Mockups Tips for Getting Unstuck

It happens to all of us. You get stuck. You're stalled on a design and don't know what to do next. Or you find yourself using the same tired design pattern over and over again, though you know there's gotta be a better way. And then there's the sneakiest form of stuck: reacting to a feature request by whipping up and sending off the first design that comes to mind without diving deeper into the problem.

These scenarios are frustrating because you know that not only is there a better design out there, there's a better designer inside. You just have to find a way to jar it loose by waking him/her up.

There's no sure-fire way to do this. Every case is different. And sometimes it just clears up on its own. In this post I list a few techniques we've used to kick-start that process using Balsamiq Mockups. Hopefully you'll find them helpful.

Technique #1: Embrace Constraints

There are an infinite number of design solutions for every idea. Yikes! If you think about that it can stop you right in your tracks. But we all know that there's nothing like a deadline or an arbitrary restriction to get things going. Here are some suggestions along those lines:

  1. Limit yourself to 5 minutes (or less!) per mockup. After 5 minutes, create a new one and try to come up with a totally different idea. Repeat. See how many ideas you can create like this.
  2. Try to create 5 mockups in 10 minutes around the same design problem or idea. (Tip: Learn keyboard shortcuts to help you work faster.)
  3. Limit yourself to 10 UI controls. See if you can describe your idea in even fewer; it often doesn't take many to capture it.
  4. A variation on the above: limit yourself to a basic subset of UI controls. Pick the most generic ones (rectangle, button, shape, etc.) and work using only those to focus on the big picture first.
  5. Peldi has said that the first design is often version 3 of the product. Create the wireframe you have in mind then try to remove as many pieces as possible. This will challenge you to think about what's most important and what's not really needed.
  6. Put all the UI controls on the canvas then try to build your mockup. It may help you think of other methods of doing things in the UI (as well as scramble your brain a bit). Move aside the unused ones, but don't delete them right away because you may come up with a use for them later on in the design.

All The Controls!ALL THE CONTROLS! (download this file)

Technique #2: Collaborate

Mockups is great for working together with other people. And most of our products now allow multiple people to work on a single mockup at the same time.

Here are some suggestions for how to get more out of your design by working on it with someone else:

  1. Work on a design for 5 minutes, then hand it off to someone else. The next person can either build on it or modify it. Repeat until you're both happy with it.
  2. Take turns adding UI Controls. (This can be done in real time in our Atlassian Cloud Plugins as well as Mockups 3 for Google Drive.)
  3. Swap projects with a designer on another team. Have them do one of your designs while you do one of theirs.
  4. Assign multiple people to work on the same design. Do a "show and tell" with time for discussion about each design. Then allow each person to revise their design based on the ideas from others.
  5. Pair design. Have two people sit together and assign one person to describe the design and the other one to use the mouse and keyboard in Mockups. Even if you have a very specific UI/design in mind it may come out different if someone else is building it, and the process of describing it may help you catch some flaws with it.

Collaboration in action in Balsamiq Mockups for Google Drive

Do you have techniques for getting unstuck that you use? Feel free to describe them in the comments!


Get the Inside Scoop

We'll send you just one email a month and share a ton of information that you'll get before everyone else. More info about the newsletter here.

We'll never share your email address or spam you.

Leave a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared.