How to… get better at sketching for UX

Ho to Jennifer Blatz UX design seriesDesign is not art. And just because you can design something that looks and works well, does not mean that you can draw to save your live. I, in fact, feel like I have no drawing ability whatsoever. In fact, when it comes to sketching an idea, especially on a whiteboard in front of others, I feel like a complete incompetent idiot.

But it is not something we can escape. We need to be able to draw some basic concepts or screens in order to communicate where the project is going or what we are thinking.

So just how can we get over our fear of sketching?

How to…

Get better at sketching for UX

1. Start with the basics: a line, a circle and a box

Nearly all objects, especially on an an interface, is made up of a line, circle or box/square.  Take a few moments to practice drawing these basic shapes. Then combine these different shapes in different ways to get more complex objects.

2. Everyone thinks their drawings suck

Get over the fear that your drawings are not going to be a masterpiece. UX is is not at, remember? Sure some people have better drawing abilities than others. But that is OK. Just frame the reason for your sketching: you are trying to communicate a concept. You are not trying to be the next Rembrandt.

3. KISS – Keep it simple, stupid

Do not try to go in to too much detail in your sketching. Sometimes thinking about the finite details too much can cause us to freeze. Think about the basic shapes and structures you are trying to convey first. Then communicate that basic layout. If needed, go back and take a second pass at adding more details. Again if you are using the basic shapes of line/circle/square, then you want to keep the concept simple.

4. Keep it low-fidelity

It’s best to do basic sketching with good old pen/marker and paper. Try to avoid going in to a computer to do sketches. It defeats the purpose of having the rough idea (or maybe many ideas) and then focusing on refining and perfecting. Plus, drawing on a computer just takes more time.

Sketching for UX Design Jennifer Blatz

5. Push yourself to the limits

I had heard about this initiative called “Sketching for UX.” An email is sent to you every day for 100 days with 3 topics a day. You are then supposed to sketch out these 3 topics. I like this because I don’t have to come up with the topics, and it forces you to be disciplined. Sure I may had to bundle a few of my drawings in to one day from time to time. But it gave me the opportunity to think about a concept and try to execute that in some sketch form.

6. Identify your weakness

If you know there is something you are not that great at drawing, do it more. This relates to the next point:

7. Practice, practice, practice

If you want to get better at something, just do it more. When I am  done with with the “Sketching for UX” challenge I plan on continuing to develop my skills by working on the concepts that I am not good at and what is common in interaction concepts. You know the saying: Practice makes perfect.