I once had a meeting, the purpose of the meeting was to explain to a potential client the process and tools of UX and how we might apply it to the redesign of there site. In the meeting my super smart, totally brilliant coworker was showing an example of how a wireframe had been translated into a completed site design and he said something that gave me serious pause, it hit nerve.
It's not the first time I've heard this, both from other UX peeps (including this smart one) and non-UX peeps and every time I hear it I go crazy. See the final site design had a top navigation scheme and the wireframe architecture was based on a left hand navigation design and my coworker said, something along the lines of "see in this example the final design moved the navigation and that's fine, we don't do design, the wires can be interpreted any number of ways." (not a direct quote but close)
I just about had a heart attack, this perspective is right at the center of 4 big issues big issues for me.
1. The myth that the content of the UX deliverables, especially wireframes are just suggestions for the final product.
The short version of this explanation is that we work for months defining goals, interviewing users, analyzing tasks and flows. We create huge strategy docs and road maps, and the final realization of all this work is the wireframe.
If we are doing our job everything that appears in the wires is on purpose, backed by research and data and is a product of multidisciplinary creative thinking. If a wire has a top nav, it's there for a reason and the art director and I made the decision together. It better freaking be a top nav in the final designs. Got it.
2. To drill in a bit further on #1, decisions like basic page structure including how navigation is displayed a joint exercise between UX and Graphic Design not a solo expedition.
It's just wrong to make wireframe without input and buy in from the Designer. Two heads are better......
3. All to often UX doesn't take responsibility for the ultimate design of the site.
The site design is the realization of the digital strategy, if we throw up our hands and say, "hey, it was in the wires...." we might as well have not done any research or strategy work. UX Mag said it best in this article:
"There are a lot of designers and UX architects who are happy to go with the flow and let marketing dictate the terms of the design. If a poorly dictated design ends up crippling the user experience, well, that’s not their fault. But blame has a way of trickling down to the people closest to a project. Who’s going to take the bullet? The senior marketing executive who oversaw the project, or you, the worker in charge of actually executing it?"
Hot damn! So well put and so important.
4. and finally.....We are Creative.
Too many agencies and companies don't consider UX part of the "Creative" team. This is crap-o-la.
The work we do is an exercise in some serious creative expression. The best teams are a trio of Graphic designer, Writer and UX geek, all owning the creative process and contributing equally. If you can find a balance and each member of the team is taking responsibility for those items specific to their expertise but open to free participation and idea generation you are going to have one sweet product a the end.
photo: Seattle Graffiti