Sketching before building

I feel that it’s always very important to set ideas to paper before reaching for a mouse or input stylus in the feverish rush of recording the ideas flooding your mind when a project starts. Dash your ideas down, don’t worry too much about the integration details, the way things may be implemented on the back end, or if all the ideas you are creating are any good (yet). Then close your notebook, step away, and enjoy a coffee or better yet, a nice walk.

Return to your work later. Cull your ideas. Iterate on a few that still seem to make good sense. Make sure you have a few you’d like to continue to pursue before going digital. You don’t want to make decisions that you make into effort only to find later you are resisting sound and necessary changes only because it’s less work to do so. Make things people love.

Once you have ideas roughed out digitally, sleep on them. Even a design you may think on Tuesday will be just as amazing on Wednesday – may not hold up to the scrutiny of a fresh look later. I run into this often, and the designs and concepts benefit from such a small consideration. I have yet to sleep on a design and have things worsen the next day because of it. I have seen (and have been guilty of it myself) where a design is locked-in far too soon and energy is funneled in useful but ultimately misdirected ways.

Here is a typical beginning of an idea – this one is for Wi-Fi sources that are available as presets. One through six as that’s about the limit of comfortable recall for a user. These could be an Amazon Music station, Apple Music, Pandora, Tune-In, or any other source saved to a preset position.

Typical navigation involves selection of a station – like terrestrial radio – and you hope that the current station content is to your liking. Or you go to another preset or make a direct audio selection another way. This disrupts what you were previously listening to – albeit for a short amount of time if it was preset-based. If you chose something and then ad-hoc changed it – it may not be easy to restore. So the idea was the ability to peek into a preset (or station’s) currently streaming content before committing to it.

You could either see the metadata for the content, or both see the data and HEAR the contents – before committing to it. To support this, multiple streams could be maintained to allow for very fast switching (and pre-buffering) – giving the user a buttery smooth experience.

Here is one page of many concepts scribbled for thought just to serve as a representative example of how I have approached such things. The sketch is for me, and if shared they may be cleaned up or drawn in a more straight-forward manner.

There is just enough information there to capture the seed of an idea or related ideas – turning the page to capture more of it. I can then go through them later on and cull the ideas down to something that works best – or share with team members to get their input on the ideas as captured. This could result in some impromptu white boarding, Figjams, chats over coffee, etc. It’s a great starting point and it’s lightning fast to scribble some ideas down instead of going right to pixels.

Don’t underestimate the value of sketching in your work – even if you don’t need to present anything on an actual screen. Document your things – and if good enough, get them into digital form so as to archive, present, and share them.

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