This is the first post in a three part series on the re-design process of Shomeya.com, and what we learned. Getting started was actually the hardest point, for every method of web-design there are five different tools you could use. We looked at everything from hosted, adobe, and free solutions like google docs and tried most of them.
Paper beat them all. With Konigi's version of the blueprint grid we were able to refine a process and make decisions quickly. And by using blueprint grids whatever we did on paper could translate to our mockup on the screen with simplicity of adding a few classes. (Later we switched to SASS and Compass, but that's post 2.)
Advantages of paper
The eraser. A big fat one. It was so refreshing to not have to select and delete and undelete items every time we wanted to make an adjustment. By printing out several grids and creating a few layout mockups deciding on the structure was much easier. With that new structure I began making copies and adding elements in different variations. By adding and removing elements quickly we came to agreement on the design much faster, and kept the project from losing momentum in that crucial stage of initial excitement. With less time investment overall it made changes less personal, and more about achieving our goals.
Face-to-face interaction is best with this method, which can be costly or difficult depending on where your client is located. Sharing paper in person is much simpler than from 2,000 miles away. Balsamiq or this Google Drawing is my choice of mockup for something that I need to have in digital format to edit with clients. However, I would still start with paper simply because for me inspiration is found much more quickly with a break from the computer and a chance to blink.
Paper isn't the best method for every project, but ultimately web-design is a marriage between the functional and the creative. The early stages of design are all about inspiring the functional elements to exist cohesively in a way that ultimately inspires your client's users. Paper allows this inspiration to flow without Photoshop crashing, and having to learn how to manipulate lines on a screen.