A Comprehensive Guide to Wireframing in Product Development

A web development project has a lot in common with building a house. When you build a house, you naturally choose the best person who can do this job. You would want somebody with the experience, profound knowledge and you would want to make sure that the builder has the right process in place to get the job done within prescribed time and within a sanctioned budget. What makes you sure of this? A blueprint, right? Well, in the field of web development it is wireframing.

What is wireframing?

In simple words, wireframing is an illustration of a webpage. A wireframe is a layout of a web page which articulates what kind of interface elements will find a place on important pages. It is an important part of the interaction design process.

The major goal of wireframing is to offer a visual understanding of a page at the earliest stage in a project to get the approval of all the stakeholders and members of a project team. Wireframes are also used to create the global and secondary navigation to make sure that the terminology and structure incorporated in the site meet user expectations.

The difference between wireframes, mockups and prototypes?

Wireframe

A wireframe is just like a skeleton or a basic structure of a site. Wireframing is more concerned with functionality. For example, a wireframe of a site or an app will depict the navigation, the main buttons, the columns, etc. It can be equated with a blueprint of an architectural design.

Mockup

Mockups, on the other hand, are more realistic representations of products. Unlike a wireframe mockup focuses on details. All aspects like colours, fonts, icons, charts, images are looked out for.

Prototype

Prototypes offer a high fidelity visual representation of your project. You can think of a prototype as a valuable addition to a mockup. Prototype, as the name suggests, shows exactly how the product will look like. Prototyping involves connecting your wireframe together, connecting buttons to their respective landing pages, layering drop-down menus, etc.

To simplify it further, these are all the stages of the process in product designing, starting from the sketching (a simplest primary phase of designing – hand drawing) ending with the creation of a prototype.

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Wireframing for a mobile app

Wireframing for a mobile app offers similar benefits to that of doing it for a website. It gives a clear idea of how an app will look and how it will function. Nobody likes to buy a vague idea. Wireframing offers a great deal of ease while project transitioning. It also reduces the overall cost of the product development as changes can be made at an early stage.

One important thing to keep in mind while wireframing for a mobile app is to consider the platform (iOS or Android) onto which you will be launching your product.

Important things to keep in mind while wireframing

While creating wireframes it’s important to keep in mind that they are just guides to where the major content and navigational elements of your site will appear on the page. As the aim of the illustration is not depicting visual design, it is always preferable to keep it simple. It saves time and efforts. Here are some tips that will come handy while wireframing:

  • Start with simple, low fidelity wireframes.
  • Avoid using colours. You might want to stick to grayscale to depict difference.
  • No need of using images. Just use a geometrical shape instead of images to offer a general idea.
  • Use generic font and keep it same throughout while wireframing. Typography is not an essential part of the process.
  • There is no need to wireframe each and every page.

Wireframing is a procedure of thinking through problems and specifying interfaces. Remember, like other forms of a development process wireframing can have its perils if not done properly.

Essential elements exemplified in wireframes

Elements of wireframing depend largely on the type of site you are aiming to build, client requirements among other things. However, there are certain elements which are often incorporated as standard wireframing elements, like Header, Footer, Logo, Search field, Navigation systems, Body content, Share buttons, Breadcrumbs.

Types of wireframes

Wireframes can differ from their production processes (paper sketches vs computer-drawn images) to the amount of detail they contain. The two terms widely used to denote the wireframing production are – low and high-fidelity wireframes.

  1. Low fidelity wireframes – They are easy and quick to develop. They help to facilitate team communication. Often low fidelity wireframes contain simple images, lorem ipsum text as a filler.
  2. High fidelity wireframes – They are more suitable for documentation due to their heightened level of detail. These wireframes hold information about every small item on the page.

Why do we create wireframes?

Here are some significant benefits of wireframing:

  • Wireframing plays a pivotal role in communication during web or app development. It offers an opportunity to all the stakeholders; clients, developers, designers to visualise and get the clear picture of the structure of the website.
  • It is easier to communicate and convey your ideas with wireframes.
  • Wireframes add clarity to the projects, it also allows you to work through all the interactions and layout needs.
  • Wireframing makes content development design friendly.
  • Wireframes trigger the client to think about their requirements and aids them to define their project goals and their primary focus.
  • It helps to gather feedback on your product at a very early stage.
  • Wireframes allow designers to create layouts for many sections of the website, which leads to a more fluid creative process.
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Important steps in the wireframing process

Some important steps to follow while wireframing include:

  • Research – A little idea about how other designers are wireframing will help you a great deal to find an inspiration.
  • Select your tool – There are multiple tools available to create wireframes. You can pick one based on your convenience.
  • Setup a grid – There are several grid templates available for free download, you can even customize your own grid template with the help of Telerik, UI-grid, etc.
  • Determine a layout – Lay down boxes, add content if available, involve your client at this stage to communicate discrepancies if any.
  • Convert it into a prototype.

Some popular tools to create wireframes

No matter what kind of wireframing you are aiming for, low fidelity or high fidelity, using wireframing tools helps you to come out more professional and work in more prioritized and organised way. Here’s the list of seven wireframing tools you can effectively use:

  • Balsamiq
  • Mockflow
  • InVison
  • Wireframe.cc
  • HotGloo
  • Pidoco
  • Axure
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Wireframing is one of the essential skills to acquire as a product developer. To become a successful product manager you need to possess a holistic approach towards wireframing and other product development skills which is the foundation for understanding the fundamentals of product design. This will certainly be your gateway to a prosperous career in product development.

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