The beginning of product development seems challenging: there is so much work to do and no clear vision of what to strive for. The same situation is with design: without having a clear image of the desired results, it is impossible to reach them. For that reason, designers use wireframing techniques to create drafts of a future design with a simple skeleton structure.
The Nielsen Norman Group conducted a study and revealed that wireframing can save up to 50% of the time for design. Since this method is effective, we will look at it closer below and find out how it works and why it is important in every product development cycle.
What Is Wireframing?
Wireframing represents the process of creating a scheme for a digital product and what it will look like in terms of interface elements. This is a draft for a design on which all essential elements are displayed. When building a wireframe, there is no need for style, graphics, or color. The main purpose is to visualize every page of the website or application.
Why Wireframe Is Important in Design
The popularity of creating wireframes has increased over the last few years. Figma, one of the most effective tools for making wireframes, has reported that more than a million teams use it for their design development. And here is why it is essential to come up with a simple visual plan:
It helps to build a human-centered design. With the wireframes, you can get feedback from real users and adjust the concept according to their needs at the initial stage. By asking questions like “What would you want to see here?” you can get prompts and ideas.
It brings clarity to the project. Nothing is as effective as demonstrating an idea visually. It helps to be transparent regarding the scope of work and deadlines, as it shows what the deliverables should be.
It unites multiple teams. With a wireframe, you can involve product managers, developers, stakeholders, and customers to work together. It helps to smooth communication as you can gather around the layout of future features and discuss them.
Benefits of Wireframing
By implementing wireframing into the design process, you get the following benefits:
You improve your design’s readability. This is because while creating the sketches, you can play with the fonts and the text overall, choosing the most suitable option.
You visualize the idea within minutes. A low-fidelity wireframe can be created with a few movements of the designer’s hand.
You detect possible issues at an early stage. And thus, you won’t have to fix them and remake the design in the future.
When Is It Time to Create Wireframes?
Wireframing happens at the earliest stages of the development process. Before making a sketch, designers conduct user research and build a user flow. This is because they have to know what features are needed, what roadmaps will occur, and where those features are located. Once those details are defined, designers go to the wireframing stage.
Choosing a Type of Wireframe
Among the types of wireframes, low-fidelity, mid-fidelity, and high-fidelity are distinguished. The only difference between them is in the details displayed. And every type is a continuation of each other. Let’s get acquainted with every type.
This type of wireframe is the simplest and easiest to create. Designers use pen and paper or primitive digital tools for their creations. You won’t find design elements like grids or scales on lo-fi sketches. These wireframes help show a starting idea and build a user flow.
These sketches can continue lo-fi ones, or designers can start right from mid-fi wireframes. The layout of the mid-fidelity plans is more detailed; it can be filled with images and text boxes. Even though color is still not a priority for this type of wireframe, designers use shades of gray to differentiate the features.
The most detailed and fulfilled type of wireframe is a high-fidelity one. Such models are pixel-specific and colored. They contain images and text and can represent a final UI/UX design. Usually, designers don’t start with high-fidelity wireframes but improve their low-fidelity sketches.
How to Create a Wireframe
If you want to get valuable feedback from wireframing, you have to prepare for this process. Here are the steps designers perform when creating the sketches of a design:
Research. Everything starts with discovering and studying your target audience. Thus, before you get to drawing a website or features, this is what you have to know: who your end-users are, user personas, use cases, and user journeys. Discovering the latest trends and doing industry research also add up at this stage.
Creating user flows. You might have ideas of product features, but how do you know in what sequence users will follow them or what actions they will perform? That is why you have to build user flows, considering different scenarios.
Preparing sketches. Finally, this is a step when actual wireframing begins. We recommend starting with primitive methods and making a draft with a pen. This will prevent you from over-detailing your wireframe and focusing on the essentials. Also, you can make changes quickly just by using an eraser.
Improving and prototyping. As the ideas get approved by your colleagues, you can add more details and turn your sketches into high-fidelity ones. Prototyping and wireframing go hand in hand, and as soon as you have a detailed version of the design, you can test your prototype.
Popular Wireframing Tools
Along with paper and pen, designers use additional tools for creating wireframes. Most of them are familiar to design professionals, but let’s see what the most popular wireframing tools are.
Designed for Mac users, Sketch is a powerful and easy-to-use instrument for creating any type of wireframe. It is a paid tool that offers simple ways of creating sketches. Even though it doesn’t provide built-in user experience (UI) elements, there is a library where other community members share their free templates and UI components as well. It synchronizes with Unsplash, allowing users to download royalty-free images for their designs.
Surely, Figma is on the list of well-liked tools for designers. Available for macOS, web, Windows, and Linux users, this software has a generous free plan. For wireframing, it has a perfect built-in tool, FigJam, with the help of which it is possible to build user flows. Figma is great for lo-fi wireframes as well as for high-fi ones.
With the Adobe XD tool, Mac and Windows users can build wireframes with a few clicks. Its connoisseurs highlight a high level of usability and intuitive navigation. What is especially useful is the ability to open more than 100 screens simultaneously. This tool is also equipped with a grid that makes it easy to place the elements correctly.
Online Wireframing Tools
UI/UX wireframing can also be performed with online tools. The following are the ones with high usability and the fullness of additional tools.
Balsamiq offers designers the instruments to create low-fidelity wireframes. It is a no-code tool with simple features and can be used by novices as well as experienced design professionals. Users can upload their own UI elements or use the ones that were posted by community members. Balsamiq’s drag-and-drop features make it seamless to add elements to the sketch.
Lucidchart is a diagramming tool with the help of which diagrams, wireframes, and prototypes can be created. The main benefit of this instrument is the ability for multiple users to access it simultaneously and brainstorm ideas. Even before the actual wireframing stage, Lucidchart can serve as a mind-mapping tool for gathering insights from the team.
Wireframe.cc, a web-based tool, is a perfect fit for those designers who want to turn their low-fidelity sketches into detailed prototypes. It is quite easy to use: all you have to do is enter the website and start drawing. Wireframe.cc platform makes it super easy to share the drafts via a link and edit the layout constantly.
Wireframing: Best Practices
Here is what we recommend focusing on when creating wireframes.
Focus on the Structure and Functionality
The main reason for any wireframe is to create a simple concept for your future product. That’s why there is no point in adding additional functions or features during the wireframe stage. The team should pay special attention to the basic structure and functionality of the wireframe to avoid any bugs or issues during the release stage.
Use Simple Forms and Marks
Another important point is to completely simplify the wireframe structure of your project. There is no need to add complex forms or ramified structures. It’s necessary to focus on displaying the structure of the future project with simple forms and avoid spending resources on excessive details.
Receive and Use Feedback Frequently
It’s crucial to receive feedback on the completed actions in time. Proper use of the feedback helps avoid extra work and budget losses. For that matter, it’s necessary to receive feedback from your stakeholders during the intermediate stages of development. It will help to add the necessary changes in time and increase the team’s effectiveness.
Examples of Wireframe Successful Projects
On a daily basis, you see a lot of outstanding and properly created wireframe examples. For instance, Twitter’s high-fidelity wireframe. On the first screen, we see what every account owner has. There is a display of the owner’s activity and interactions with others. Also, on the second screen, it is shown what the communication between users looks like.
Another great example is the wireframe of a marketing website with the function of creating wishlists. The future users of this application have all the features to purchase the product they are interested in. Search fields, product categorization, and offered products based on preferences create a perfect flow so that users get to the final purchase.
Wireframing is an essential process for successful product design creation. Visualizing the ideas, gathering feedback, and getting a sketch within minutes are far from all the possibilities that you can get. Existing in different forms like low-fidelity, mid-fidelity, and high-fidelity, wireframes help to build a top-notch design that satisfies both users and business needs.
A wireframe represents a simple draft that displays the basic structure of the future project. The wireframe represents the future interface of the program but in a simplified manner.
Why are wireframes important in product development?
Wireframes help developers simply visualize all future functions of the application or program. This stage is important because it helps to visualize the future concept of the product and reconcile it with customers.
What are the main recommendations for wireframe creation?
There are three main recommendations for wireframe creation. The team should focus on basic structure and functionality. For that matter, it’s better to use simple forms and colors, and do not forget to include alterations based on the client’s feedback.
How many wireframe types are there?
There are three main types of wireframes. Low-fidelity includes the simplest form and is the fastest to complete; mid-fidelity includes more complex details, while high-fidelity type is the most complex of all.
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