To Wireframe or not to Wireframe...

Builders wouldn’t build a house without a blueprints, right? 

So why would I design a website without wireframes? Well since you ask, I wouldn’t! A website can be a complex beast, often with dozens of pages (including multimedia), imagery and a host of other functional items. In order to build a website like this the process of wireframing is vital. Granted its an additional process / step in the design process, but in the long run it saves time and is crucial for a number of reasons.

If, hypothetically, a builder were to build a house without blueprints, what do you think would happen? The house could be built but it would be pretty loosely constructed. Making any amends to the original design or idea would probably take a lot longer than it would if you had the blueprints for guidance. The blueprints or plans are the perfect way for architects to explore their ideas and try out different things: what could work, what might not work etc. The time an architect spends on these plans is never wasted - in the long term it is inevitably saved. These blueprints are not only be used for materials, preparation and development but also  for any renovations, updates or maintenance the client may need in the future.

What is a Wireframe?

A wireframe is a simple visual representation (or skeleton) of a website and shows the basic layout, structure, navigational structure and all major components of the website (header, footer, forms, videos, share buttons etc). The point is to focus on the hierarchy of information and events on the page and solving navigational and functional problems in a format that’s easy to adjust and redesign. It allows the designer to focus on how they want the user experience to flow without being distracted by font choices, colour and other decorative elements that are later incorporated into the design process.



 

So let me break down some of the most important reasons why we must create wireframes before jumping into design:

Communicating ideas

Using wireframes makes it easier to communicate your ideas to the client / team members and allows clients and team members to provide feedback at an early stage. The project becomes more transparent and as a result of this, communication between client and team members is undoubtedly improved.
 

Bringing clarity to your projects.

Designers can decide at an early stage what pages need to include which features and can decide the basic functionality for each of those elements. By creating wireframes, you have the building blocks and solid layouts of your design in place very early on.

Using wireframes makes it easier to communicate your ideas to the client / team members and allows clients and team members to provide feedback at an early stage.
 

Saving time and money

There are so many ways wireframes save you time and money. The development team use them as a reference to fully understand what they are building. The designer, developer and client are all on the same page and know roughly what to expect during the design process. Wireframes are also quick and easy to produce and the consequent designs tend to be more calculated.


A better user experience

Wireframes create a better user experience. At the end of the day we want to build sites that are easy to use and as attractive as we can make them without sacrificing user experience. Creating wireframes can push usability to the forefront - they allow us to look objectively at the navigation, labelling, typography hierarchy, call to actions and more. Wireframes get you into a problem-solving mindset by taking distracting design elements away. By solving these problems early on you are putting UX at the forefront.
 
By using low fidelity prototypes (in Invision for example), the designer, dev team and client can get a sense of how the navigation will work throughout the entire site by clicking through the wireframes.


 

Wireframes create a better user experience. At the end of the day we want to build sites that are easy to use and as attractive as we can make them without sacrificing user experience.


Wireframing makes content development more efficient, helps deliver the main message of the website and gathers feedback at an earlier stage from stakeholders, development team etc.
 
Wireframes play an important role in website responsiveness. We also create wireframes for tablet and mobile, this way we can plan how page elements will move and resize and we can decide how elements need to move visually to make for a better user experience. Wireframes ensure that your site has the ability to adapt, change and scale down to a mobile view.



 

When starting a project it can seem like an easier option to skip the wireframe phase, but in my eyes this is a big big mistake. They are necessary, they work and have been proven to work time and time again. It’s an integral part of the process of building a website and using them only ever improves user experience in the long term and improves collaboration amongst team members and clients.

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Oriana Corbett - Senior UI Designer

Oriana Corbett - Senior UI Designer

Senior UI Designer at Strata3