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I'm an in-house UX Designer for a medium sized company, and big part of my job is building wireframes for inclusion in spec documents. Usually, the workflow goes something like this - the product manager will come up with the new feature/improvement, I'll work up the mockups, and we'll get back together to discuss along with IT before the spec is finalized. The wireframes are usually low-fidelity in something like Balsamiq Mockups, but occasionally they are full on Axure or Justinmind-style interactive prototypes.

Onto the question - when presenting a set of wireframes, should I send the wireframes ahead of time or not? As a receiver of meeting requests, I always appreciate as much information up front as I can possibly get. But as a giver of demonstrations, I understand that wireframes don't always make much sense without the presentation.

So what are the situations where you'd want to send wireframes ahead of time?

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5 Answers 5

up vote 13 down vote accepted

This answer applies to most presentations, not just UX ones.

A good presentation is like a story, where you take your audience on the journey that you want them to experience. If you send the presentation to them ahead of time, you lose the ability to take them on that journey.

There are other potential negatives as well in that your audience may start off with preconceived ideas of what you want to tell them, and therefore will often interpret anything you say in this light. Making your job even harder.

The only time that I can see it being relevant is when there needs to be an objective technical review before hand, but that is fairly rare.

In summary, if you can avoid it, don't send it ahead of time.

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+1 - if you let people make up their own story ahead of time, they're unlikely to listen to yours. –  Bevan Nov 29 '12 at 1:08
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I don't agree with this as a general rule. Not sending material ahead is only acceptable when introducing stuff, for the reasons you stated. Any subsequent meeting requests should include the material that will be discussed at the meeting. Otherwise people can't prepare and the whole meeting can turn into an huge waste of everybody's time. –  Marjan Venema Nov 29 '12 at 7:30
    
The problem is that wireframes aren't necessarily a universally understood language. Of course, it all depends on the people you're working with, but in general, I have to agree with JohnGB. The wireframes go with a story and not being able to send the story along ahead of time is a problem. –  DA01 Nov 30 '12 at 1:21
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+1 "if you can avoid it, don't send it ahead of time" <- Can't agree more. Believe in yourself, the ability to provide better UX, people will love it! –  Hasanga Nov 30 '12 at 6:16

Some books, like Read This Before Our Next Meeting, suggest sending material on ahead of time. Of course, this only makes sense if they can make sense of whatever you send them.

If it's stuff they're meant to be reading before the meeting or it's related material (like research articles you found about the feature in question), the let 'em read, but if you're just rehashing stuff you're going to tell them in the meeting anyway, you'll be wasting your time.

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In my own experience, low-fidelity mockups are rarely clear to the people who are not familiar with wireframes even if they're accompanied with a full description or comments, so I don't think you should send them ahead of your demonstration because it may introduce wrong assumptions and expectations (as it was already mentioned by @JohnGB).

But, taking this hard-to-understand thing into account, you may improve your demonstration, by

  1. Demonstrating it to someone (especially to owner of the functionality, etc) beforehand, so you will clearly understand that the demonstration will flow smoothly, and most of the things are clear to the attendees. As a result you will be able to fix your demonstation and prepare answers to the possible questions.

  2. Send a welcome note that will contain description of the problem(s) you're trying to solve and agenda of the upcoming demonstration, so people will be able to decide whatever they need to attend this demonstration or not.

Considering the fact that wireframes are hard to understand, I prefer to discuss wireframes with limited number of people to reduce the number of suitable solutions and prepare hi-fidelity prototypes, which are much more easy to present in front of wide audience.

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I am all for presenting wireframes and other concepts in person.

Nothing better than seeing the reaction on first view and dealing with mis-conceptions ASAP.

That said - there will always be times when this is impossible. Perhaps an executive wasn't present at a meeting or you need to explain concepts to a third party.

In this situation I would recommend sending through a video of the the interaction with the wireframe accompanied by a voiceover. This allows you to explain the ins and outs. I would also email this during a phone hookup or better still a Skype call.

If you leave a void - the recipient will add their own interpretation.

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I think this is a great idea. Thanks for suggesting it. Will use it in future. –  Lisa Tweedie Nov 30 '12 at 0:18

In design meetings part of my process with clients is making sure I show them all my wireframes. In other words I show them the key ideas I discarded as well as my more final solutions. I find that this really helps create a good open discussion about the options. And it forces me to explain my design rationale.

I tend to use very quick prototyping methods e.g. balsamiq. I find the sketchy look helps to encourage discussion.

If I am going to send them up front then I put them in powerpoint with a few notes attached. However on the whole I try and keep annotation to a minimum. People just don't read them.

Because I have shared lots of options - on the whole I don't find my colleagues have made fixed opinions before the meeting. We usually have a very healthy discussions. I think my own willingness to expose the dead ends as well as my better thinking fosters this.

Maybe my answer is that it depends where you are in the design process. Early on the value of a meeting is the initial unfolding of new material/directions because I can gauge the responses to each idea.

Later on in the process when we are tweaking the design then real time is less important. I do like the idea of sending a video. I think people would be more prepared to view this than read lengthy notes.

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