There are many tools and apps out there for the sole purpose of creating wireframes and prototypes in a short time frame. Although useful, there are benefits to starting simple. Pencil and paper are still a sure way to quickly flesh out concepts before committing to any one idea.
Sketching is a great way to start any design because there are little to no constraints. When your resources are limited to a pencil and paper, you’re forced to use creativity and explore all options because there are no presets to follow.
Not only will it give your right brain some good exercise, it can actually be a faster tool for concepts than any software. No matter the program, there is still plenty of time taken up opening the program, picking where to save your file and mapping out your grid.
Say you’re doing a mobile design. Start with a page of multiple phone templates and draw as many variations of your intended interface. It’s good to have at least three to choose from. Usually the final choice will be a hybrid of one or two of your designs.
Once a good design surfaces, it’s good to give it a test run by mapping out how a user would use the interface to carry out a task. This does not need to be done for every variation, just focus on a couple of tasks that most will use the app for. If this step proves successful, then it’s time to move to the digital phase. If not, it’s ok to jump back to preliminary sketches until a solid idea is found.
The Real Benefit
Without realizing it, we’re limiting ourselves by jumping right into our program of choice. The difference between good and great design tends to be based on the quality time put into the brainstorming. The practice of drawing by hand forces your brain to solve problems that the computer would normally spoon-feed you. So next time you start a project, close the laptop, and break out the pens and pencils.