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Mari Roohi
Mari Roohi

Akendi Alumnus

Creating “Remarkable” Wireframes

If you have ever read the book Purple Cow by Seth Godin, you know that the idea behind the book is to be remarkable, noticeable and outstanding. Godin talks about what it takes to be remarkable.

Godin believes that in order to be successful, you have to be outstanding in what you do. You don’t want to be a brown cow among three dozen other brown cows. As amazing as each cow may be, repetition causes the collective group to appear boring and unappealing. Now imagine if you spotted a purple cow with long eyelashes somewhere within the three dozen brown cows. This is what it means to be remarkable!

“You need to build a purple cow in everything you build.” Godin, Purple Cow

Godin then continues to elaborate on his theory with logical analogies, case studies and examples to cover the what’s, why’s and how’s of being remarkable. Although the book mainly targets sales, businesses and marketers, it could be applied to almost anything. Now, through the lens of UX: should we always be looking to build a “purple cow” into our designs? To be precise, what does it mean to be remarkable when we develop our wireframes?

Given that the book is an enjoyable short read, I’d like to address a few takeaways and apply them to UX design.

1 – Limit choice, direct the client, and don’t try to be strange

Goldin believes that as the number of choices increase, the chances of being remarkable decreases. He explores this through the lens of marketing and advertising with case studies.

I thought of explaining this through the analogy of a lecture room. In a lecture room of 300 people, it is very hard to stand out and make the professor remember your name. However, in a tutorial of 15 people, chances are the professor knows your name.

Having options is great. Brainstorming and generating lots and lots of ideas is needed. But when it comes to wireframing and presenting design concepts, we need to go through the process of elimination. By this, I mean picking out the best ideas that fit client and user requirements and further processing these ideas. At the same time, we need to filter out and remove options that don’t quite fit. In short, presenting no more than three concepts or wireframes to the client be best for the following reasons:

  • The client lacks UX knowledge and expertise. That’s why they’ve hired us. It is our job to come up with the best options given the context and requirements.
  • The client sometimes don’t know what they want. However, the good news is that we know what the client needs based on our consulting work and ideally, the research prior to wireframing.
  • It is time consuming and requires more than necessary resources to help the client understand and think through additional alternative options.

In order to be remarkable, often three good ideas thoughtfully put together is more than enough to satisfy the client’s needs.

A second misconception might be that in order to be the purple-cow, one must be strange or outrageous. This is not the case at all. Godin stressed that:

“Outrageous is not always remarkable. It’s certainly not required” The outrageousness needs to have a purpose, and it needs to be built into the product. Godin, Purple Cow

It is important to remember that our three options need not be strange, but all need to align to the client’s vision and direction, and address the user’s needs at the same time. It helps to direct clients in the right path when they know that all three options work, and work well. Sometimes, a simple change from having a top navigation to a side navigation may be remarkable enough. Sometimes a good low-fidelity wireframe is outstanding in the way it approaches the problems and solves user concerns.

2 – Stick to the Basics

Would weird and eye-catching ideas be welcomed in designing wireframes?

There are many standard user design principles that may or may not apply to a client’s requirements. However, these frameworks have often been agreed upon by a multitude of designers, years of research, testing and knowledge sharing. I can think of the very famous design principles by Don Norman (1986):

  1. Visibility: displays and controls must be visible and make sense to the user
  2. Feedback: an indication that an action has occurred must be given to the user immediately after the action is performed
  3. Affordance: a set of characteristics indicating how an interaction occurs must be given to the user
  4. Mapping: controls must be mapped to their effect and context of use
  5. Constraints: certain restrictions must be placed on the interaction to reduce error
  6. Consistency: similar operations and similar elements must be in place for achieving a similar task

As you can see, these are basic UX heuristics listed above. Often these are left out or not applied appropriately. We don’t have to stray far from our industry standards to be remarkable. When there is a new design idea, it should also be put through the paces and evaluated by applying the heuristics. In fact, checking to see that we have met these “basic” standards might make our work remarkable and unusual.

3 – Manage the Reaction to Change & Sell the Solution

People often don’t welcome extreme changes when it comes to web design.

“If you are remarkable, it’s likely that some people won’t like you.” Godin, Purple Cow

I am sure you can think of a couple of amazing remarkable-purple-cow ideas that you have had, and yet it was hard to sell. Often, clients may not react positively to drastic design changes. They may not be ready for it. You may have read Akendi’s blog post written a while a go on “Four Different UX Client Types”. The client might be Tired, Terrified, or Tenacious when it comes to reacting to a “purple cow” idea.

Although, you need to move gradually on the spectrum of change in order to get the positive reaction you are expecting from the user, Goldin gives the best advice:

“The old rule was this: Create safe, ordinary products and combine them with great marketing.

The new rule is: Create remarkable products that the right people seek out.” Godin, Purple Cow

In the end, it all comes back to the user, their needs, and context. If we have a good understanding of our client needs and associated users’ needs and goals, our client’s reaction to change would be more manageable when we seek remarkableness, if that’s even a word. In practice, we may have to approach the end goal with small steps.

And finally

Akendi focuses on an end-to-end experience lifecycle to be remarkable, mastering customer experience, brand experience, product experience, service experience and the user experience from beginning to end.  Being remarkable does not have to be strange, out of reach or outrageous.

When it comes to wireframing and concept design, to be remarkable means we stick to the research and design to the business’ and user’s needs. We consider and respect our client requirements and their boundaries. We listen, create, filter, re-create, do our due diligence, and direct our clients to the best options possible.

Source: Godin S., (2003) Purple Cow – Transform your business by being remarkable.

Mari Roohi
Mari Roohi

Akendi Alumnus

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