Goal-based Sketching for UX design

Sketching and doodling can be fun, relaxing and has the power to expand your thinking. However when trying to solve problems, sketching can also distract your process.

As a User Experience designer, I have found setting constraints like a timer or a whiteboard super helpful in putting pressure on the ideas being explored. Sketching up with flows and different page layouts can sometimes be a daunting task because of not knowing where the exploration should begin. I find myself always presented with the challenge of balancing clarity that the tried and tested methods bring, with creativity that inspire new ideas and new trends.

A few years ago, I picked up a simple brainstorming method that makes user experience sketching more objective, helping me simplify user interactions in over 30+ projects. I find that this technique creates a simple framework to ensure all the tiny decisions that make up an experience are fully thought through. I call it goal-based sketching.

Step 1: Goals

Write down goals that ask the question “What do I want my fellow human to do with the website/app/interface that they are using?”

Here is a simple example:

Step 2: Prioritize

Prioritizing the goals will help shape the ideal flow and builds a rubric for your visual design decisions.

‘What if the video played in a modal?’

‘No it should be autoplaying in the background!’

‘Maybe we don’t need a video in the top half of the website.’

The list you create will help guide through these possibilities. It merely acts as simple constraints for your sketching to make your ideation more focused.

Step 3: Sketch trade-offs

This is where the fun begins. Sketch whatever you want on the left. Then, draw a T-table with – and + as the headings to mark which goals are intuitive (+) and unintuitive (-)

Step 4: Iterate

Once you get some feedback from version 1, you can tweak and balance until you are happy with the tradeoffs you have made. Every design decision is a trade-off based on the business goals and ideal user experience you want to build. The end of this exercise might bring some healthy conversations about discussing such trade-offs and the dynamics of the audience you are building for. There is no such thing as a perfect balance of trade-offs, however your knowledge of your user’s needs will inform the decisions you make & the trade-offs that have resulted from those decisions.

Sketch, wipe & repeat

Methods simply initiate the conversation. Please share your thoughts on this method or any that you may have picked up over the years. I want to thank Suhail Doshi for giving me this nugget 5 years ago.

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