Using a wireframe for your development projects can ensure you’re creating an effective blueprint for the process, mapping out how your software or website will navigate and where items like pages and icons will go. A wireframe is a vital component to the design project for many reasons, not the least of which is keeping your client and your team updated on changes and suggestions. Here’s a quick guide on how to create a wireframe and which wireframe tools to use.
Sketch a Rough Layout:
Grab your pencil and paper, and don’t worry if you’re not much of an artist. While a sketch can technically be considered a low-fidelity wireframe, it’s also a good first step to take when you begin the design process. Sketching out a basic layout of what you’re seeing in your mind can help guide you as you create the wireframe in with wireframe tools.
Using simple shapes and small notes, sketch out the basic design of your website, app, or software, so you can transfer it to the wireframe tool. The sketch doesn’t have to be a Picasso style painting, but rather a simple, even sloppy sketch. Remember, this is simply a starting point for your idea, not the final design.
Use a Wireframe Tool to Create a Design:
When creating your wireframe, it’s important to remember a few key details. For starters, don’t include any colors or fancy fonts in your wireframe. The wireframe should be grayscale, with one or two simple fonts to differentiate separate assets, and no graphics or other visual assets save simple shapes.
Secondly, your wireframe should be focused on the functionality of the site rather than its aesthetic value. While creating an attractive website is definitely a vital component to the design process, this is not the time to add graphics. You’re creating a wireframe to get an idea of the basic layout, providing a roadmap to developers and designers who will add to the project after you. In addition to this, you can include your client during this process to make important edits early on.
The Client is Part of the Team:
You should view your clients as nothing less than an honorary member of your design team. No one knows better what the site or software should look and feel like better than the person who ordered it in the first place.
This is what makes wireframing so effective; you can show your client exactly what you’re doing during the design process, gathering feedback and suggestions and making changes as necessary. Making edits after the project is completed can be costly and frustrating to both the client and your team.
A Wireframe is Not a Working Prototype:
Don’t mistake a wireframe for a prototype. Your prototype will be as close to the final product as you can get, with functional and aesthetic aspects all ironed out and ready for testing. A wireframe acts as more of a blueprint than something you can actually present to the client as a prototype. Luckily, many wireframe tools also include some kind of prototyping tools as well, so you can use the same software from conception to prototyping.
What Software Should I Use?
Wireframe tools come in all shapes in sizes, but which product you choose will depend pretty much entirely on what you need. Some wireframe tools are as simple as flowchart-like drawing tools to full-blown digital wireframe software complete with icons and other useful tools.
Some of the simpler wireframing tools include: Moqups, Pencil Project, Mockplus, and iDoc. Many of these tools are free as well as simple, making them cost-effective alternatives to the larger, more advanced programs.
If you’re looking for software that has all the bells and whistles, you’ll need something like: Axure RP, Adobe Illustrator or Designer, Proto.io, Figma, or UX Pin. Many of these programs are loaded with great collaboration and design tools, making your wireframing process simple and easy to navigate.
Unfortunately, for higher-end software, you’ll need to pay for a subscription or a one-time purchase price. The higher end software usually has real-time collaboration tools, cloud-based storage and sync, and even prototyping tools to help take the project through to its end stages.
When shopping around for software, be sure you look at the reviews and download a demo if possible. Using the demo will help you get a feel for how it functions before purchasing it. You wouldn’t purchase a vehicle without a test drive, so don’t purchase your wireframe software without a demo.
Pay attention to customer reviews on the software as well, as the people using the software on a daily basis are the experts on its drawbacks as well as its best features.
Why a Wireframe?
If you’re not designing with a wireframe, you’re really doing yourself a disservice. Projects that start with a wireframe are better planned out, and with better planning comes more efficiency and higher-quality products. Any large project should start with a wireframe to ensure everyone is on the same page from the beginning.
Whether you’re designing a website, mobile app, or computer software, starting with a wireframe is the best way to ensure synchronicity between team members, the project, and the client. With real-time sharing and collaborative tools, cloud-based storage, and even prototyping tools, wireframes are your all-in-one design tool for creating stunning development projects.