So often criticised for its crimes against usability, Visio has been a loyal servant to me during the industrial years of the wireframe factory. Yet this tool of choice for the past decade is now at risk of being retired as the shift from Web to Surface paradigm sees my toolkit evolve. With the rich interactions of natural user interfaces the good ole fashioned pencil and paper is back in vogue. Sketching is the visualization tool do jour in this interaction paradigm.
Yet pencil & paper has its challenges for the artistically challenged. Years of keyboard abuse has seen my handwriting suffer and I never progressed beyond disproportioned stick men. My hand drawn sketches are no Picasso so I need to discard those napkin sketches and find myself a tool that enables me to quickly scamp up the designs whilst keeping that rawness of a work-in-progress.
I am not advocating that we jump in to a design package and produce hi-fidelity designs but that we use simple tools to quickly and efficiently mock up hand-drawn line sketches such as this (below)
One of our User Experience Architects used Omnigraffle to create these digital sketches (above) for our Microsoft Surface Enterprise Search Application, using a stencil of shapes built from illustrations created by our design team. I have built my own sketching toolkit from collections of stencils such as Konigi and Graffeltopia – great sources of free stencils for creating user interface specifications.
But are these complex diagramming applications the most efficient tools for sketching designs? In my pursuit of the killer tool for visualizing the behaviour of an application I posted a tweet for designers to come forth with their digital sketch tool of choice. I received responses from the usual suspects in the #Surface community - @joshblake, @stevedawson and @lhamilton. My question was timely as these chaps were individually considering developing a UI prototyping tool for NUI’s.
Joshua (@joshblake) posed a question back to me - what features would I want from a UI prototyping tool?
I thought I’d open Joshua’s question up to a wider audience... what would you want from a digital sketch tool for the early stages of UI design? so please step forward and suggest a feature wishlist so we can see what existing UI prototyping tools (e.g. Denim, Balsamiq etc) meet our sketching needs and if they fall short then we can possibly see what these clever chaps can do about it.