wireframing

Wireframes: What Are They and Why Do You Need Them?

The design development process for any digital product is a multi-step process where the design goes through many iterations before getting the final look. This flow helps to think through all the design elements, their appearance, color palette, position on the screen, and much more – the wireframing process is no exception. In this article, we will dive into the topic of creating wireframes in more detail, namely, what it is, what benefits it can bring, and several useful wireframing tools that will make life easier for your designers to create a first-class product appearance. So, without further ado, let’s get started.

What Wireframes Actually Are?

Before diving into the topic, it’s worth first understanding what wireframes are.

At its core, a wireframe is a schematic display of the screen of a mobile application or a website page, on which various interface elements, their location, and much more are marked with symbols. In addition, wireframes display all the transitions between screens in an application or a website. As a result, you get a kind of blueprint of the future application, in which colors are kept to a minimum for the sake of a visual display of the future design scheme.

wireframes

Wireframes can be created either by hand using a good old pen and paper or digitally in software.

Mostly, UI / UX designers use wireframes to work out the appearance of the future digital product. To do this, they combine various practices, new trends, and customer requirements, which allows them to form a vision for a future product.

Wireframes vs. Mockups vs. Prototypes: What’s The Difference?

There are several ways to depict the design of a digital product in the design field, and each method is relevant to its design stage. However, due to the general similarity, many people confuse these methods and do not quite understand the difference between them. It’s time to dispel all doubts and misunderstandings. So, let’s get started.

Wireframes are a low-fidelity way to delineate a digital product design’s future shape and structure at an early stage of its development. At its core, you depict design elements, their placement, and transitions between screens. Any elements that clarify various design elements (colors, images, animations) are completely absent.

Meanwhile, mockups display the future design of a digital product, close to the final version. It contains design elements, images, a color palette, and other details intended to show what the product will look like after development. However, such a layout is non-interactive and designed primarily for developers. Using mockups, they turn a flat picture into a fully functional product.

The final piece of the puzzle is the Prototype. It is already a full-fledged interactive design view. You can interact and simulate specific actions with the interface (pressing buttons, watching animations, transitions between screens, and much more).

All three of these technologies are a form of displaying the design of a digital product at different stages, and these three designations should not be confused or interchangeable.

Why Do You Need Wireframes?

Wireframes wouldn’t be as popular if they didn’t provide significant benefits. So it’s time to talk about them in more detail.

Creating a Structured Layout

Design structuring is an important step towards the perfect look of the future digital product. Wireframes help the designer define the structure of each screen and impart functional characteristics to each element on the screen. In addition, wireframes are important for communication and help the vendor and customer be on the same page.

Developing Informational Hierarchy

Wireframes help both, the client and the designer, to take a break from different styling tricks and focus solely on building the user experience and hierarchy of screens in an application or website. Throughout the digital product, you thoroughly work out the user path, defining its most important sections and convenient ways for finding information throughout the app or website.

Clarifying Needed Features

Wireframes for future digital products are also aimed at affirming the list of required features. In the early stages of development, it can be challenging to decide what features you really need, and there is a desire to add absolutely everything. Working closely with the designer helps to understand whether a particular feature is needed in the design and whether it will help the user achieve the desired result when interacting with an application or a website.

What Types of Wireframes Are There?

While wireframes are meant to visualize early digital product design, they come in varying degrees of detail or, more simply, types. Let’s take a look at them.

Low-Fidelity Wireframes

These wireframes are the entry-level rendering of a design and are quite crude and abstract in some cases. As a result, we get a general display of the future design without reference to the scale of design elements and a verified position of each button to the pixel.

wireframes artboard

Often, such wireframes are created on paper and with general strokes to reflect the flow of the future design of a digital product.

Middle-Fidelity Wireframes

The next level of wireframes is commonly used since they combine a more subtle display of design elements without going deep into details (typography, color palette, etc.). Such wireframes are already created with the help of professional software and are monochrome (which does not limit designers in highlighting the most significant sections of the digital product design with color).

High-Fidelity Wireframes

This is the last level of wireframes, and it differs from all others for its high accuracy and the presence of pseudo-Latin text fillers. Meanwhile, the previous types used only conventions for the naming of specific interface elements. Improved detail helps you display even the most complex elements, including menu systems, interactive maps, and more.

wireframes artboard

How to Test Wireframes?

Wireframe testing is essential in order to understand the accuracy of the chosen direction and whether you are not wasting your resources on deliberately unsuccessful design solutions.

An excellent way to test wireframes is the popular remote feedback method. However, there are certain factors you must keep in mind that will help you make the right choice for the testing method. It would be best if you had answers to several questions:

  • Are there security issues that prevent wireframes from being sent for testing?
  • Should you give complete freedom to the wireframes tester without specific instructions?

Unmoderated tests, which give the tester complete freedom, are great for testing simple designs, while moderated tests are necessary for complex designs where it is easy to get confused without any help or guidance. Make your choice based on which application design you want to test.

In addition, you can use special software for collecting insights and analyzing user and tester behavior to validate your design. Attention Insight is one of the most popular solutions on the market for such software.

This program allows you to create an attention heatmap on your website or application, which gives you visual information about what attracts the most attention in your design. In addition, the software can help you organize A/B testing and improve visual engagement and content visibility.

Main Advantages of Wireframes

Wireframes have several significant advantages that you should be aware of. They are the main incentive why the wireframing process should not be neglected when developing new digital products.

advantages of wireframes

It’s Easier to Make Design Changes

Wireframes are a great way to go about designing an application or a website without risk and much effort timewise. They are easy to create, and, as a result, it takes much less time to implement any ideas and changes. In addition, wireframes free your hands to experiment and introduce various design trends into your future digital product.

Better Content Development

The content of your digital product directly influences its design. Since wireframes focus on the visually appealing aspects of design, you can focus on the content in particular. With high-fidelity wireframes, you know the dimensions of the content boxes down to every pixel. This allows you to think more clearly about the size of your content so it fits perfectly with the design of your digital product.

They Save Your Time and Money

We already wrote that wireframes help make edits and new ideas quickly, and at the same time, they do not take much time to create. As a result, you can better work out the functional part of the design in the shortest possible time, bring your ideas to life faster, and reduce the website design cost.

Responsiveness Development

This point can be attributed to the development of the design of various websites and cross-platform applications. In the age of widespread mobile devices, it is extremely important to make your website look attractive on any screen. Using wireframes, you can create a variety of layouts that will reflect what a website or application will look like on desktops, laptops, tablets, and phones. This is extremely important if you do not want to alienate your customers with an unattractive digital product design on the device of their choice.

How Do Designers Create Wireframes

So let’s take a look at the basic ways designers create wireframes. There are three ways in total, and each is relevant in its own way. The choice of different ways to make wireframes depends entirely on your needs, and you don’t have to mix them all in your flow.

Pen and Paper

This is the most basic level of wireframes, and, as a result, you don’t need anything more complicated than a sheet of paper and a pen for designing these wireframes. To make sketches more visual and readable, you can use pens and markers in fixed colors, highlighting the main design elements with particular colors. In addition, designers often use various techniques such as shading, which also help highlight essential design elements on wireframes.

Software With Free Trials

To create more complex wireframes, you can no longer do it without special software with all the necessary tools. Most of such software is paid, but it has trial versions that help you try and choose the most suitable software for the internal processes of your business. These are a few examples:

  • Balsamiq
  • Mockplus
  • Moqups
  • Wireframe.cc
  • Mockflow
  • Gliffy

The software has everything you need for easy prototyping and wireframe creation. In addition, they support collaboration modes where each team member is notified of changes and suggestions.

wireframes mockup

Digital Design Tools

This software is a more advanced tool for creating designs and wireframes. They have many libraries with ready-made design elements and are often paid, and licensing costs a lot. The most popular solutions in this area are:

  • Sketch
  • Figma
  • Adobe XD
  • Photoshop
  • Illustrator
wireframes mockup

InVision

This software has received a separate mention, as it is the ultimate tool for designing various digital solutions. Features of this program allow designers to create everything from wireframes to clickable prototypes for detailed testing. Do not forget about the feature of collaboration, which significantly simplifies and speeds up the development of design concepts.

wireframes mockup

Wrapping Things Up

As you can see, wireframes are an essential part of creating good designs that are eye-catching and user-friendly. This is achieved because you completely focus on the user experience, as well as the future functionality of your product from the design side.

Wireframes allow you to objectively understand the feasibility of specific design solutions, which will enable you to avoid time and money for unnecessary features. You are entirely open to experimentation, and feel free to test wireframes before you say, “Yes, this design is perfect; let’s do it.” In addition, a wide range of various design tools on the market allows you to choose a convenient solution for your designers and work in the software that suits your business and its requirements as much as possible. So, don’t overlook wireframes, and you’ll witness how your product designs will soar to new heights.

Author’s bio

author's photo

Vitaly Kuprenko is a writer for Cleveroad. It’s a web and mobile app development company with headquarters in Ukraine. He enjoys writing about technology and digital marketing.

About Author

30% off Yearly Solo Subscription:

Days
Hours
Minutes
Seconds

Complete Guide to DATA-DRIVEN DESIGN

Get ebook for free. Just leave your email below.

You will be subscribed to our mailing list.