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  • Writer's pictureallisonsarno

Redefining Design: Bidding Farewell to Three Unnecessary UX Artifacts

In the realm of lean User Experience (UX) design, efficiency and effectiveness are paramount. To create streamlined workflows and deliver impactful results with tight timelines and budgets, it's essential to identify and eliminate unnecessary artifacts. This post challenges the traditional reliance on certain UX artifacts, such as empathy maps and detailed wireframes, and explores alternative approaches that promote efficiency without compromising the quality of the user experience.

Empathy Maps

User empathy maps have long been used as a tool to gain insight into users' thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. They are a critical step in any art school UX project, look pretty cool and areall over Pinterest". But how useful are they really?

Here's my take. The effectiveness of Empathy maps can be limited, as they often rely on assumptions and subjective interpretations. They're fun to create but its hard to ascertain what action can be taken based on their creation.

What to do instead

Instead of investing significant time in creating detailed empathy maps based on assumptions, consider adopting alternative methods such as user interviews, observation, and usability testing. These techniques provide more direct and reliable insights into user needs and behaviors, allowing for more accurate decision-making throughout the design process.

I know you're thinking UX testing and research can be majorly time-consuming but it doesn't have to be. By leveraging the latest AI tools, online platforms and limiting documentation to what is truly necessary, you can significantly streamline this process.

Detailed Wireframes

While wireframes have traditionally served as a visual blueprint for UX design, the level of detail they require can sometimes be excessive. Back in the day, UX designers (known as information architects or IA's at the time ) were often paired with visual designers. The Information architect created the detailed wires, while the visual designer added the visual design layer or UI. Different tools were used for each step of the process and a sequential, waterfall process was the norm.

With the onset of more agile product development processes and the adoption of next-gen design tools like Sketch and Figma this has changed. In most instances those two roles have become one in the same and the introduction of design systems with reusable components make it fast and easy to create fully designed screens on the fly.

This is not to say wireframes don't have a time or place. High-level wire frames or even wire-flows can be extremely effective in demonstrating page layout, hierarchy and general structure. But gone are the days when it is necessary to have every text label, check box and line item accounted for in a wireframe format before embarking on UI design.

What to do instead

Create high-level wireframes or sketches that block out features, flows and layout without laboring over detail. Gain acceptance early on and then move into more detailed screen design.

Build a well-organized design system and component library over time. Start from scratch or leverage an existing framework and modify it to suit your needs. Either way, having a robust design system will negate the need to create detailed wireframes because it will be so much faster to create actual screens.

Comprehensive Design Specifications

Detailed design specifications can often become a time-consuming endeavor that may not be entirely necessary in today's agile design environment. Rather than striving for exhaustive documentation, prioritize collaboration and communication between your design and development teams. Encourage regular discussions and feedback sessions to ensure a shared understanding of the design intent. Employ design systems or style guides to establish consistent patterns and visual elements, reducing the need for extensive specifications. By promoting open communication channels, teams can work more efficiently and effectively towards creating a cohesive user experience. Unless, of course if you are working in a highly regulated field such as healthcare or medical devices. In this case, you have no choice but to document everything in a very detailed manor. I'm very sorry for you.


In the pursuit of streamlined UX design processes, it's important to question the necessity of certain artifacts. Empathy maps, detailed wireframes, and comprehensive design specifications, while traditionally considered essential, can often be replaced with alternative approaches that save time and resources without compromising the quality of the user experience. By embracing lean user research methods, rapid prototyping, and collaborative communication, designers and product managers alike can achieve more efficient workflows while delivering impactful and user-centered design solutions.

About the Author

Allison Sarno is a product and branding designer based in Zürich, Switzerland. She specializing in lean design for startups and emerging brands. Have a project you'd like to discuss? Reach out at


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