Recently we have heard multiple stories of web designers forgoing wireframing and jumping straight into thinking about what the web design is going to look like. Why? Because they assume that clients do not understand what wireframes are and therefore deem them unnecessary. The problem with this is that wireframing is an integral part of the web design process and necessary in ensuring highly functional web designs are achieved. This is why we have made the decision to write an article all about wireframing and why it is so important!
What is wireframing?
First things first, let’s establish what a wireframe actually is. Basically it is the foundation on which a web designer can begin building a website. A wireframe is usually produced after a web designer has discussed the functionality requirements of a site with the client and created a flow chart featuring the site’s internal pages. One of the most notable aspects of a wireframe is the fact they do not contain any colour or fancy images. They are simply black and white layouts that outline the specific size and placement of different elements and features of a website. They also help designers identify key conversion areas and structure navigation. Many web designers describe black and white wireframes as blueprints. Like the blueprint of a building, a wireframe is designed to show the structural placing of different elements, without the actual design features getting in the way. A builder wouldn’t construct a house without a blueprint, so a web designer should not build a web design without a wireframe.
Benefits of wireframing
Wireframing has a number of key benefits for both web designers and their clients. Below we have outlined some of the most obvious benefits that also explain why wireframing is such an important process.
On the same page
Whereas sitemaps tend to be quite conceptual, wireframes provide concrete evidence of the visual process you have in mind for your project. Even without all of the fancy colours and design work, they provide web designers with something tangible that they can show their clients, to ensure they are happy and on the same page as each other.
Understanding different features
As experienced web developers, we don’t expect our clients to understand what every single website feature is or what it does. Rather than trying to explain it with words, a great alternative is to include it in the wireframe. Wireframing specific project features like dynamic slide shows, light boxes and product filtering can help clients to understand how they function. Instead of focusing solely on how their site will look, wireframing can help clients to understand the importance of its functionality.
Finding out what works and what doesn’t
Leading on nicely from our previous point – wireframing can be used to find out which features work and which don’t for a particular website. Every element and feature of a website should serve a purpose and provide value to the user. If from looking at the wireframe you and the client decide that the feature will not assist in converting users in any way, you can simply take it out.
Ensuring effective navigation
Whether you own a website yourself or design them for a living, you should understand the importance of effective navigation. If users cannot easily navigate a website, they will simply take their custom elsewhere. One of the great things about wireframing is that it allows the web designer to test the site’s navigational elements. If the process is found to be too complex or it simply doesn’t work, they have chance to go back to the drawing board and make changes, without having to worry about altering any visual or design elements.
Although many web designers see wireframing as an additional step that adds time to the process, it can actually end up saving them a significant amount of time. All aspects of creating a website, from developing it’s features to creating the content becomes much easier if you have a good wireframe in place. It will ensure that everyone from the design team and agency, as well as the client is on the same page, avoiding delays and hold-ups that can pro-long the web design process.
Great software and tools for creating wireframes
There is a wide range of software and tools that web designers can use to create structural wireframes for their client work. Some of the most popular ones include:
- Adobe CS
If you are new to wireframing, we suggest having a play around with a few different tools to find out which you like the best.
Different approaches to wireframing
When it comes to making a wireframe, different web designers will take different approaches. It will all depend on how you work and the processes that bring out your strengths. For example, some designers find it useful to create a sketch, then a wireframe, then the visual design and finally the code. Whereas other designers prefer creating a wireframe, then an interactive prototype, then the visuals, then the code. There really is no right or wrong way to approach wireframing, it’s just about finding what works for you and allows you to achieve the best results for your clients. If you want to find out more about our approach to wireframing and web design, please visit the web design page off the services tab.