Home > interface design, work > don’t knock the whiteboard

don’t knock the whiteboard

Quickly, because I am tired and sleep is more important than these scribblings:

As with most things, I approach documentation from a perspective of appropriateness – I try to match the amount and fidelity of documentation to the problem I’m solving or the concept I’m trying to communicate. I look at design deliverables as a series of cognitive artifacts, representations of all the thinking that’s gone into a particular product or interface.

In other words, I’m a big fan of documenting responsibly. I think it’s necessary and valuable.

So it was with some pleasure that I noticed that Dan had written in defense of documentation this week on the blog. “Right on. We’re not &%*$-ing Kings of Documentation… but we sure as hell recognize what it’s good for and how to do it right.”

There was one thing he said that I disagreed with, tho:

I can sketch all sorts of unbuildable, illogical designs all day on whiteboards, but until I take the time to really write them down in a logical way that communicates the design–and my thinking–clearly, the design is half-baked. Indeed, the documentation crystalizes my thinking, making me think through all the issues and present the solution to them in a way that makes sense–to me and to those who are paying for and building the design.

I don’t put any more faith in a design if it’s built in Graffle than if it’s drawn on a whiteboard. While working with Flickr, Tim and Jeff reinforced the value of our whiteboarding sessions by photographing the screens we mocked up and dropping them into a quick and dirty screen detail template. We could add notations, hilight issues, and give a general idea for context and behavior. It was immediate and raw, and both of those factors worked in its favor.

Like Dan, I fill whiteboards with my ideas. I just don’t agree that a photo of what you mocked up with some notes attached isn’t “real” enough to get the job done.

Categories: interface design, work
  1. May 24, 2006 at 2:32 pm

    “a photo of what you mocked up with some notes attached

    There’s the key. You’re documenting. If that’s good enough to get the job done, it’s good enough. I’ve taken whiteboard pictures and pasted them raw into an InDesign file because reproducing it gained me nothing. Whiteboarding, sketching on giant post-it notes, etc. are essential to the process and I didn’t mean to dismiss them.

  2. May 24, 2006 at 3:29 pm

    So it’s when I start making notes that I’m “documenting”? Seems like a squishy definition to me.

    That said, I’m glad you recognize the importance of the drafts we produce before we spend so much time creating formal documentation. I find the most abstract thinking I do about interfaces happens alot more often in front of an blank whiteboard.

  3. john
    May 25, 2006 at 6:24 am

    i’ll vouch for your whiteboard skills if it will do any good!

  4. May 25, 2006 at 5:08 pm

    cheers john!

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