The Paper Version of the Web

Hi Strangers!

This article is a few months old, but thought I’d post for posterity. Fun?


People have been sketching user interfaces since the birth of the web (possibly even before) but the sketches usually stay locked away in old notebooks and discarded bar napkins in Austin, Texas. Many of the websites we use started out as scrawlings, and with people like Jakob Nielsen and Bill Buxton spreading the gospel of faster, cheaper paper prototypes, “next year’s Twitter” may already exist on paper.

We don’t usually get to see this handmade stage of the web, but some folks have been thoughtful/narcissistic enough to upload photos of their UI sketches, and I find them fascinating.

10 responses to “The Paper Version of the Web

  1. Fantastic post. i just wrote a blog post about wireframes here
    i love it when people talk about the type of pens and sketch books used, kind of makes you think of web design as a craft as well as an art and science.

  2. jessicarudzewicz

    Wow, excellent work on the wireframes post. Great timing – I have a presentation here at work coming up on this very topic and this an inspiration. I will throw some of your thoughts in there and say “As the great James Kelway said…”

    Love that Garrett elements of user experience diagram. I want to make a stencil of it and make t-shirts!

  3. Great post, James. It will save me a lot of ‘splainin what a wireframe is. You are now in my coveted “Methodology” folder.

    Something to ponder (perhaps while enjoying a bottle of wine in a hotel lobby): “A wireframe is not design”…

    Where does design begin? Does it not begin at the conceptual model stage, through wireframes, and complete with the visual specification?

    Apologies for getting all existential with us peeps on this blog.

  4. Katie, I’m more interested in your use of the word ‘splain:

  5. OK….design begins (for me) when I start to imagine what the site needs to do. So yes, I guess design has many layers and the word is as vague as it can be these days.

    At the core of design is the idea, the money shot, the thing that will make it great. So Katie – I think it begins way before you see anything tangible, even before deliverables appear.

    Thats what I think anyhow….

  6. Your ‘splanation makes sense to me, James. Once I have some requirements and start to think about how to solve them, I’ve started “designing.”

    I ask because (believe it or not) there are people I work with who have some distorted views that we need to sort.
    – that “design” is just visual design
    – that process design does not require user input
    – that during build or QA, when new problems arise, design isn’t required – IT can figure it out.

    Just a few of the wonderful challenges of our beloved gargantuan IT companies.

    Real Mike Laurie (red snowflake shapes): That video is just scary awesome. It’s kinda like end-to-end experience design “They all work together when you put em together…and as long as you . . groove.”

  7. jessicarudzewicz

    Interesting, Katie! In a way, I’ve experienced the precise opposite – but with views just as confused.

    Since I work for a small-ish boutique design agency, it’s been design driven from Day 1, and as we’ve grown larger, and more “interactive” there’s a ton of confusion around this very topic. On one hand, I have some folks who insist IA should be a pure representation of information…and designers “drive” the creation process and the final product, while the IA lays out the “requirements”. It gets even more confusing the more interactive and flash-driven a site gets (In my case, we design a lot of film sites). How to IA design a site that is always in motion.. while not stepping on creatives toes?

    No one operates in a vacuum, so that buy-in is critical. I do think the designers and developers would enjoy sketching sessions with a lot of group dialogue. Then again, we often lack the time to actually incorporate this into the process – and as a result, developers, IAs and designers wind up competing for who “decides” the direction.

    We’re about to implement SCRUM, a development management process to tackle some of these very same stakeholder issues. I’ll report fully as to how it goes. If anyone has any experience with the SCRUM process, chime on in! Ha, the process has a “scrum master”. I am not sure how much I like the way that sounds.


  8. OK – my experience with SCRUM and Agile? Its completely dependent on your colleagues and the scrum master.

    To be honest it won’t be the holy grail to getting projects done brilliantly – or at least thats my experience. Still if you can collaborate and communicate every day and be totally transparent then it will help (but then that helps in whatever process you use). Let me know how it goes for you but it only really effects the developers from where I sit and nobody has cracked the UCD and Agile thing properly as its completely reliant on teams and individual dynamics.

  9. jessicarudzewicz

    Well, I will boldly go to SCRUM planet, and I’ll send communiques of my adventures there. From what I hear, it’s quite flexible, so we are going to try to have it serve as a process for both design and development, since due to time constraints we often wind up developing and designing at the same time (fun).Thanks for sharing your experiences, it’s good to know that going in!

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