I'm a strong believer of sketching UIs before booting up a computer.

That said I haven't been lucky in the past where my employers thought otherwise.

It has happened to me on a couple of occasions, where I've been asked not to sketch and start directly on a software because they believe that sketching doesn't quiet add to the entire process.

Since then I've been picky about where I want to work and who I want to work with but if a confrontation does occur, how do I signify the importance of sketching to my employer?


5 Answers 5


Ask yourself why they don't think it's important. (Or maybe ask them). There may be very distinct reasons:

Write Once, Run Forever Software
i.e. not seeing software as an iterative process, not seeing the necessity of early customer feedback

Throwing Code Away
i.e. seeing a software UI prototype as "half the product", and "throwing that away would be waste."

Underestimating sketch vs. software
There's a strong reluctance to suggest significant changes to a UI prototype / mockup, since it's perceived as "looking like they are done already". Thus, users will focus on insignificant details like button colors. With a sketch, users are much more willing to request modifications, or a complete overhaul. It also invites them to draw their ideas in the same way.

(hearsay, but I remember once having seen a source for that.)

In other words, sketches are useful in my understanding because:

  • Software is iterative
  • Early feedback is cheap
  • Users give higher quality feedback for sketches
  • Thanks you for the points you highlighted. I think your third point about 'underestimating sketch vs software' nails it. Sep 19, 2012 at 9:17

Managers are usually sensitive to costs. Explain to them that it is much faster, and thus much cheaper, to change a sketch, than to change a real implemented application.


Usually people like to see "something real", which is why they may be concerned about sketching out the UI.

Where you're going to deviate from what your manager expects, it's best to explain ahead of time what you want to do and why it adds value. Quantifying the task for your manager and agreeing deliverables will also re-assure them that this is a process with a definite output, end-date and has benefits.

Before you talk to your manager about this, prepare your argument. Think about what your managers questions and objections are going to be and come up with answers for them. If, when you discuss this with your manager, you sound prepared and confident this will improve your chances of getting the go-ahead. Also, if you feel comfortable doing this, bring in some sketch-work you've done for other projects and talk about the benefits.


  • Talk to your manager about doing sketch work as a project task with timescales and deliverables associated with it. Do this before you do any work.
  • Prepare for your meeting with your manager. Don't go in there and "wing it"
  • Bring him work you've done before. Prove that it works and you're experienced at doing this kind of thing

And, most importantly, if your manager says no, accept it gracefully. You win some and you lose some.

If it's really important to you make sure that this is part of your interview routine (asking about whether they allow, encourage, etc sketching).


Playing off of peterchen's comments:

I've created "sketchy" UI templates within OmniGraffle and Keynote to discourage "nit-picky" comments and encourage feedback on more important items, such as workflow and such — with very positive results.

It's clear to whomever I am presenting to that this isn't a 100% complete product. I received ZERO comments on "will it really look like that?" and instead received constructive feedback (i.e. "I really like how that works, but what if you did [INSERT IDEA HERE]?").

Sketchy templates filter out extraneous, unnecessary feedback.


The other answers here are all good, but I'd like to propose a simpler answer to when a boss thinks sketching is worthless:

"It's easier for me to start over/change/erase this sketch than it is for me to rewrite these 10/100/1000 lines of code or rework this design in Photoshop. This sketch will allow me to get your feedback to avoid cost-inducing rework later."

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