The more I work with clients, the more I’m convinced that written descriptions are a poor way of sharing and discussing ideas for a website.
The traditional process for getting a project started usually involves writing it down. Drafting a business proposal, or creating a requirements document, are often the first step we take in bringing an idea to life. And it can be a valuable exercise to help perfect and hone a concept within your own mind. But when it comes to sharing it with others, the written word can leave too much open to interpretation. Whether you are dealing with an investor, a freelance designer or developer or even internal staff, most of us are visual creatures. We need to see something in order to fully internalize what we are dealing with.
Sketching Out Ideas
I have always been a big fan of wireframes. For those of you unfamiliar with a wireframe, it’s sort of like a blueprint for a website, showing the basic elements that will be included on each page of the site. They allow people to get a sense of a project in a way written documents can’t match.Â Until someone, especially a client, sees an idea sketched out, you can never be sure that everyone is picturing the same execution.
That’s the biggest problem with relying too much on technical specifications and requirements documents. While many people assume it creates agreement on what is being worked on, it is often a false sense of agreement. The developer has one thing in mind, and the client has a completely different interpretation. That is why stories of unsatisfied clients and poorly-managed projects are all too common. Putting ideas into wireframes helps create consensus. You will also be surprised how people will take your idea more seriously when they can actually see it for themselves.
No Longer Just For Designers
Luckily, there is a tool out there that can help anyone build a wireframe, regardless of technical or design expertise.
Balsamiq Mockups is a great product that allows for quick and painless wireframe construction in an easy to use drag-and-drop interface. There is a free trial available, and the purchase price for the full version is reasonable. (As a disclaimer, I have no affiliation with the company and no financial incentive to recommend the product.)
Even with the design ability to create wireframes from scratch, I have been using Balsamiq quite a bit lately and feel the need to share it with others.Â It has saved me a ton of time and makes what can be a time-consuming task much easier. I have also worked with too many clients who spend vast sums of money on a web project, only to be unhappy with the end result. Starting out with a robust wireframe is a great way to avoid that happening to you.
Sharing Your Idea
There are many different reasons you may be involved with creating a website. Maybe you work for a company that is planning a redesign, or perhaps you are a budding entrepreneur who dreams of launching your own start-up. Whatever the case, you will probably need to involve other people at some point. And when you do, remember, instead of just telling someone what you have in mind, it’s always better to actually show someone your idea.
Do that and you will greatly improve your chance for success.
One of the Co-Founders of SideTour, former TechStar (NYC Summer 2011), ex-NBA'er, and past TechCrunch Disrupt Hackathon Winner.