Speak Their Language: Presenting Wireframes to Designers

Emily Smith
Emily Smith

Next time you’re on a project where a designer is involved, it will help to keep these five tips in mind when it’s time to present wireframes:

1. Be visually minded

Your meeting will fall flat if the designer isn’t able to start creating mental visual concepts about how the design could start coming together. One way to help create the right atmosphere is to make attractive wireframes. If you are like me and aren’t a designer, then spend the extra effort to learn about basic design principles. This applies whether they are low or high fidelity, digital or hand-drawn.

Another way to serve these conceptual thinkers is to focus on the overall concepts of the site and how you see it coming to life. There couldn’t be a better place to employ digital or paper prototypes, if you are familiar with them, to help both of you visualize and discuss.

2. Channel creativity

Any quality designer will tell you that the best designs are produced within constraints. Creativity that is not channeled can be debilitating. One way to do this is to always talk openly about site goals, technical limitations, audience, budget, and timeline.

Designers are visionaries who are thinking in terms of design innovation and will likely keep creating new ideas during the whole design process. These are often great ideas that improve upon your work, but they can also frustrate the scope of the project. Clearly stating the limitations the design is working within can be a relief for everyone.

3. Focus on enjoyment

If designers’ jobs are merely to skin wireframes, their motivation will be lackluster, and who could blame them? Talk about where you see people being delighted, surprised, or specifically cared for by the site. Especially if you know the types of people that will be using your site, you can discuss how each personality would benefit individually from the interface experience. This will help them focus their energy, build excitement, and lead to innovative ideas for improvement.

4. Break it up

When you can, avoid dumping all of your documents and requirements on the designer at once. This will be overwhelming for both of you and can throw the creative process out of balance. You’ll probably end up needing one or two bigger meetings, but it will help if you can have some shorter meetings beforehand where you present sketches, talk about ideas, or talk through specific pages or challenges. When the bigger meetings roll around, you’ll have less groundwork to lay at the forefront and it will be easier to get momentum built. This process will make the transition to the design phase seamless.

5. Make it personal

It makes a world of difference to get to know the designers you’ll be working with personally. How do they best consume information? What role does emotion play in their decisions? What time of day is their mind most focused to absorb details versus think about the big picture? Do they need to marinate on something awhile to offer feedback or is it more instantaneous? Do they need coffee before your meetings? The more you can find out, the better you can personalize your projects with them to everyone’s benefit.

A Note for the One-person Shops

If you happen to be a one-person shop, where you are developing the strategy, planning/wireframing, designing, and coding all yourself, these still apply! As a multi-talented individual with a heavy task load, make sure to think about the different modes in which you are asking your brain to work. By helping yourself think conceptually, visualizing, using constraints, thinking about enjoyment, and breaking the work up into smaller segments, you will be all set for the design phase.