What is Wireframing in Web Design

What is Wireframing in Web Design

web designer creating wire frames for website

Wireframes are the first step toward any great digital product. They provide a map of an idea, serving as a guide to move from brainstorming to development.

Wireframes help build communication, collaboration, and understanding at every step of your project. A great practice is to create sketches on paper before moving into the computer, which helps with the design process of any project.

Wireframing is critical to a successful web design. Wireframes communicate ideas and user experience without getting bogged down in layout and visual style. Think of wireframes as the architectural schematic for your website: they provide you with a blueprint and guide you through what’s possible before building the final thing.

Good wireframes let you test different concepts quickly, discover errors early on, and give everyone involved — developers, clients — a common ground from which to launch their work.

 

What is a Wireframe in Web Design?

A wireframe, also known as a “prototype” or “mockup,” is an early visual representation of your website, app, or other digital product. Wireframes are often used to explore and evaluate the content and organization of what will eventually become the actual design.

While wireframes may include multiple static screens, at their core, they require only two important details: (1) basic layout and (2) a little bit of copy.

Wireframes are the perfect project artifacts for early-phase user experience design projects. They make it easy to focus on content and structure without giving much consideration to colors, fonts, imagery, or other “bells & whistles” that can derail a discussion about layout and information architecture.

Wireframes help you ‘think big picture’ by resisting the urge to think pixel-deep about how everything will eventually look.

When wireframes are used as project artifacts, they help stakeholders and team members focus on structure, information hierarchy, content strategy/copywriting, interaction design principles (e.g., navigation), sequencing of the information, etc. without getting caught up in visual design considerations that tend to slow down the project timeline.

 

Why is Wireframing Important in Web Design?

Generally speaking, wireframes are used to represent how a website should look and feel to a client or customer. They also can help with planning content on a site before an actual theme has been created. In the digital world, it may seem counterintuitive but actually building out a real website is usually not very useful when trying to test out ideas for one.

This is where developing a prototype comes into play which you can then get feedback from customers or clients who may want something completely different than what you originally thought up. Wireframes allow for quick changes between designs without having to create another full website mockup.

Wireframes are often hand-drawn by a designer or web developer who is planning out how they want a page of their site to look. Because the wireframe is just a skeleton, many designers will use grayscale images and simple shapes to represent modules on a page.

These drawings also enable the designer to focus more on the functionality of each module rather than its aesthetics which offers up greater flexibility from the get-go. This quick sketching process allows for changes between pages so you can show several iterations of a single design without having to redraw them all over again.

In some cases, developers may even use existing widgets, so they don’t have to recreate it from scratch either if that works better with what they are trying to accomplish.

Many designers will also use wireframes as a roadmap for the development process. In other words, the idea is to create a wireframe that can be executed instead of creating something from scratch every time without having any idea if it might work or not.

This saves both time and money in many cases because you may end up going down a design path that doesn’t pan out, which means all those photoshop mockups would have been useless anyway.

 

Types of Wireframes

When designing a website for a new company, it’s important to produce wireframes that clearly show the structure and content of a given page. There are two basic kinds of wireframes: low fidelity and high fidelity, which indicate how much information is presented on the page as well as how detailed the mockups are.

 

Low-fidelity Wireframes

The low-fidelity wireframe presents a skeletal framework for site navigation and design elements. These wireframes can be printed out on paper or displayed on a computer monitor.

They are best used by web designers who want to explore multiple layouts with their clients before moving into the next stage of design development. Low-fidelity wireframes are mostly used in the early stages of product development. They are generally quick, cheap, simple to build, and are not expected to look pretty.

A wireframe will be done on paper or using a drawing tool like Visio. The low-fidelity wireframes usually have boxes with labels only for layout organization without any aesthetics.

 

High-fidelity Wireframes

This type of wireframe is very similar to the final design. Using color and information, a hierarchy is created for the organization, and navigation options are incorporated into the site map.

These wireframes can be printed out on paper or displayed on a computer monitor. They are best used by web designers who plan to develop the wireframes into the next stage of design development.

High-fidelity wireframes try to represent graphically how the website will actually look in the end product. They often incorporate subtle design elements that help developers think about branding and style issues while they are working on the individual screens.

These high-fidelity layouts are created using prototyping tools such as Axure or Omnigraffle with visual aids built into the prototypes so it looks almost exactly like what the user would expect the final product to look like.

High-fidelity wireframes are mostly used in the later stages of a web design project when a higher fidelity mockup is needed so that developers can work on coding the website’s functionality without worrying about how the website will actually function.

 

Wrapping It Up…

The way you layout, design, and plan out your web pages or individual web elements can tremendously affect how users perceive them.

A common conception in the web world is that wireframes are unimportant drafts of what pages will look like ultimately; however, there are several reasons why you might want to go through this extra effort.

To begin with, it’s important to understand that wireframing makes up only one part of the prototyping process. Wireframing is essential for defining information hierarchies and UI components’ relationships within the page.

Before anything else, you need to make sure all existing content can be accommodated on a single page (or viewport), which wireframing helps ensure; additionally, creating wireframes allows you to experiment with different layouts and understand which one works best.



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