In designing the new Lloyd Sealy Library website, I used Balsamiq, a sketchy wireframing tool, to plan page layouts, information architecture, and user flows. I like the sketchiness particularly. Too often, group-approved design gets bogged down in colors and fonts, but charmingly drawn mocks like these free your conversations from the details so you can focus on the important elements of user experience.
Here’s a real mock I used to design a page on a forthcoming project (click for larger):
I use the desktop software ($79), but there’s also a cloud-based web app ($12+/mo), which is amazingly well done. There are some very nice touches, like the kinds of items you can drag ‘n’ drop to create your mock, the auto-filltext that appears when you type ‘Lorem,’ and the ‘What should I make for dinner?’ option in the Help menu (really). It’s not the speediest tool, but I have found that added friction allows time for you to really consider what you’re designing. Perhaps William Morris phrased it best: “You can’t have art without resistance in the materials.”
Related reading: Bethany Nowviskie, “Resistance in the Materials” (2013)
I’m a big fan of Evernote, as anyone who’s ever asked me for app recommendations can attest. In my quest to never ever use Microsoft Word, Evernote has not only enabled this, but has changed the way I do my work.
It’s marketed as a kind of scrapbook that will stay alive forever. They advocate many uses for it, like a food journal, movie log, vacation planner, research helper, and more. Back in good old 2011-12, I used it to organize and compose grad school assignments; now that I’m employed (hooray) it’s become indispensable for organizing projects — see the image at left for my most frequently used notebooks to get a sense of the organization possible. As a librarian, I compulsively categorize everything in my life.
See that “Done today” notebook? That’s been the best way to keep myself motivated, on track, and productive. It’s my professional journal, where every morning I list out that day’s mini-goals, long-terms goals I’m working on, and tasks I completed. It’s easy to lose track of what, exactly, you do all day, when you don’t have a visualization or documentation.
So for example, here’s how one February day’s entry read: