I am a very big fan of sketchy wireframes, which I was introduced to by Ben Gilmore. There is an interesting discussion on them over at the IxDA, but my feeling is that they are a really powerful way of showing wireframes.
The informal appearance makes them more accessibile to people outside the Information Architecture sphere, and I have noticed that I get far better reaction to them and get better feedback on them than I got from more traditional straight edge wireframes. They also reduce the confusion that the wireframes in some represent the visual design of the page.
As Robert Hoekman Jr said in the IxDA discussion:
On another note, it’s been my experience that lower-res designs (sketches, etc) tend to elicit better feedback. The more “finished” something looks, the more likely it is that people will hold back. They think, usually subconsciously, it appears, that a huge amount of work must have been done to produce a hi-res design, and they’re less prone to offer feedback as a result. Lower quality designs give the impression that very little time has been spent on the design so far, so people tend to be more free with their feedback.
And I really agree with him on that. I have seen a lot of time wasted by explaining to clients/stakeholders that the wireframes are not the design, but the architecture of the page – that aesthetics are outside their scope.
I am also really glad to see that Omnigraffle is now about to get a sketchy stencil. I am still in the Visio camp I’m afraid, I still find it easier to use – but that may be down to my long service with Visio. I’m going to give Omnigraffle another try when this stencil is released.