Before you start sketching

by Alexander Baxevanis on 30 January 2012

How many times did you end up sketching the “perfect idea” for a website page or feature, only to realise later on that you’ve missed something important, and adding it means you have to rethink your concept from scratch? Or, when you’ve got a few alternative sketches, you don’t know where to start?

Even when you’ve done extensive user researchthat should help you avoid the above problems, it’s often difficult to remember all the relevant research findings in the heat of the designing moment.

That’s why you should make a point of trying todocument the goals of your design before you start. Here’s a template to help you write this mini-”design brief” so in 1 sentence:

This (page/element) will be used by (user type/persona) looking to do (goals) and should include the following (information/actions).

For example, imagine you’re designing an ecommerce website and need to sketch a page for customers to track their orders. There’s probably a few ways to organise such a page, but the brief is the same:

This “recent orders” page will be used by customers who’ve made an order looking to:

  • find out when their order will be delivered
  • cancel their order
  • find out how to return an item

and should include the following:

  • list of all orders placed in the last 3 months
  • link to access earlier orders
  • summary of items for each order, order number and when order was placed
  • link to parcel tracking information (if available)
  • link to order cancellation form
  • link to returns form

How you arrange all this information on a page is up to you, but by documenting it upfront you can at least be sure you won’t miss anything important.

To help you using this technique while sketching, we’ve produced a free downloadable PDF template to help you write your design briefs. Just print of a stack of these, keep them in your project area, and remember to fill one in before you start sketching a new page or feature.

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