Validating product design ideas with low-fidelity wireframes

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“The most striking truth of the curve is that zero users give zero insights. — The Nielson Norman Group

The above statement relates to an article by the Nielson Norman group. Beyond the obvious wisdom to be found in the article, I consider the above statement to be compelling as someone who works in human centred design.

Why go ‘low-fi’?

Short of scribbles on napkins or sketches, wireframes often represent the first tangible stage of the UX design process and low-fidelity wireframes in particular are perfect for validating early stage ideas and concepts. They represent a quick and easy way to get feedback on your initial ideas and don’t allow you or your users to get distracted by details afforded by prototypes or ‘design’ work ...

  1. If they do, is it being designed the right way?

Process

I generally follow a very simple five step process when validating ideas with wireframes. This allows me to move quickly, building out a rough product structure and experience with wireframes, get them tested with real users and then refine them based on feedback.

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Simple five step process

1. Create

Wireframes

You can create wireframes in all major design software, but for low fidelity wireframes in particular i’d recommend Balsamiq.

  • Navigation
  • Page structure and layouts
  • Content information and hierarchy
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Prototype

To go one step further than simply presenting flat wireframes, i’ll often use a simple prototyping tool such as InVision to link up screens and create a clickable experience for the user.

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InVision allows you to easily link up wireframes to create a clickable prototype

2. Test

Define your users

When trying to validate and test your wireframes it’s important to consider who’s testing them and providing feedback.

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Diminishing returns for usability testing, as more and more users are tested. (Image source)

The difference between zero and even a little bit of data is astounding.

Test structure

When validating and testing your ideas it’s important to have a structure in place to inform and guide your users when giving feedback. This ensures everyone’s time is used effectively and the quality of your insight is maximised. When validating ideas i’ll often use the following structure -

  • Ask users for their feedback and opinions
  • Ask users specific questions I want to know answers to
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Google Surveys is a great way to ask and record answers to questions
  • Asking a user to navigate to a page and find a specific piece of content
  • Asking a user to create X (where ‘X’ could be a blog post, item, document, video etc)

“Success is a poor teacher” — Robert Kiyosaki

Ask questions you want to know the answer to

  • Do you like the wireframes?
  • Was their any content or information that wasn’t clear?

3. Analyse

Recording data

After you’ve conducted your first user testing session, take some time to sit down and pour over the feedback you’ve received. If you did the testing in person you’ll likely have all your feedback written and recorded in a central place.

Organising and understanding

Now the fun starts! I find using a Google Sheet works perfectly to record user information and feedback, allowing you to group and organise information under appropriate headings and cross reference relationships easily.

Task and feedback analysis

Using our spreadsheet we can organise our feedback by functional heading, so we can give what the user has said some context.

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User Analysis template. Available for download here
  • Feature request
  • Complaint
  • I liked how easy it was to find X piece of content
  • If when we click the button, it would be useful if X could happen
  • I don’t understand why you’ve done X this way
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User Analysis Template with comments organised by type. Template available here

Question analysis

Often you will have multiple questions and their corresponding answers, so it makes sense to organise these on a separate sheet to our other feedback.

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4. Iterate

Now we’ve recorded all of our feedback and taken the time to analyse it, it’s time to start making decisions. Generally, we have three options when acting on our feedback -

Ignore

Sometimes a user’s comment doesn’t make sense or seem logical to consider. Perhaps someone wildly missed the mark with their comment or perhaps they were just being off key. You generally can’t action compliments either, so if someone says something like ‘Great work! Keep it up’, although it makes you feel good, there’s also generally not much you can do about it.

Discuss

Sometimes it’s not obvious what the piece of feedback means or how best to action it, in which case it will need discussion with either the user and/or the project stakeholders. It’s best to shortlist everything for discussion and then discuss in one go in a simple meeting or call to clarify.

Action

If it’s very obvious or you are confident what needs to be done, then this type of feedback can be considered actionable straight away.

5. Repeat

Depending on the type of project or product, resources and budget, this entire process can be repeated several times to really refine and finesse areas of a user experience using just low-fidelity wireframes.

Continue the conversation..

If you’ve got thoughts on my process, would like to contribute your own ideas or would like further help with validating your design ideas, then leave me a comment below or shoot me an email! 🙌🏻

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