Trying to build a web product without a solid wireframe is like trying to build a house without blueprints. Having a solid set of wireframes helps keep our team on track as they build the website, but also reassures you, our client, that your project is going in the right direction. It’s also a major time saver in the long run. And who doesn’t like that? Time is money after all.
What is a wireframe, though?
Wireframes are the skeleton of your website. They consist of a simple layout, in black, white and grey, that outlines the placements of elements on the page. Wireframes are purposely left without colours, logos, and imagery to minimize distractions and focus on usability and function. They’re meant to be done quickly, without being too detailed.
Wireframing is the way to go
Usability and functionality
Perhaps the most important reason why wireframes are a must is to focus in on usability and functionality. By keeping wireframes simple, we avoid distractions like “that shade of blue doesn’t stand out enough, can we make it pop?” or “I don’t like this image, I’d like something with more cats!”. In the early stages of design, it’s more productive to focus on the underlying structure that will make the website a success. Wireframes allow us to discuss and work through all interactions between elements, to make sure the user experience is as optimal as it should be.
Wireframes are the perfect opportunity to validate designs and make sure the project is headed in the right direction. It is here that we establish which elements are the most important and where they should be placed on the page. By creating wireframes, we provide a visual reference to help you understand our thoughts and processes.
Wanted vs Needed
As a client, you’ll have a million ideas as to what you want your website to accomplish but, until put in context, it’s not always easy to assess which ideas work and which ones should be dropped. Wireframes help to set expectations from an early stage and avoid conflicts later on in the project. They help clarify what is essential to reach the goal of the website and what is a “nice to have” feature that can be left out.
Wireframing not only for desktop but for responsive also helps to prioritize features and visualize how the website will display across all platforms and devices to come up with the best way to adapt layout and content.
Wireframes are a time saver
While producing a full set of wireframes can take a couple of days to a few weeks, depending on the scale of the project, wireframing will end up saving time in the long run. Wireframing allows the designer to solely focus on making sure the site structure is solid so that the rest of their design process is more efficient. It is also much easier to make changes to low fidelity wireframes than it is to highly detailed designs.
Wireframes are not only helpful to our clients but our team as well. Keeping our development team in the loop from the start is the best way to avoid major changes and problems further along the way. They’ll be able to point out flaws and functionalities that might require an extra amount of work. With wireframes, we can all plan accordingly.
Are there cons to wireframing?
Wireframing is a reliable method of working that has been proven time and time again. The only downside is when the process is misunderstood — something I hope this article has cleared up. Wireframes are not final designs, they’re a planning tool to make the best decisions about user experience and functionality. That’s why we keep them as simple as possible.
Some clients would rather see the full design with colours and pictures from the very beginning, and see wireframing as an unnecessary extra step. I want to reassure you that wireframing will save precious time and money in the long run. There are great tools like Sketch and Adobe XD that make wireframing so easy that the time put into producing them is well worth it.
In the end, wireframing is an essential step in a well-planned project, and eliminates a lot of unwanted surprises down the road.