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Wireframing Tips for Getting "Unstuck"

3 min. read

Recognizing being stuck is the first step to getting unstuck. Here are 2 easy techniques with 11 practical strategies to help you break free from designer's block.

It happens to all of us. You get stuck. You're stalled on a design and don't know what to do next. Or you find yourself using the same tired design pattern over and over again, though you know there's got to be a better way. And then there's the sneakiest form of stuck: reacting to a feature request by whipping up and sending off the first design that comes to mind without diving deeper into the problem.

These scenarios are frustrating because you know that not only is there a better design out there, there's a better designer inside. You just have to find a way to jar it loose by waking them up.

There's no sure-fire way to do this. Every case is different. And sometimes it just clears up on its own. In this article I'll list 2 techniques we've used to kick-start that process using Balsamiq Wireframes. Hopefully you'll find them helpful.

Technique #1: Embrace constraints

There are an infinite number of design solutions for every idea. Yikes! If you think about that it can stop you right in your tracks. But we all know that there's nothing like a deadline or an arbitrary restriction to get things going. Here are some suggestions along those lines:

  1. Limit yourself to 5 minutes (or less!) per wireframe. After 5 minutes, create a new one and try to come up with a totally different idea. Repeat. See how many ideas you can create like this.
  2. Try to create 5 wireframes in 10 minutes around the same design problem or idea. (Tip: Learn keyboard shortcuts to help you work faster.)
  3. Limit yourself to 10 UI controls. See if you can describe your idea in even fewer; it often doesn't take many to capture it.
  4. A variation on the above: limit yourself to a basic subset of UI controls. Pick the most generic ones (rectangle, button, shape, etc.) and work using only those to focus on the big picture first.
  5. Peldi has said that the first design is often version 3 of the product. Create the wireframe you have in mind then try to remove as many pieces as possible. This will challenge you to think about what's most important and what's not really needed.
  6. Put all the UI controls on the canvas then try to build your wireframe. It may help you think of other methods of doing things in the UI (as well as scramble your brain a bit). Move aside the unused ones, but don't delete them right away because you may come up with a use for them later on in the design.
All The Controls!
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Technique #2: Collaborate

Collaborative wireframing tools are great for working together with other people. (FYI: all Balsamiq products support simultaneous editing.)

Here are some suggestions for how to get more out of your design by working on it with someone else:

  1. Work on a design for 5 minutes, then hand it off to someone else. The next person can either build on it or modify it. Repeat until you're both happy with it.
  2. Take turns adding UI Controls in real time.
  3. Swap projects with a designer on another team. Have them do one of your designs while you do one of theirs.
  4. Assign multiple people to work on the same design. Do a "show and tell" with time for discussion about each design. Then allow each person to revise their design based on the ideas from others.
  5. Pair design. Have two people sit together and assign one person to describe the design and the other one to use the mouse and keyboard. Even if you have a very specific UI/design in mind it may come out different if someone else is building it, and the process of describing it may help you catch some flaws with it.

Last, but not least, recognizing being stuck is the first step to getting unstuck. Next time it happens, embrace it.

By Leon Barnard
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