During my UX internship last summer at a tech company I relearned the value of sketching on pen and paper as my most important prototyping and wireframing tool.
At the start of the internship I was worried that I didn’t have the necessary skills to produce professional quality design work. I felt intimated by the environment and being surrounded by really smart people who could produce beautiful design mockups, and quickly assemble working code prototypes to show complex interactions.
In response to this new situation I began starting my work with digital tools, instead of paper sketching, so the results would look more professional. My output looked better, but I was much slower with these tools, and often frustrated by how long things took. I remember one day staying late to try to finish a high fidelity prototype for a UX flow I had been working on.
Frustrated with my process, I began to go back to the process I had been using for school projects in the HCI/d program for the previous year. Start with paper sketching, and iterate and develop ideas quickly on paper in collaboration with other people. As soon as I started doing this, my work began to improve. I felt more comfortable exploring ideas, and didn’t feel like I was wasting my time if I threw something away. I also asked more designer for feedback at earlier stages. After I had some solid concepts then I would take them into a digital tool to start to think about the details.
What I learned from this experience is don’t worry about having things look ‘professional’, or trying to copy other peoples process. Find a process that works for you. What is important is having a successful design outcome. You should use whatever tools and process helps you achieve this goal.