Website Wireframing: The Crucial Steps Too Often Missed

Wireframes should be simple, but you must consider several factors when making one. They are an essential part of the web design process and are especially helpful when communicating with your clients. Marketing is no longer about billboards and direct mails. It is more than that, which is why we have prepared this article covering both the theory and practice of wireframing.

What is Wireframing?

Website Wireframing: The Crucial Steps Too Often Missed

Wireframes are similar to the blueprints of a building. They help the web design team to determine what goes where. Wireframes are essential at the beginning of any design process since they represent a quick way to get ideas down. Wireframes focus on the general space and layout, allowing web designers to pay attention to more functional aspects of the design before moving to the finer details. Your design team can create several wireframes and compare them for the best option. Wireframes bring validation into the first few phases of the design process, helping you create sound products that your customers will love.

Types of Wireframes

Now that you know what a wireframe is, let’s take a look at the three different types of wireframes.

Low-Fidelity Wireframes

Low-fidelity wireframes are quick sketches that make ideas more tangible. They focus on the bigger picture and show User Interface (UI) elements like boxes and lines without detailed annotations. Low-fidelity wireframes are all about layout, navigation, and information architecture. They do not consider what elements of your website may be distracting or what factors affect user experience. Instead, they focus on getting ideas down and organising them into an achievable website structure. 

Mid-Fidelity Wireframes

This wireframe communicates to teams how aesthetic features can support essential functionalities. Although medium-fidelity wireframes do not use images or typography, they have more detailed components of a website’s layout. For instance, your web design team can have placeholder boxes to put images or body texts. Mid-fidelity wireframes use black and white colours but feature grey shading to differentiate between elements and emphasise elements. This wireframe also uses different fonts to separate headings and create clear distinctions. The primary objective of a mid-fidelity wireframe is to show how website elements will work with one another. 

High-Fidelity Wireframes

These wireframes take more effort to create, but they effectively reveal how your product will look upon completion. Most companies use digital tools to create high-fidelity wireframes. Digital tools are more precise and you need them since high-fidelity wireframes involve using actual images and text instead of placeholders. High-fidelity is excellent for refining complex website processes like interactive elements. 

What Are the Benefits of Wireframes?

Although wireframes do take up a lot of time, their pros far outweigh the cons. Here are the top benefits of wireframes.

Making Changes Efficiently

Web designers find it challenging to detect flaws during the designing process. Some flaws may require a complete overhaul, and this may lead to wastage of time and money. Wireframes do not take a lot of time to make changes, instead, they provide an easier way to make changes since you can toss an idea away and try another approach. You probably know that web designers have to try out a range of different ideas before finding the best solution. Otherwise, you could end up sticking to something that does not work. Wireframes make this process easier.

Clarify Website Features

The functionality of your website should be a priority. Wireframes allow your team to discuss all the necessary functionalities of your website that you want to be included. The best practice is to discuss the features you want with your team before moving to the development and design stage. 

Focus on User Experience

User Experience (UX) affects your conversion rate, and this is why you must prioritise user experience. Complex or confusing navigation and ill-defined information hierarchy are some of the causes of bad UX, leading to high bounce rates. You can avoid these negative elements with a well-made wireframe that prioritises UX. Wireframes will also allow you to test your design to see whether it meets your needs. 

How to Design Wireframes Step by Step

Wireframing is a creative process, meaning that there is no correct formula for building one. Every design team will create wireframes based on their creativity and resources. However, here are some basic steps that occur across the board. 

Wireframing the User Interface of Each Screen

This phase involves implementing the basic design and adding each component to the wireframe’s screens. Designers try to keep things simple in the beginning and use UI components that focus on the functionality of the screens and features. In other words, this step includes components that show more detail than paper drawings while keeping the UI functional. The design team will choose one UI kit that applies to the entire wireframe. This allows each component to act as a placeholder for the final component. The UI kits used in this phase include;

  • A sketchy-style UI kit
  • A classic web wireframing UI kit
  • A mobile wireframing UI kit

Adding the Right Visual Design

How much visual should you include in your wireframe? Wireframes should be simple and something you can quickly put together to create a foundation for the design. So, your wireframe should not include anything like typography or a colour palette. The only visual aspect to include is the layout. The general space distribution is essential regardless of whether you use real images or a simple placeholder. This will help with the informational architecture (IA), providing you with a better feel of readability. As such, you must keep things like whitespace and visual hierarchy in mind even at the early stages of wireframing. 

Decide on Whether to Use Real Content or Lorem Ipsum

Should you use actual content or lorem as a placeholder during wireframing? This debate has existed for a long time in the design community. Both sides hold legitimate arguments. Lorem ipsum eliminates the need to wait for actual content, speeding up the design process. However, lorem ipsum can mislead designers because it will not behave similarly to real content. Lorem ipsum will not provide a perfect alignment. As such, you may find unpleasant surprises down the design process. So, it would help if you decided which one would work for you in the beginning. 

Navigation

The best thing about using wireframes when designing a website is that you must think about the navigation. Web designers may not define how website features work together, but they know where the primary navigation goes. The only challenge is that users want functional and straightforward navigation. They do not care about the navigation design while exploring your website. So, you must create a navigation that is fluid and logical.

Another thing to consider is that users can get lost, and you need to tell them where they are, even if it is just in general terms. This is where navigation details like breadcrumbs come in to help. Also, consider offering two navigation menus, especially if the website is about products with different features. Define what goes in the primary menu during the wireframing. 

Add the Right Amount of Interaction

Although wireframes are all about navigation and IA, you should take some time to create some essential interaction with the simplest wireframes. Add the relevant navigation interactions like a dropdown menu or a button. This will change how users feel when using the initial design, making validation more realistic. 

Best Wireframing Practices

Website Wireframing: The Crucial Steps Too Often Missed

Research

This is the first rule of any product development project. Despite the initial simplicity of wireframes, you must research and make the results available to the entire team. Research is essential since it allows you to transform an idea into a tangible design. Remember that you want to create a website loved by users. As such, you have to get out there and identify what users want. 

Build Navigation Patterns Into Your First Wireframe

You must make it easier for your users to find what they want and explore your website. The last thing you want is your design team rushing the navigation. Working your navigation into the design from the beginning will allow you to test its functionality and make changes if necessary. 

Collaborate and Listen

Wireframing requires collaboration and collective user feedback. Use your wireframe tool to work simultaneously on online wireframes, comment on them, and make them shareable on all browsers and devices. Listen to what people have to say and go back to the wireframe to make any necessary adjustments. Working as a team is an excellent way to refine the design. 

Keep it Simple

Use wireframes to validate basic functionality and make it as robust as possible. Your team will deliver the best results if they are sure of the foundation. This will also eliminate the need to change your layout, navigation or IA constantly. Create a solid foundation with a low-fidelity wireframe before moving on to the finer details. 

Conclusion

Wireframes have the power to get your web design team on the same page and fix mistakes quickly. Designers can leverage the simplicity and low-cost nature of wireframes to create a solid foundation for web design. Wireframes also ensure that designers cut back on re-work, avoid delays, and ensure cost-effective designs. 

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