Wireframing is a way to design a website service at the structural level. A wireframe is commonly used to lay out content and functionality on a page which takes into account user needs and user journeys. Wireframes are used early in the development process to establish the basic structure of a page before visual design and content is added. A wireframe is a two-dimensional skeletal outline of a webpage or app. Wireframes provide a clear overview of the page structure, layout, information architecture, user flow, functionality, and intended behaviors. As a wireframe usually represents the initial product concept, styling, color, and graphics are kept to a minimum.
Wireframing is a practice most commonly used by UX designers. This process allows all stakeholders to agree on where the information will be placed before the developers build the interface out with code. The aim of a wireframe is to provide a visual understanding of a page early in a project to get stakeholder and project team approval before the creative phase gets under way. Wireframes can also be used to create the global and secondary navigation to ensure the terminology and structure used for the site meets user expectations.
One of the great advantages of wireframing is that it provides an early visual that can be used to review with the client. Users can also review it as an early feedback mechanism for prototype usability tests. Not only are wireframes easier to amend than concept designs, once approved by the client and the users they provide confidence to the designer. Therefore, wireframes keep the concept user-focused.
Wireframing specific features will clearly communicate to your clients how they’ll function and what purpose they’ll serve. Wireframes clarify and define website features as it enables all stakeholders to gauge how much space will need to be allocated for each feature, connect the site’s information architecture to its visual design, and clarify the page’s functionality.
The wireframing process tends to take place during the exploratory phase of the product life cycle. During this phase, the designers are testing the scope of the product, collaborating on ideas, and identifying business requirements. A wireframe is usually the initial iteration of a webpage, used as a jumping-off point for the product’s design. Armed with the valuable insights gathered from the user feedback, designers can build on the next, more detailed iteration of the product’s design—such as the prototype or mockup.
From a practical perspective, the wireframes ensure the page content and functionality are positioned correctly based on user and business needs. And as the project moves forward they can be used as a good dialogue between members of the project team to agree on the project vision and scope.
Low-fidelity wireframes are basic visual representations of the webpage and usually serve as the design’s starting point. As such, they tend to be fairly rough, created without any sense of scale, grid, or pixel-accuracy. Low-fidelity wireframes omit any detail that could potentially be a distraction and include only simplistic images, block shapes, and mock content—such as filler text for labels and headings.
M The most commonly used wireframe of the three, mid-fidelity wireframes feature more accurate representations of the layout. While they still avoid distractions such as images or typography, more detail is assigned to specific components, and features are clearly differentiated from each other. Varying text weights might also be used to separate headings and body content. Though still black and white, designers can use different shades of grey to communicate the visual prominence of individual elements.
High-fidelity wireframes boast pixel-specific layouts. Where a low-fidelity wireframe may include pseudo-Latin text fillers and grey boxes filled in with an ‘X’ to indicate an image, high-fidelity wireframes may include actual featured images and relevant written content. This added detail makes high-fidelity wireframes ideal for exploring and documenting complex concepts such as menu systems or interactive maps.
Wireframes should be used early in a project to get user and client approval on the layout of key pages and the navigation. This will provide the project team, specifically the designers, confidence in moving forward. Wireframes will also save considerable time and money in the testing and amends phase later in the project.
They may seem basic enough to be overlooked, but wireframes will enable you to get vital user, client, and stakeholder approval when it comes to the layout and navigation of the product’s key pages. Armed with this approval, you can move forward with the confidence that you’re designing something that your clients and users will love. The bonus? Wireframes save heaps of time and money in the long run!