and how they get their work done, however subtle they may be.

I would suggest that the design of your site or application allows the user to believe and trust their experience, hopefully without ever even noticing the design consciously. It helps them believe they are using a high quality tool that will help them (the user) accomplish their own goals which are a part of the larger business requirements.

User Centered

In regard to a web site or application, business requirements always rely on users to get the work done. Due to this it is my feeling that users must be consulted regarding both design and function as early as possible. User testing will identify trends regarding potential changes that will allow the user to accomplish their tasks more effectively and as a result business requirements are more easily met. I prefer to identify 3-5 individuals and have them look at mockups to get an initial response and gather feedback. This feedback will influence the design (though this doesn’t mean changes will be made) and will provide insight from people who will be using the product.

When I do user testing on non functional designs I will write test cases and ask the user what they think they should do at each step of the intended flow and encourage them to verbalize what they are thinking. This allows the user to identify potential problems with the workflow or suggest changes that would make it easier. This is particularly true when you are designing a solution to accomplish work that they already do. I have found this style of testing early in the design process will help refine requirements and identify gaps in addition to allowing the function to become more efficient.
The customer still owns that product as has the freedom to make choices, however I will typically share the information gathered from users and suggest that we utilize that information where it makes sense.

Consistent Modern Design

For most companies it will be very important to make sure that convention regarding all aspects of design are established or followed where they already exist. I personally believe this is a crucial part of maintaining identity, building credibility and reducing user confusion.

I believe in maintaining identity, however, I also believe in making sure a design resonates with the intended demographic and conveys a message that the company is current and understands the market. Sometimes this leads to subtle alterations in established conventions to take advantage of modern technologies which will allow users to be more effective. Sometimes the need for change will come from a design that is simply out dated due to the rapidly evolving nature of technology. Regardless of why change needs to occur, I think it is important that all changes be carefully considered and their impact understood before they are solidified.

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