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Sketching Before You Touch Your Computer

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There are two schools of thought when it comes to sketching layouts and a website draft before you begin to design a site on your PC or Mac. Those who think it’s useful and, obviously, those who don’t!

Those who don’t find it useful have numerous excuses why: They don’t get the final sizes, they don’t get the final feel, they can’t draw… I’m sure there’s more out there but you get their point. All the excuses focus on ability or that it’s not final. I’m here to argue that they are missing the point!

Sketching early has many benefits for your design and you as a designer as well!

Sketching is not final, and that’s the point!

First, we have to understand that there is no way sketching will produce a final design. This is an additional step to your already established design process.

“Wait? More work?” I hear you gasping as you read that. Trust me, it’s worth it. It’s another tool that emphasizes your ideas and presents solutions to problems before they appear.

Interior design sketch

Interior designers use sketches similar to how web designers should! Image Source

Sketching pulls from your mind, so you won’t lose the idea.

Sketching is quick and dirty, you won’t be tempted to start adding rounded corners to your squares, or a gradient over the header. You’ll be able to extract your idea, quickly and easily. There’s less bells and whistles and no useful tools to test out on your design.

The obvious benefit is, the whole design will be recorded and fleshed out before you begin working. Nothing will get forgotten, which is a huge benefit to absent minded individuals like myself. A quick sketch is far quicker than a mock-up done on your computer.

Sketching lets you focus more

The toughest thing about using my laptop to design a website is the number of other things to do on it! That email that just came in needs to be answered, that Windows Update is nagging me again, as is my antivirus. I was supposed to call one of my contractors on Skype. Oh yeah! There was that cat video on YouTube I was supposed to watch.

The nice thing about sketching is it’s just your idea, your pen, and your paper. Your idea will become clearer while you’re away from the bells, whistles and firecrackers contained within your computer.

Unstructured creativity

When sketching your design, you’re less inclined to use predefined shapes. As wonderful as Photoshop is (or whatever tool you’re using), it makes it too easy to restrict yourself to boxes, circles and starbursts! Creating on paper can give you the freedom to use any shape that you can think of.

It also gives you the ability to make useful mistakes. What I mean by that is you’re drawing of each shape won’t be perfect, and your alignment might be slightly off. Ever wonder how someone came up with the very first staggered layout? Me too, but I’m sure it was someone trying to make a properly aligned layout while they were sketching!

Happy mistakes aren’t just limited to alignment. Spacing, shapes, text and even standard items like scrollbars are imperfectly drawn which can be a source of inspiration!

Add notes as you draw

You can use your sketch pad to add notes, ask yourself questions or make comments about how the design performs.

What’s amazing about this is often, your text will result in descriptions of solutions to problems you’ll have when you’re working on your final design. You’ll take cues from your own notes, remember thoughts you were having when drawing and generally have a fuller understanding of your own design while you are working on the final product.

Text often falls short in design, but when sketching it augments your black and white image and gives it life, clarity and definition.

Sketching is not for everyone

I repeat, it’s not for everyone. Those who are happy with their designs as is, those who are solidified in their design process, and those who don’t believe in their ability to draw coherently will not find sketching useful.

It is, however, for the designers who want to take their web design to the next level.

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