What is a wireframe?
Before we delve into the purpose and benefits of creating wireframes, let’s start with what a wireframe actually is.
Wireframes are two-dimensional and low fidelity basic layouts of your digital product. In other words, they are the structural guidelines of your product. Think of it as the initial blueprint of your website or application.
Since they are only representing your product’s initial concept and how it may function, they can be either hand-drawn or created digitally on a variety of software and tools.
Here are the three main characteristics of a wireframe:
- Simple – since wireframes are just an initial outline of your digital product that will often be adjusted further down the design process, there is no need for them to be overly polished.
- Grayscale colour scheme – to keep wireframes and the process of creating them simple and time-efficient, they should only be dawn in back and white. A good wireframe should be clear and easy to understand despite the lack of colours.
- Short and concise – teams need to read wireframes more than any other documents, so they should be short, concise and easy to understand.
Wireframes are used to communicate a variety of UX design concepts, including:
- Structure of your navigation architecture
- Layout of your digital product
- Where and how content will be placed
- Functionality of the product
- User flows & behaviours
Since wireframing can be done quickly, there may be a temptation to ignore them. However, the benefits of creating wireframes far outweigh the “inconveniences” you may encounter.
What is the purpose of wireframing?
Product structure validation & usability issue identification
Here are the top two purposes of creating a wireframe:
1Validate your digital product’s structure
Wireframes are like the foundations of a house. They act as a physical structure that keeps everything supported and working correctly and efficiently, and are also the basis for future design plans.
For this purpose, wireframes are used as the foundation of your digital product because/as they provide the skeletal structure to ensure your product is running smoothly and effectively.
2Identify usability issues
Wireframes force you to push usability to the very forefront of the design and development process. Displaying your digital product’s pages and their layouts along with the various elements and where they will be allocated ensures that every aspect is actually functional.
Without fancy colours and intricate images, you and your team can focus on what’s really important, which is the flow and navigational elements on your digital product such as: conversion paths, navigation button placements and more.
From here, let’s take a look at the benefits of wireframing and how it can drive success for your business.
How do wireframes benefit your business?
Putting the focus on your users, core features and feedback.
Wireframing is arguably one of the most important and effective tools in both the design process and the development of your digital product.
Here are our top three reasons why:
1Create a user-focused product
Wireframes are an effective way to communicate ideas and plans with everyone involved in the design and development process, from teams working directly on the project to the stakeholders involved.
With wireframes, you can eliminate all the distractions and keep everyone focused on what’s really important for the users.
For example, a common topic of discussion during the design and development process is where various elements should be placed. By using wireframes, UX designers will be less distracted by issues like whether the current colour scheme ‘works’, allowing them to focus more on allocating various navigational and CTA elements to the most effective place on each page.
Due to the simplicity of wireframes, the process of design and development can become more straightforward, saving you and your team both time and money whilst not sacrificing quality.
2Clarify and define features
One of the most helpful things wireframing offers is clarity. Wireframes allow you to mock up most aspects of the functionality of your digital product’s pages and more importantly, they allow you to identify problems early on in the process. Ultimately, this will save resources on fixing them later on down the line.
Since wireframes are generally cheap, fast to produce, adaptable and flexible, you and your team will be able to clearly clarify and confirm the best options for your users at a low cost.
To put it simply, wireframes allow you to map out the functionality of your digital product very early on during design and development which streamlines the entire process.
Wireframing is also a great tool for gathering valuable feedback about the flaws and shortcomings of your digital product. It allows for discussions that are directly focused on the functionality and effectiveness of the product, ensuring that you’re creating something that your users would want.
Without wireframes, your design and development teams could be creating a high-fidelity, pain-staking and time-consuming digital product, only to realise that there are a myriad of functionality issues later on in the design and development process. At that stage, making U-turns and corrections can be extremely costly for your business.
4Better content development
Big chunks of content that are scattered across your digital product’s pages is unattractive to the human eyes – which directly impacts your user’s experience.
Wireframes help you identify areas that are not user friendly, helping design teams reformat various text and image blocks to better appeal to users.
Common misconceptions about wireframing
Wireframes are not just mockups.
Despite the fact that wireframes serve a multitude of significant purposes, some people still choose to skip this crucial step due to common misconceptions.
Here are the two top misconceptions about wireframing debunked by us:
- “We’ll save time and increase efficiency if we skip it”
Although cutting out the step of wireframing may seem like a promising solution to increase time efficiency, skipping it now will not only cost you more time and money down the line.
As previously mentioned, wireframes are the skeletal structure of your digital product. You can imagine it like you’re building a house, skipping wireframes would mean building your house without any strong foundations.
Despite the seemingly functional and pretty appearance of the house, it will break down and crumble in a matter of time. From there, you’ll be spending a lot more time and resources trying to fix something that shouldn’t have been broken in the first place.
- “We can get what wireframes give without actually doing it”
Wireframes often go neglected and ignored because of how fast and easy they are to create, leading many people often believe they can be substituted with something else.
By skipping the process of creating wireframes, you may be at risk for forgetting or neglecting the following: information prioritisation, a good and effective structure, having a UX-focused architecture and more.
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What are the main types of wireframes?
Low, mid and high-fidelity wireframes.
Similarly to prototypes, there are also different types of wireframes you can create, all of which are differentiated through how much detail is included.
Let’s take a closer look at the distinction between each type of wireframes below:
Low-fidelity wireframes are the most basic forms of visual representation of your digital product, much like your product’s first draft.
These wireframes are created without any fixed scale or accuracy and are fairly rough. They are the sketches before the masterpiece and tend to include basic details such as simple shapes and mock content such as labels and headings.
These low-fidelity sketches are a great way to get discussions flowing when deciding on every aspect of the digital product, from the layout of the navigation to user flows.
Next we have mid-fidelity wireframes. These wireframes are the more refined versions of the rough sketches, featuring a more accurate representation of how your digital product will look and function.
These mid-fidelity wireframes will assign various specifications on element sizes, spacing, and fonts, making them look cleaner and more refined than their low-fidelity counter-parts.
As you can see, compared to the low-fidelity wireframe, these mid-fidelity wireframes are slowly beginning to take the shape of what the actual digital product would look like.
Lastly we have high-fidelity wireframes. These wireframes are the most advanced and accurate visual representations of your digital product.
These wireframes will have the highest level of detail and will be pixel accurate as they are often done digitally at this point. Some headings or subheadings may be filled in at this stage as well.
Additionally, different shades of grey may also be used here to indicate different design elements. However, complex graphics or imagery are still highly unrecommended to reduce the chances of distractions.
As pictured above, there is more shading involved and the shapes and lines from the mid-fidelity wireframes have been refined and appear to be more professional and “finished.”
How do we approach wireframing?
Wireframes can be one of the simplest ways to visualise your digital product.
Despite the simplicity of wireframes, you may find yourself feeling unsure of how to approach them and what to include in them.
Here are our top three ways we approach wireframing:
1Conduct extensive research
Research provides valuable long-term insights on the issues that your users may very-well face, allowing you to create the perfect digital product to elevate their user experience.
Before beginning the development process of your digital product, our teams conduct a great deal of user research, this includes:
- User interviews
- Stakeholder interviews
- Customer journey mapping
- Web personas
- User flow charts
- And more
Our research is then translated into visual forms through the use of wireframes. Both the qualitative and quantitative data we would have collected from users and stakeholders play a significant role in how we approach it’s creation and how we move forward every step of the way.
For example, creating user flows or customer journey maps will give us a clear understanding of how many frames we should be aiming for during the wireframing process. This means we’ll save time as we won’t be creating too many wireframes, and with the limited number of wireframes we have, we can guarantee quality.
By conducting a lot of research, we deepen our understanding of our users behaviors, goals, motivations, needs and more, allowing us to create the most accurate product for them.
2Organise and sort our data
With the abundance of data we collect over the course of our research processes, it becomes hard to both retain all of that information and to also recall it too.
We keep our collected data organised and easy to refer back to throughout our processes by turning them into a clear cheat sheet. We outline our users’ greatest concerns to remember what to avoid, their biggest motivations and desires to understand the information hierarchy and so on.
Wireframing may get messy very quickly, especially during the low-fidelity stage of creating wireframing where there will be ideas flying left and right. Having our collected data organised always helps us save time and makes the process of creating wireframes a lot more efficient.
3Create drafts, not art
After all of our research and organisation, we finally start to create some wireframes. Although wireframes are quick to produce, to create good wireframes, it is critical to ensure that all the appropriate research has been done.
To ensure focus and efficiency, we try not to “illustrate” wireframes. Details are unnecessary as wireframes are just outlines to represent features and formats of a digital product. Instead, we approach wireframes as quick sketches to draft our final product, not sketches of art.
Industries we’ve worked with
Our UX research and development team has worked with over 200+ industry-leading organisations throughout Asia.
We treat our clients as business partners, helping them scale their business and digitise their processes. This approach has allowed us to expand our global portfolio and work with the following industries:
Travel & Hospitality
Con Van Kessel
News & Entertainment
Bamrungrad International Hospital
Meet our UX / UI design team
At Morphosis, we have a vibrant team of experienced UX designers who are focused on delivering high quality impactful results for our clients.
We fully embody the belief that ‘people come first’, putting the interests of our clients and the needs and desires of the end-users at the forefront of everything we do.
Our practiced and proven service model includes:
Visit our main services page to learn more about how we can help you grow your business today.