Is Wireframing Necessary?
The wireframing process is a necessary part of the design process because it helps convey the information architecture and user flow of a website, app, or product in a simple way. Just like a blueprint of a building, a wireframe describes the structure of a product. The goal of wireframing is to connect the product’s information architecture to its visual design. Creating this connection is especially important during the early stages of product design when designers need to explore a range of ideas and narrow it down to one or two that look most promising.
A wireframe also acts as a tool that allows designers to visualize their ideas on a piece of paper or whiteboard, share them with other people, and get valuable feedback. The speed of creation is the major advantage of wireframing, and it makes this tool extremely valuable during brainstorming sessions. Wireframes show the zones where your product’s major content elements will appear on the page. For that reason, wireframes typically do not use any styling; they don’t include colors, imagery, type styling, or anything else that can distract from the wireframe’s main objective: to facilitate the evaluation of the logical organization of content and functional elements on individual pages.
As wireframes are only basic objects that represent an idea, it can be hard to understand this artifact outside of a design environment. That’s why it’s not recommended that you use wireframes as a tool for communicating ideas to stakeholders; it might be difficult for people to imagine the future state of a product by looking at boxes and arrows. When it comes to showing a demo of your product to stakeholders, it’s much safer to present your idea in the format of a prototype.
There are two types of website wireframes–low fidelity wireframes and high fidelity wireframes. Low fidelity wireframes tend to be more abstract because they often use simple objects–boxes, arrows, and placeholder text. They are helpful in the early stages of product design when teams are just discovering design direction. Lo-fi wireframes require less investment from designers; it’s relatively easy to create these kinds of wireframes, even with basic design skills.
High fidelity wireframing involves an increased level of detail and better resembles real UI design. Hi-fi wireframes might include real content as well as properly-sized functional elements–buttons, menus, and forms. They can be used in project documentation to show the reasoning behind design decisions, or they can serve as a foundation for functional prototypes.
What is the Difference Between Wireframes and Mockups?
Mockups are another way to visualize a product. Unlike wireframes, which mostly visualize a product’s structure, mockups show what the product will look like (color, schemes, typography, buttons and more). Think of a mockup as a static wireframe with additional UI and visual details. A mockup will typically provide a more realistic idea of what the final product will look like. After you’ve created your wireframes, mockups are a great way to showcase the details of your product and can make your ideas easier to understand between clients and stakeholders.
How Do You Create a Wireframe?
All apps, websites, and digital products start with wireframes. Creating a wireframe helps everyone, including you, see the project through a usability lens. While everyone’s workflow will differ, most wireframing includes these steps:
- Decide which tools you will use. You can create wireframes by hand or digitally with a tool like Adobe XD.
- Research your target audience. Learning as much as you can about your target audience can help you better understand how to meet their wants and needs.
- Determine the actions your users should take. What actions do you want your users to take? Determining the path you want your users to take when using your product can help you create an optimal user flow.
- Draft your wireframes. Complete the initial sketch of your wireframes, considering how your users might interact with each element (from buttons and links to navigation menus).
- Test the usability of your wireframes. This will help you see what’s working and what should be improved.
- Create high-fidelity wireframes. Here is where your designs come to life! High-fidelity wireframes are where designs start to look like a working mobile app. From here, you can prototype, test, iterate, get approval on, and then, ultimately, hand off to the development team.
Read on for more tips and best practices for effective wireframing, and for the latest developments in UX design knowledge.