Design jargon may be intimidating. We’ll clarify what a wireframe is, and how it fits into the web design process in this article.
Definition of wireframe
Wireframes are a simple visual guide that displays a website’s skeletal architecture. Wireframes are often provided in black and white prior to design and do not establish any visual style, typography, or artwork.
Website wireframes are sometimes likened to home plans. Blueprints specify the number of bedrooms, baths, and other rooms in your home, but they do not specify the colour of the walls or the furnishings. Similarly, with wireframes, we outline the pages and functionality (such as forms, video, picture galleries, navigation, and so on) that are necessary to meet the goals of your website.
Traditionally, wireframes were delivered to clients in Word doc or PDF formats, allowing you to follow the flow of information and calls-to-action through comprehensive annotations. Fortunately, various programs that allow us to build dynamic wireframes have been released recently. We can now show functioning wireframes online for clients to browse through to better understand the user journey.
Why is Wireframing Important?
Wireframing helps us determine the best possible user experience for our project. Before committing to a design, we can explore various layouts and navigation patterns to determine which work best for our project. Wireframing acts as a conversation starter with our clients and helps us identify our design’s most critical information and goals. Here are more specific benefits of wireframing.
1. Wireframes display site architecture visually
Wireframes clearly show how all the site elements will be organised, including headers and footers, navigation, etc.
A good wireframe will help us foresee:
- How the site will be structured logically (navigation and page organisation)
- How many pages the website needs and for what purposes
- What calls-to-action are most important and where they are placed
- How we can use space to guide the user’s eye
- How we can use white space to show hierarchy and importance of content
2. Wireframes communicate critical information and function before design
The functional aspect of wireframes allows us to communicate the purpose of each page and how the user will interact with it.
By thinking through the navigation, calls-to-action and interactions, we can better communicate why we put certain content on a particular page and how we expect the viewer to interact with it. We can also think through potential design problems and provide solutions before we even begin the design stage.
3. Wireframes surface design issues before they get too costly
The earlier we identify and address design problems, the less expensive it is to fix them. There are several things to look for in your wireframes:
Does the website offer a clear path for visitors to achieve their goals?
- Is the information hierarchy logical and clear?
- Is the information architecture based on a sound taxonomy of content?
- Does it follow the appropriate standards on usability and accessibility?
- Are there elements that distract from the main goals of a page?
- Do the navigational elements make sense?
- Do the links point to the appropriate places?
Even after starting the design process, you should continue to use wireframes. Wireframes will keep you focused on the overarching design objective and goals, even when you are choosing colours, graphics and fonts.
The most crucial part of wireframing is to make sure you provide a clear map for users to reach their goals. Ask yourself, “What is the purpose of this page? How does the user get from A to B?” Also, ask yourself, “Would the proposed design get the user from A to B in the most efficient and enjoyable way possible?” If the answer is no, go back and try again.
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