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Varying Scope of Interaction Design Artifacts

Monday, December 13th, 2010


Design artifacts such as sketches, wireframes, visual mockups, and prototypes are the essence of what interaction designers use to communicate their work. However, not all deliverables have equal scope. Instead, each deliverable type mentioned covers an area of the design space that is smaller or larger as they represent less or more screens.

From my personal experience I find that sketches (or wireframes) afford the designer to cover the widest possible scope. Sketches can be used to draw up or think through the widest possible design space. Sooner or later more detail is required beyond sketches as one steps into the world of visual design. Here the discussion takes on pixel level details, styles, branding elements, colours and fonts. At this level of detail, however the number of screens that are represented diminish relatively to that of sketches. Only a few selected screen types need to be explored as mockups. Finally, the scope that prototypes cover I find are the smallest. Most of my prototypes test the interactivity or behaviour for a particular page. These are often the closest in detail to the real thing as they often exist in HTML, Javascript form, and live in the browser.

What’s more interesting is that once the scope is broken up and varied across these various types of deliverables, they can begin working together in a hierarchy to serve different goals. Sketches are used to explore the breadth and flow of the interface as they unify the largest numbers of screens with user scenarios or stories. Visual design mockups are used to test the visual style details for a couple of page types. Finally, prototypes are used to test experimental page level interactions and convey the feeling of rich interactivity to get stakeholders excited about a particular concept. Taken together, each deliverable only needs a uniquely defined scope to fulfil its purpose.

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