A website wireframe is used to map out the main features and navigation of a new website design. It gives an idea of the site’s functionality before considering visual design elements, like content and color schemes.
This two-dimensional illustration of a page’s interface, specifically focuses on space allocation and prioritization of content, functionalities available, and intended behaviors. For these reasons, wireframes typically do not include any styling, color, or graphics.
Layouts and features such as menus and buttons are mapped out to assess the overall experience of the end user.
A website wireframe also provides a practical map of the project for team members to see where everything will go as they complete related tasks.
Some designers or clients may tempt you to skip this part of the process, calling it unnecessary and time-consuming. But wireframing is about preparing yourself and all good preparations require time. And working without a plan usually takes up even more time and you run the risk of a project failing altogether.
You should always create a wireframe in the early development stages because it will help you reveal errors in judgment or design, giving you time to correct them. In terms of collaboration, you can use wireframes to work effectively with your team and explain concepts to your clients.
Some wireframes are more detailed than others. It’s wise to start with a low-fidelity wireframe. Low-fidelity wireframes show the general localization of elements on the screen. You can develop these initial designs into more high-fidelity wireframes, which provide more details — such as what the final elements will look like.
Whether you use a low-fidelity or high-fidelity wireframe will depend on what your project needs at the time.
As any digital designer worth their salt knows, creating a top-notch website goes way beyond picking the perfect color palette and a snappy font. In fact, if you peel back the surface of any good website or app, you’ll find a well-designed wireframe holding the whole thing together.
Why is wireframing important?
There are two main benefits to beginning your design process with a wireframe. Firstly, it separates the design process from UX. This means you can focus on the user journey objectively without the distraction of colors and fonts. And likewise, when working on the aesthetics later, you won’t worry about where to put what and why.
If you’re working with a client, wireframes are also a great way to show off your UX expertise and involve them in the design process early on.
What to include in a wireframe
Whether you’re starting with a sketch or working on a high-fidelity wireframe mockup will determine how detailed the elements you include are. For example, on a sketch or a low-fidelity mockup, you’ll use boxes to divide up the page and use lines to indicate where headlines and body copy are. You might shade in a box or connect the corners in an X to indicate an illustration or photo.
Whether you’re designing a few landing pages or redesigning an entire website, a wireframe will help you save time. Let’s say a client wants to add a new section to their product shop pages. You can come up with various solutions to solve this one problem by iterating wireframes.
Change the layout, change the hierarchy, think about different ways to solve this one specific problem. Then you can present these to the client to get buy-in before you work on the final design.
The most important thing with wireframes is to get client and stakeholder approval first, so you don’t waste time designing the wrong solution. When you’re a freelance designer, time is money and if you haven’t carefully laid out a plan for rounds of revision in your initial contract, it may come out of your bottom line.
Learn more about the wireframe process by connecting with one of our developers!