Living Wireframes using Office Live


wire_live   The challenge that faces any design project that uses wireframes is that they can easily be snapshots in time and become static. As soon as they are printed or circulated around a stakeholder group they become a moment in the site development’s life cycle. They often can be made redundant due to forces outside of the design project. This can be a potential point of weakness for this valuable deliverable.



The process of iterative design and collaboration with those who have a stake in the project is the most important element to the generation of this design document. Though it appears as a draft of a site it actually tells the story of the user’s requirements, the context of the solution and the content served. What the wireframe must convey adequately to the stakeholder group and design team is how any changes to the three factors will impact on the interface.


Factors in wireframe evolution

I have completed several IA projects that all yielded specific problems that had to be dealt with differently. In each case collaboration was key. The more that the relationship was valued the better the iterative cycle of wireframing occurred. Sharing and talking over decisions constantly refined the designs before any development or visual design occurred.

Three projects have had a good collaborative element where I was embedded into the development group. By being in early stages and party to all key decisions I had a good view of the business context in which we were operating. We knew where partnerships could be troublesome, so the interface would be adjusted. We could see where resource could be an issue to build specific site elements. By being extremely flexible to the wishes of the site owners whilst accommodating the user wants and needs, a collection of deliverables were handed to the design teams that had undergone rigorous internal and external review.

Even if a project that looks like it is going off the rails may still be saved by a well drafted wireframe. If the interface has been developed against recommendations there remains a reference point to the business to inform them where it went wrong – and an easy way to get the project back on track.

There is a solution that allows true collaboration and I intend to implement it on my next project. By creating documents that are truly living, produced in Visio and using Office Live to share and display online, we can actively encourage true collaboration. Allowing people to access the documents easily and comment on them allows a transparency that is appreciated amongst the team. Trust becomes a currency that will produce discernibly better results. This will allow us to reflect on the designs and implement change far more quickly than at present.

Changes in taxonomy may result in a change of navigation scheme and in turn to the interface. The business may decide not to evolve partnerships meaning certain content may not be present.

But by having a means to communicate in real time, online, more will be done in terms of tuning and perfecting the wireframe. Long before Photoshop is opened or the scrum rooms are busy, it can only result in a defined product and its cost-effective creation.

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