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Why wireframes are broken

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Designing user interfaces and interactions can be the most fun part of software development. Surely you spend a lot of time on wireframes to get the design right. Do you prefer to sketch your wireframes on paper or do you use a prototyping software? Maybe you start with sketches on paper and then convert your sketches to a software? We think that all of those methods are inherently flawed.

What's wrong with paper prototyping?

Paper is great. We love it. It's very direct and fast. This helps you be creative. Nothing gets in your way, right? Or...actually, it does.

What if you want to try several variations of a design? How do you deal with mistakes? What if you want to reorganize your screens? Do you always throw your old screens away and start from scratch? Or do you tinker with scissors and scotch tape? That's very tedious. Software works a lot better in this regard.

What's wrong with prototyping software?

With software you get nice layers where you can put elements that repeat on multiple screens. You can also easily rearrange elements and share your design with your colleagues and clients. It's perfect, right? No it isn't. This flexibility comes at a price.

You have to give up speed and directness of input. Software does a great job at getting in the way. While on paper you just draw what you want, with software you have to hunt for widgets. Scrolling through a list of pre-defined solutions probably isn't the best way to be creative. Another problem is that software often doesn't allow you to experiment at the level of detail that you'd like to think in. These limitations constantly interrupt your train of thought in subtle ways. They get in your way when you want to be creative.

Then, start on paper and move to software?

Great idea. Use both solutions and get the best of both worlds. That's the theory. However, by doing that you've just limited the problems to the stages where they do the least harm. You still haven't really solved the problems. The rigidness of paper can still bite you in early stages when your prototype begins to grow. The complexity of software can still bite you in later stages when you might need to try out several creative solutions.

Even worse, you've introduced yet another problem. Now you have to manually convert the paper prototype to a software prototype. This step takes time and it doesn't add much value.

Now what?

There's another solution: Combine the direct input of paper with the scalability of software and skip the paper->software conversion step. That's what pentotype is about. With pentotype you draw like on paper, but your drawing becomes a real, interactive user interface! This is how prototyping should be. Join us now to get early access to pentotype.