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— Nov 2, 2012 —

Prototyping and Wireframing - is there still room for both?

I hadn't been on The Pastry Box Project for a while. It's not a regular haunt for me, but every now and again, someone will link to one of the entries on Twitter, so I'll scoot off and have a look.

The particular one I went to look at today was Why prototyping beats wireframing by Leisa Reichelt.

It's basically a list of why Leisa prefers prototyping to wireframing, and, in the majority of points on this list, I agree.

Leisa writes things here like:

You’ve got a thing you can start testing, in all kinds of ways, almost immediately. Prototyping is more like experimenting than describing your grand design.

Prototypes create the impression of real progress—of something actually happening—in a way that wire framing never does.

Both of these points are exactly the way I feel when I'm building a prototype. I have something that I can immediately show to my fellow developers rather than having to try to describe what's in my head, wither verbally, or through something tangible like wireframes.

When I get to a stage where I think this would be of benefit to the project/account manager, I can provide them with a working representation of a website. Sure, it's basically plain text with some borders to separate areas of content, but it gives an impression of how the site will display it's content.

Since we're smack bang in the middle of discovering what we can actually do with this whole Responsive Web Design fandango, prototyping like this gives us the perfect medium through which we can show an account/project manager, or even more ideally, the client, a solid representation of how the site will work across all these different viewports provided by the ridiculous amount of web enabled devices there are in the world.

But where does this leave wireframing? I've read things on Twitter from a few well-known names in the web design industry (if only I could find the links, I'd put them in here) that there is now no need for wireframing.

Do I agree? As with everything else in web design, it depends.

Before I knocked up my prototype only yesterday, I spent about 30 minutes or so, just scribbling some initial ideas from my brain onto paper.

It helped me narrow down what I was aiming for when building the prototype, and provided something for me to refer to once I'd been called away for input on other projects, after picking up the phone, or nipping out for lunch.

For me, wireframing is a useful tool, even if it's only to keep my own mind on track.

But should we be taking these static drawings to our clients for them to see, or even sign-off?

The way things are moving, to me it feels that this is an additional, almost restrictive, step in the process when working with the client in the design process. As Leisa says:

Less wireframing, more prototyping.

Maybe it's time to stop taking wireframes to clients.

What do you think?