Image showing Red and Spot sketching at the UX Book Club

Sketching user stories - Sketching to communicate


In May, the meeting of the UX Bookclub Switzerland took place at our very own rocket base. Spot and Red discussed how sketching can function as a means to express ideas and thoughts and thus enhance the communication between customer and producer.

Everyone can be involved

You don’t have to be an artist to do sketching. Sketches are just humble drawings of no artistic value: The technique isn’t important, they are simple, disposable drawings where you can give your creativity free rein. Rather than dealing with minute details, sketching focuses on the basic idea of a project. It’s a means to develop a vision. And what’s more: You can involve customer as well, and brainstorm together!

Visualising could be seen as another language, a language which is simple and easy to understand. Sketching is emotional and intuitive and can be understood in a more immediate way than elaborate documents. With this in mind, it is vital to see that sketches are in no way masterworks of art. Everybody can draw squares and circles: Use them to express what you can’t put into words! Tools like Photoshop and Balsamiq inhibit creativity and exclude people, but sketching is easy, free and spontaneous: Everyone can participate and contribute.

Sketches remove barriers

Sketches are no UML diagrams, no mockups, no wire frames – they’re discussion triggers. Visualising can improve discussions with the customer on another level. Breaking down barriers, sketching can enhance communication and understanding and thus prevent wrong customer expectations. Furthermore, sketches can be time savers: They not only optimise the communication process with the customer but also help you stay focused.

Instead of sending documents to and fro, you can sketch and contemplate together, be in touch directly and avoid misunderstandings. Start by hanging up blank sheets and giving every speaker a pen. Use thick pens, get every participant to stand up during the meeting and start sketching.

Stressing the experience

Finally, sketching can improve the final product and optimise the whole User Experience. Encouraging you to think need-oriented, it removes the focus from the implementation of the finished solution. Instead of emphasising individual features, sketching consideres the user’s needs and expectations, thus getting you to create a solution which is more than just a list of brilliant features and convinces with a compelling User Experience.

Of course, a product story is never linear, but bent and curved in many ways. A sketch can breach these barriers and focus on the overall experience. Sketching helps to discover what ought to be changed, improved and reached with the finished product. Engage with the customer, compose a story and develop a vision!