Why you should think like a hair stylist…

foilOne of the essential tools for a hair stylist is the foil strip used to separate layers of hair while dye is applied and gets to work. The foil comes in a pre-formed strip and is simply torn off at the length required.

I asked a stylist friend why she bought this rather than turkey foil? After all turkey foil can be used to cook a turkey, or any other large meat like product, and it can be cut into strips to use on hair! Turkey foil is a much more comprehensive and diverse product… Well you can imagine the look she gave me, I could see she was weighing up whether my question even deserved an answer or not, in the end she simply said:

Cutting foil into strips takes time and time is money!

It’s a pretty obvious assessment and yet we confuse the convenience of hair foil over the flexibility of turkey foil all the time when choosing tools to help us in business. One example of this is in the field of user interface/experience design:

Wireframing tools make the process of creating an app or website fundamentally easier, by visually stripping the product down and allowing all involved to focus purely on functions and user interactivity.

You can read about the plethora of wireframing products available here on the Creative BloqSome of the tools listed do exactly as described while others, such as Microsoft’s Visio, go much further allowing you to model everything from the layout of your new kitchen, business processes to creating realistic looking mockups of Windows apps.

My favorite product on the list is balsamiq, it’s simple, it’s specifically for wireframing and doesn’t do anything else. It’s like the hair foil to Microsoft Visio’s turkey foil. Working with customers and stakeholders I can use balsamiq to mockup hypothetical applications and features, in minutes, live in the meeting. We can alter, update and deconstruct while we discuss the pros and cons of each approach. While I can’t create a seating plan for a wedding, as I can with Visio, I simply couldn’t use Visio to create mockups live in this way, it’s too clunky for that.

And the same is true for many of the different types of model you can create in Visio, there are very often more specific tools for the job, tools that make it faster and easier to create and add more value. But this doesn’t make Visio, or other similar comprehensive tools, bad it just means you have to consider your use case and whether it matches the features of the tool.

If you’re doing lots of wireframing consider a product like balsamiq, it will save you a lot of time. But if you’re only going to create one or two mockups and you may also need to model a business process at some point and maybe a UML diagram  in the future then you’re probably better off investing in Visio.

My wife is not a stylist but she does, every now and then, put color in her own hair and for this she needs strips of foil. But she never uses enough to justify buying a specialist product, instead she cuts strips of turkey foil as we always have it in the cupboard for cooking!

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