Buxton On Sketching the User Experience

Here’s a really good video of Bill Buxton talking about sketching:
http://www.brightcove.com/title.jsp?title=323680309&channel=324389485.
It’s long–about 90 minutes. The contents correspond to his recent book, Sketching User Experiences, which I don’t have yet.

He covers a lot more great deal more than just actual sketching. The talk–and presumably the book–is ultimately about design, innovation, and the overall user’s experience. He also covers things like product development processes, touching on the notion of getting the right design versus getting the design right.

One thing that struck me was this quote:
“If you have the best designers in the world working for you and you don’t have an executive who is at the power of the CTO directly reporting to the president…who is called the Chief Design Officer, then you should fire all of your usability people and all of you industrial design people, because you are telegraphing to your entire organization that you don’t take this seriously, so why should they.”

Ouch.

But he’s right. At most companies, Design (with a capital D) is about getting the design right and not getting the right design. Also, Design isn’t integrated into all other parts of the business, and so has little chance of succeding. You need the C-level support. Punkt. Whether or not the Design Team should pack up and go home is questionable, though.

Buxton notes that sketching is different from prototyping. Sketches are disposable, unfinished, and ask questions. Prototypes answer questions and suggest a concrete design. And since ideas are a dime a dozen, you need at least 5 sketch alternatives to get the right design. This is what Design is all about. It’s not about the designer, but about exploration, throughing things out, and making mistakes.

In sketching information experiences, I’m wondering what the tools are. Wireframes, of course, are a staple of information architecture. But how do taxonomists and librarians sketch organization systems?

Sure, there are tools to help develop and manage abstract information structures, but is this really sketching? Is this really design? Maybe not. Maybe IA isn’t a design discipline. If alternatives aren’t explored, then it is not.

So what are the sketching tools for information experiences? Post-Its? Card Sorting? Sitemaps? Anything else?

About Jim Kalbach

Head of Customer Success at MURAL

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