A website is a crucial element of any business conducted online and serves a vital role in presenting it to the public. Reflecting the features and goals of the companies as well as providing various products or services, each website has its own structure and spirit. But they all have one thing in common: they’ve all been created by professionals who followed a specific and clear website design process.
Without a thorough understanding of each step of the process, it’s hard to grasp the scope of the work and move towards the goal – a website – smoothly and time-efficiently. In order to achieve that, companies use different tools and mechanisms. And since everything has its starting point, we’d like to show you what a wireframe is – one of the main pre-design steps that determine every further decision within the project. Let’s start by giving a definition to the term itself.
What is a wireframe
The wireframe is an outline of the future website that is used to determine the website’s basic structure, the position of elements, and their sizes. That means that they let us see how the final product will work and look like.
Essentially, the wireframe is a rough schematic template that answers 3 questions:
- What content should be included on the page
- Where the information should be located
- How the interaction between the interface and users should take place (with the description)
Being a kind of blueprint, the wireframe should contain all the details of the future page in order not to lose anything important that may affect the work of the final product.
As a matter of fact, wireframes shouldn’t be perceived as just templates and, in any case, the step of making them should not be neglected, since without them the design process will be burdened with countless corrections, last-minute changes, and revisions (and that is not only time-consuming but also costly).
Sometimes companies skip the process of creating wireframes since this step can be arduous, and that is a big mistake. To fully understand and strengthen the importance of the wireframe in your eyes let’s explore its purposes.
What are the functions of wireframes
- To demonstrate the content layout
With the help of a wireframe, you can quickly visualize the structure of the website and see its concept. Thus, you’ll clearly see what is missing there and what should be added. It will also show what features work and what fail at the early stages.
- To save time and money
Despite initially taking quite a lot of time, the ready-made wireframe will speed up further work, as there will be no questions on the structure and goals of all the page elements. By the way, the process of creating a wireframe is rather inexpensive.
- To concentrate on the user experience
Having a simple but detailed structure that lacks any distracting features like colors, fonts, logos, etc, wireframes provide developers with an opportunity to easily check the usability and functionality of the website.
- To consider the website’s ability to easily adjust to changes
Well-done websites will not have any difficulties when it comes to expanding the product range. And that is ensured by the wireframe. It verifies that any modernization will not affect the whole web design.
- To assist the communication within the team
The entire team is involved in the process of website design and creation. And working with the wireframes helps the team members to communicate during the entire process of development. Everyone involved will see the changes made, the structure required, and so on. So, it will lead to the consistency of actions.
So far, you can see how important the wireframes are and how they can substantially simplify the whole process of website development. Now, let’s see what types of wireframes exist.
Types of wireframes
There are three main types of wireframes that we’re going to address in this article.
The low-fidelity (lo-fi) wireframe, let us say, is the skeleton of the websites, and is used at the very beginning of the website creating process. It’s characterized by a simple structure (black and white blocks) that reflects the position of each website element. It’s deprived of any graphics, like colors, visuals, and so on. In most cases, such wireframes are not interactive and they tend to be pretty rough in their appearance.
To make this kind of wireframe you may need only a pen/pencil and a piece of paper, or you may use a sketchbook, a notebook, or an iPad with an Apple pencil. Compared to the next two types, this wireframe is not digital (mostly) and thus not as beloved by all the developers since they immediately turn to digital wireframes.
The medium-fidelity wireframe is the next step of the design process. Now we add details to our “rough sketch” either manually or with the help of a wireframing tool. Here we work with buttons, headlines, sizes, dimensions, etc. The colors are still pretty plain, but along with black and white, we can also use a gray one.
The high-fidelity (hi-fi) wireframe is the final stage of the wireframe building. It’s more detailed and aesthetic. Here we can see colors, fonts, and visuals. Such wireframe is close to the final product look, as the elements have already undertaken some design procedures.
Normally, during all the stages, the wireframes are shown to the customers to check whether this is the product they want to get.
The level of detail may vary and depend on several factors, such as the opportunities and resources of a customer, the design process itself, and so on. But there are 3 key elements of most wireframes – information, navigation, and interface design. Let’s learn more about them.
- Information design works with the way your content will be displayed on the website. It should be logical and understandable for the users. Moreover, it should be well-structured and organized in order not to cause any difficulties or questions while using the website.
- Navigation design is responsible for users’ most convenient moving across the website pages. This is a part of an interaction between the user and the website, that’s why the process of navigation should be smooth and remain unnoticed by the users. Poor or bad navigation may result in loss of customers or visitors.
- Interface design is liable for the general view of the website. Certainly, as it’s not a final product, here we are not talking about all the visuals and graphics that are supposed to be included in the final version (they’ll take place later). But a few design elements that will show how the future product will look must take place.
When it comes to designing websites, wireframes are not the only option that is used by the people involved in the project. There are also prototypes. These terms seem to be the same, but in fact, they differ greatly. In order not to confuse them, let’s clarify their meanings.
What’s the difference between wireframes and prototypes
As we already know, wireframes are rough sketches of the future product that have a simple structure. They demonstrate where, how, and what content will be included on the page. To make a wireframe you need to know the goals of the website and its target audience.
The prototype is the interactive product model. That means that it doesn’t only show the view of the future product, but the way it will work, as the buttons here are clickable. We need prototypes to test the functionality and navigation of the website, to eliminate bugs and problems that may arise.
At this stage, we’re aware of the types of wireframes and their components and key elements. And now it’s time to have a look at the main participants of the wireframes creation process.
Who takes part in the development of wireframes
UX (user experience) designers are directly involved in the wireframe creation. They control the level of interaction between the customer and the website, and their main task is to monitor the user experience. That’s why they determine the information and visual hierarchy, how well the future website will meet the goals set, how the navigation process will happen, and so on.
UI designers work on the overall look and feel (design) of the wireframe and they may be defined as UI (user interface) designers.
UX and UI designers seem to share the spotlight, however, they don’t. While UX designers are focused primarily on the wireframe structure and functionality, the UI designers’ task is more about users’ perception of the wireframe.
Developers and engineers bring the wireframes to life in terms of the technical side. According to the wireframe provided, they create a code that enables us to see how the future product will work on a website (navigation, functionality, and usability).
SEO (search engine optimization) teams are focused on the ways to attract visitors to the website. That’s why here their main task is to control the possibilities of the future product to be noticed by various search engines. They consider the site architecture, opportunities for user conversion, and so on.
Product managers are responsible for enabling clear communication among all the parties involved to get the final product desired. They use wireframes as a kind of a checklist – to monitor the progress and task implementation.
As you can see, the process of wireframes design and creation requires the work of the whole team of professionals and each of them has a particular area of responsibility.
Having reviewed the theoretical part of the wireframes, it’s high time to turn to its practical aspect.
How can we make a website wireframe
Let’s examine a few steps on how to create an effective wireframe.
- Find inspiration and conduct analysis
Since you’re not the first company in cyberspace, it will be of much help to look through your competitors’ websites or some websites that you like, to take some notes on their design, information structure, or navigation tools. Moreover, that will allow you to define their weak and strong points. And that may help you to stand out.
- Plan your design process
At this stage, you may arrange a meeting with all the stakeholders to set up the goals, decide on your target audience, and listen to their ideas or proposals on the way to future work.
- Sketch it out
First sketches may be done on the whiteboard or paper (low-fidelity wireframe). Here you should decide on the content structure and information hierarchy. We don’t use any visuals or images (just boxes) and apply only black and white colors to avoid any distractions.
- Make medium-fidelity wireframes
Now we should use digital tools to add the details to our sketches. And it’s up to you to decide on the level of fidelity you’d like to continue with (but in any case the high-fidelity wireframe will take place). If it’s a medium-fidelity wireframe, then you add few details with key features, the approximate layout may also be presented. But still, no images are used.
- Make high-fidelity wireframes
When it comes to the high fidelity level, we add far more details, work with dimensions and sizes of the elements, while the layout is pretty determined. Here the colors, fonts, and illustrations are required.
- Create a prototype and carry out testing
After creating the high-fidelity wireframe we get down to making the prototype of the future website. We link the pages and screens, make the website graphically close to the final one as well as take care of the clickability. As of now, the product becomes interactive and is ready to be tested. Team members or even a focus group may take part in this testing process.
Within the testing, various bugs or problems may arise. But it’s not crucial, as it’s much easier to fix them now than to do it later when the website is done and launched.
Since the concept of the wireframe along with its features and technical procedures are clear, it is time to talk about the types of design processes involved.
What are the design processes that incorporate wireframes
01 Sketch to code process
Sketch – Wireframe – Lo-fi prototype – Hi-fi mockup – Hi-fi prototype (rapid) – Code
During this process, you will undergo all the possible stages, that’s why it is considered to be the safest one.
The sketching turns into wireframing (which is logical) addressing some structural issues. Then, we add an interactive function, thus creating the lo-fi prototype. By adding and finalizing the visuals that are made in a hi-fi mockup, we now move to a hi-fi prototype (rapid). And after the elaboration of rapid prototyping (quick creation of several prototypes), we’re ready to hand the product over to the developers for code procedures.
02 Wireframe to code process
Wireframe – Lo-fi prototype – Hi-fi mockup – Code
Here we start the process with wireframing (avoiding sketching). Now, again, we add interactivity to develop into a lo-fi prototype. Then we finalize the visuals with a hi-fi mockup that consequently goes into the hands of developers and designers for code production.
03 Sketch to code cleanup process
Sketch – Wireframe – Coded lo-fi prototype – Coded hi-fi prototype – Code cleanup
As in the first two examples, we start with making sketches and wireframes, but then we immediately start with coding (adding clickability and interactivity). So, the next stage is a coded lo-fi prototype that after various adjustments and tests, becomes a coded hi-fi prototype. After all these procedures the code is cleaned up and we get a ready-made product.
04 Wireframe to code cleanup
Wireframe – Lo-fi prototype – Coded hi-fi prototype – Code cleanup
The main difference between this and previous stages lies in the fact that the first two steps (wireframing and lo-fi prototyping) are common and obvious. Then after a number of adjustments, we receive a hi-fi prototype (that is coded later). After that, the product undergoes various tests and alterations, and, accordingly, the code is cleaned up.
05 No hi-fi wireframes
In any design process you choose, your wireframes should always be of low (or medium) fidelity level because when it comes to designing, the hi-fi wireframes are of no use.
The following standard scheme of the design process aspects will make it clear:
Information => interaction => visual perception
We provided you with several design processes, and it’s your call to decide which one suits you best and which you’d like to apply to the wireframe creation process.
Top 10 best wireframe tools
Starting from any stage of creating wireframes, you face the need in choosing appropriate wireframe tools. There are numerous options and each has its own features. And here we are with our top 10 best wireframe tools.
Figma is a well-known user-friendly tool that helps not only in creating wireframes or prototypes but also in designing final website interfaces. It also offers a wide range of templates. Moreover, an opportunity for collaboration of the stakeholders (up to 2 professionals within the free version) working simultaneously on the project is another benefit of this tool.
Compared to Figma, InVision is also a multifunctional tool, but besides that, it supports fascinating animations and interactivity. Its interface is pretty handy and the tool is also suitable for collaborative work (you may leave or read comments or feedback from other stakeholders).
This wireframing tool was initially made for UI specialists. With its pretty simple and intuitive interface, users face no difficulties working there. Sketch lacks built-in templates, nevertheless, it integrates with numerous designers all over the world that have shared their wireframes for free. That means that their templates are also at your disposal.
04 Adobe XD
One of the main features of Adobe XD is the ability to create your future product (from wireframing to prototyping) within the same file. So you don’t need to create new files and integrate the same tools all the time you start working at the next stage.
Being an online tool with a pleasant interface, Cacoo allows you to create various wireframes and sitemaps to meet every need. What is more, here several people can work on the same project with an opportunity to track the changes made.
Balsamiq has become so popular, as the wireframes made here look like sketches. And that makes clear that the wireframe is not the final product, and it’s still in the process of development. It also provides the users with a library of various ready-made elements that can be helpful.
The free version of Jumpchart provides two users with access to work on one project (up to 10 pages) with an opportunity to collaborate, make adjustments, and track them. That’s pretty enough to see if the tool suits you and meets your expectations. Moreover, the main focus of this tool is the general structure of the product, and not so much attention is paid to the details (which is rather suitable while working with lo-fi wireframes).
08 Pencil Project
Pencil Project is one of a kind wireframing tool available offline. It has an open-source code, which means that users get all the functions for free. In addition, this tool offers a wide range of templates and elements, and you can also import external objects.
Mockingbird is a simple and convenient wireframing tool that provides users with an opportunity (besides creating wireframes, of course) to share their projects with stakeholders, friends, or customers through sending links or files. It also has a set of elements available.
This is a minimalistic online tool with the help of which you can fast and easily create lo-fi wireframes. One of the big advantages of Wireframe.cc is that you don’t have to sign up or register to use it.
Having reviewed our top 10 wireframe tools along with their features, now you have a roadmap in deciding on what tool to use according to your goals and needs.
On a final note
In this article, we tried to give you the full scope of information concerning drawing a wireframe, its usage and significance. The process of website creation is not so easy as it may seem to someone, especially when it comes to technical aspects.
But we hope that the information provided was not only interesting but useful, as we all understand a huge role of websites’ design and its stages (as well as problems that may occur).
Fascinated by this topic and eager to start using the gained knowledge, but still have some doubts? Contact our professionals right now to quickly dispel them.