Reducing the fidelity not only allows the designers to explore many different variations in a quick manner, it also serves to focus reviews and critiques on the visual solution of the design problem. Discussions around visual details are postponed until the functional problems are solved.
Initial design should explore different variations for a feature. It needs to clearly communicate visually the intended layouts, components, and design patterns. It shows the hierarchies of elements and helps discussions around the prioritization of content and functionality. A successful Low-Fidelity Design helps envision how a user will navigate through and interact with an interface.
Low-Fidelity Design can include:
- Wireframes - Wireframes are the lowest fidelity possible, consisting either of sketches or digitally assembled lines and boxes. They show layouts and the order of elements across screens. They are kept in grayscale in order to focus discussion on hierarchy of elements and the flow across multiple screens, where applicable. Wireframes are a quick exploratory tool that works well for rapid ideation and review cycles.
- Patterns - Patterns are smaller components of designs dedicated to a specific functionality. They serve as an exploration for which type of control is best suited to allow users to trigger certain functions or access pieces of information within interfaces. Patterns are typically used frequently in an application’s solution.
The fidelity of initial design explorations can vary. Early ideation is best done with very Low-Fidelity Designs such as wireframes, in order to explore which components work best to solve functional problems and establish clear paths for the users. If brand guidelines already exist that will shape and inform the look and feel of a design, these guidelines can be taken into account to varying degrees at this stage.