Liz pens a great piece on simplifying wireframes. Doing so definitely requires an understanding of your audience, knowing what your audience assumes and what has to be explicitly recorded. Physical architects had settled on conventions before leaving for CAD, and we will too.
Riffing from there, Christina asks if we still need wireframes, and gets several interesting comments in response. I’ve felt the same way at times, getting frustrated with the disparity between wireframes and visual designs. But my opinion is yes, we do still need them. First because the entire span of Internet system design activities is difficult to do alone for a system of any significant size. Wireframes signal a useful point of division of labor among a team. While I’d love us to become auteurs – having a vision, drawing something beautiful, engineering the structure, designing the interior, creating the furniture – we can’t all be Frank Lloyd Wright, and even he had his draftsmen.
Second, we as people need a simple way to model our ideas. We instinctively sketch on paper or on whiteboards to work out an idea, and wireframes serve this role well. While they sometimes strive to answer the question, ‘What is the design?’ they are only obligated to answer, ‘What is the structure?’
Regarding what innies and outies are capable of, having made the move from consultant to in-house, I hope my experience of transferring structured design practices is not simply an isolated case but a trend of knowledge spreading through the industry.