Working in any creative industry can be difficult. Sure, the creators may not have to worry about the marketing headache of integrating CRM into their operations, but the work is still incredibly demanding.

Although many creative professionals make their job look easy, it can be tough producing original, high-quality work every day.

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Sometimes, the imaginative juices run dry and you’re left with nothing but a blank piece of paper. This will hit home for many UX designers. Even the best designers have days where they doubt every idea that crosses their mind and struggle to visualize practical, yet unique, concepts.

This is where UX sketching comes in.

UX sketching is a very important step in user experience design, however, it is often forgotten or skipped over. It allows designers to test all their ideas before deciding which one to continue with. Sketching also allows you to share rough ideas with clients without taking up too much of their time.


Here’s a complete guide on how UX sketching works and how you can apply it in your web design. So, forget about your best web designing hacks for now and hear us out. 

What is UX sketching?

To put it simply, UX sketching is quick, mock-up drawing done by hand to help designers discuss, communicate, and improve ideas. Many designers use UX sketching for their own reference only, however it can also be shared with colleagues and/or clients.

Sketching Methods

  • Robust pictures – creating pictures can help designers see their concepts on paper and get a better understanding of complex or troublesome issues. And it doesn’t just have to be pictures. Sketching doodles, numbers, or words can be useful.
  • Storyboards – storyboard and comic strip sketches are graphic illustrations that form a visual representation of your ideas. They’re displayed in a sequence and can help designers visualize a particular problem or understand the voice of customer. They can also be particularly useful for pitches as they can create a persuasive portrayal and make a strong impact.
  • Mind Maps – mind maps are great when thinking about a specific process or timeline. You start with one centralized concept or problem and branch out with related thoughts or appropriate solution suggestions. If mind maps aren’t your thing, try user journey maps, site maps, or a sales funnel.
Image by GREGOR from Pixabay

What’s the difference between sketching, drawing, and prototyping?

Sketching, drawing, and prototyping may sound like they are interchangeable, but they’re not just synonyms of each other. Each activity is its own step in the UX design process and should be carried out in the order above. The aim is that as you progress and complete each step, your concept will get clearer and more intricate.

But what exactly are the differences between these steps?

Sketching

Sketching is quick, cost-efficient, and, sometimes, a little messy. This is the time to get all your ideas out of your head and onto the paper. It can include brainstorming, and there’s a level of security in the fact that there can be no failure at this stage. Any concepts given are simply loose suggestions and if they don’t work, then you move on.

Drawing

Drawing takes more time than sketching, and it’s the designer’s opportunity to create their product with more accuracy. For example, this is when color is added and particular styles are chosen. You are also a little more restricted in the drawing phase as you are now locked in on your concept.

Prototyping

Prototyping is the most in-depth, detailed stage of the three. It will take the most time and investment as you close in on the finished product. This is the stage in which drafts are created (based on the drawings from the previous step) to show what the final product will look like. There is not much room for alterations between this stage and the end product so it requires the utmost accuracy and detail.

Benefits of UX Sketching

Many designers may find the sketching section of the UX design procedure redundant. In ways, this is similar to the writing process. Many writers are eager to skip the planning part and go straight into writing the actual novel. 

Planning is key to creating a well-thought-out, high-quality product. UX sketching is the planning element of UX design and here’s why you shouldn’t skip it.

Produce the best idea

As mentioned previously, UX sketching allows you to brainstorm ideas and build on them until you find the perfect one. If you disregard this part of the process, you risk missing out on a better concept. Sure, the first idea that came to your head may have been a good one. But if you had allowed yourself and your team to discuss, visualize, and improve that idea, you could have landed on an exceptional cocept.

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Communicate ideas

No, we’re not talking about integrating VoIP services into your creative process, but it’s a smart option if you’re communicating ideas to a remote workforce. When it comes to communication, UX sketching gives you and your team the perfect opportunity to brainstorm and unite your ideas. Visualizing this process can ensure you get the design right and there are no grey areas. Everyone needs to be clear on the task ahead of them.

Problem-solving

Visualizing a problem can help you better understand it and generate appropriate solutions to tackle it. You could use the mind map UX sketching method to jot down ideas, or group similar issues together to analyze the recurring themes.

How do I get started?

Getting started with UX sketching is quite easy. There are just a few things you need to assemble and then you’re free to be as creative as you can possibly be.

Gather your team

Assemble your trusted team of creatives and assign someone to keep on top of team tasks management. Remember, it will take a group effort to produce the best, quirkiest ideas so the more, the merrier.

Grab your supplies

A pen and paper are the only real essentials you need to get started. But, if you’re a stationery addict then feel free to stock up on different colored highlighters, pens, and sticky notes. Of course, these extras aren’t crucial but they can certainly make it easier to group your ideas according to priority or category.

It’s usually best to start with physical tools as they’re quicker to access and easier to use than most online solutions.

Digital Software

Although digital software is not fundamental to starting your first UX sketching session, it’s important to be aware of this as it’s most likely something you will use in the future.

Especially if you are working from home (which most people are these days). Using state-of-the-art digital software can boost productivity for UX design teams working remotely.

Top tips

So, the basics have been covered and you’re now on your way to completing your first UX sketching session. Here are some top tips to help you allow the way.

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Try not to think too much

As mentioned previously, the purpose of the sketching portion of a design process is to generate ideas. So, don’t think too much before pitching something to the team. You may end up talking yourself out of a great concept.

This is also not the time to go into detail.

So, let’s say you were tasked with generating home design ideas with bespoke furniture. At this stage, you’ll need to focus on what bespoke furniture entails and spitballing ideas on how to incorporate it into home design. You won’t go into detail on the color, dimensions, or style of the furniture.

Write clearly

The sketches and notes you make at this time will be analyzed and reflected upon throughout the creation process. So, everything must be clear enough for others (and yourself) to read. This can be difficult to remember when you have so many ideas rushing out of your head at one time, but try to maintain legible notes.

Set a deadline

Sure, this is the part that requires the least detail and accuracy but you can’t just keep sketching for weeks on end. Set a clear time limit before you start the UX sketching. This will help prepare your team members for the task and keep everyone focused throughout.

Define your goals and target audience

Setting your goals will help the team stay on track and produce only relevant ideas. Establishing your target audience can assist with this, as you will know what kind of end product is required. For example, if you’re creating a minimalist web design to improve customer experience, establish who this website is aimed towards and work from there.

Share your ideas and welcome feedback

Sharing your ideas with the team and/or third parties can help you get a clear understanding of the work you have produced. Getting a third opinion can never go wrong.

Be sure to accept and respond to feedback. That’s the only way your work will improve.

Keep a record of everything

Do not, under any circumstances, throw your notes or sketches away. It’s important to keep a record of everything that was discussed and created, even if you’ve moved on from that idea. If you ever need to reflect or revisit a past concept, you’ll be glad you kept it safe.

Practice makes perfect

Just like any skill or talent, UX sketching requires practice. Some may argue that perfection is never achievable but you should never stop striving for it. Practice is the only way to do that.

That’s the only way to grow and improve your skillset and it will allow you to choose which methods work best for you.

Don’t be disheartened if it takes a few tries to land on the right one. You’ll get there eventually.

Bio:

Grace Lau – Director of Growth Content, Dialpad

Grace Lau is the Director of Growth Content at Dialpad small business phone system, an AI-powered cloud communication platform for better and easier team collaboration. She has over 10 years of experience in content writing and strategy. Currently, she is responsible for leading branded and editorial content strategies, partnering with SEO and Ops teams to build and nurture content. Here is her LinkedIn.