What is Wireframing? The Ultimate Guide

Learning Center / Wireframe

Do you want to create a product with an excellent user experience? If the answer is yes, then you need to practice wireframing. Anyone who works in product design at least once heard the term "wireframe."

Wireframing is one of the most common exercises that product designers practice when they build a new product. In this guide, we will review the practice of wireframing and share some tips on how to make the most of it.

What is wireframing?

Wireframing is the process of creating wireframes. A wireframe is the basic version of the future design, be it a web page or a mobile app screen. Wireframes typically don't include any styling or graphics. They are created in black & white or gray color schemes and don't have any interactivity. Wireframes are primarily used to map out the essential content and features of a page/screen. Like a blueprint to a house, a wireframe shows a plan for user interface layout.

Why is it called wireframe?

"Wireframe" is a combination of two words, "wire" and "frame." A wireframe is a schematic representation of a screen/page created using basic graphical elements such as lines, rectangles, and ovals. For anyone who reviews such a design, it looks like a design created using wires.

What are the 2 types of wireframes?

Some wireframes are more detailed than others. Fidelity, or level of realism, defines the types of a wireframe. There are two main types of wireframes—low-fidelity and high-fidelity wireframes. Low-fidelity wireframes resemble only basic characteristics of the future design; they are typically created using elementary objects such as lines & rectangles. A placeholder text like "Lorem Ipsum" is used instead of a real text.

High-fidelity wireframes look more like a finished design. When designers create high-fidelity wireframes, instead of dummy text, they use real or realistic copy, and functional controls in the UI layout look like actual UI components. It's possible to turn low-fidelity wireframes into high-fidelity wireframes simply by adding more design details.

Who should create a wireframe?

Low-fidelity wireframing is a relatively simple exercise that anyone can do. As long as you can draw simple objects such as rectangles or ovals, you can create low-fidelity wireframes. High-fidelity wireframing requires more design skills and is typically done by UX or UI designers. Designers use a digital wireframing tool when working on high-fidelity wireframes.

Why do you need wireframing in UX design?

Design is an iterative process. It's impossible to create a decent design right from the first attempt. Most of the time, a product team goes through a series of trials and errors when they make a product, and wireframes are partially helpful during the initial iterations:

Wireframes can speed up design iterations.When the team wants to know whether their idea is good enough, they can create wireframes and validate them with the target audience. Instead of investing a lot of hours or even days in creating pixel-perfect mockups, the team can create wireframes in a few hours and use them for usability testing.
WheWireframes can highlight any potential problems and flaws in product design before they can become critical roadblocks.The later a team identifies a problem, the more expensive it will be to fix it. By testing wireframes with the target audience, product designers understand what works and what doesn't work for their target audience. Regular validation of design solutions minimizes the risk of making incorrect design decisions.
Wireframes can scope the development effort.It's much easier to envision the scope of work when you see actual screens rather than read about them in a product specification. Wireframing improves team planning so that both designers and developers have a better idea of what they want to create.
Wireframes can align the team around the same vision.Having a shared vision among team members is integral for product success. Wireframes can ensure everyone is on the same page regarding what they need to build and why.

Pros and cons of wireframing

Wireframing has a few significant benefits:

A wireframe is a simple and cost-effective tool.Wireframing doesn't require any special skills or tools. Wireframes can be created by anyone who can draw. In contrast to mockups that take hours or even days to develop and require special design tools, low-fidelity wireframes can be created in a few minutes.
It can be a good team exercise.Design is a team sport. When people have a strong sense that they are building a product together, it helps them to achieve much better results. Since wireframing is a simple exercise, it's possible to practice it during team brainstorming sessions. When team members create & discuss wireframes during brainstorming, they have a higher chance of reaching a shared understanding of what a page will look like.
Wireframes can help to communicate design ideas to other people.Design is all about communication. Wireframes help to align functional design and information architecture and communicate this information to stakeholders and developers.

At the same time, wireframing also has a few noticeable downsides:

Wireframes often require clarification.Wireframes are static design artifacts that resemble only basic properties of the future product. Anyone reviewing wireframes must use imagination to understand how the design will look and work. Quite often, it can be hard to understand what you see if you don't have much context for the design.
Wireframes make it impossible to evaluate the visual part of the design.Wireframes are focused primarily on the functional part of the design rather than the visual part. They help viewers understand how the layout of a page/screen will be structured (i.e, where a particular element goes), but they don't help to envision what color scheme will be used on a page or what decorative elements it will have. It can be a huge problem when you show a design to clients/stakeholders because they want to evaluate both the functional and visual parts of the design.
Wireframes are disposable design artifacts.Designers create a lot of wireframes, but only a small fraction of wireframes are turned into mockups. The vast majority of design goes to the trash can for various reasons.


Is the wireframing the same as the UI design?
Yes, it's possible to call wireframing a part of the user interface design. Wireframing is focused primarily on the content, layout, and functional behavior of the design. That's why when you create wireframes, you tend to avoid adding visual details; instead, you create a basic representation of a future user interface because it will allow you to evaluate the functionality of your design much easier. Only after you understand what you want to build you can turn wireframes into mockups. Generally, it will take a few iterations to turn the wireframe into a pixel-perfect UI design.
Is wireframing part of the UX process?
Yes, wireframing is an integral part of user experience design. In fact, wireframing is focused primarily on structuring content in a way that helps users do what they want to do. The better the content is structured in the app/website, the higher chances of creating a product that will offer great UX to its users. That's why it's recommended to use wireframes when you design and evaluate the information architecture of the website/app.
Do web designers do wireframing?
Anyone can create wireframes, including web designers. Web designers often create wireframes to evaluate the page's visual hierarchy and see how the page content will look on different screen sizes and resolutions. The goal of wireframing in web design is not to achieve a pixel-perfect design but rather to have a general understanding of how to arrange content blocks to maximize page efficiency. For example, web designers might decide to remove or rearrange certain page content blocks on the small screen size to optimize the browsing experience.
Is wireframing a skill?
Yes, wireframing is one of the design skills, and just like any other skill, it's possible to master it over time. Generally, the more you practice wireframing, the better you become at it. Wireframing has a relatively low entry barrier, but it's impossible to design good wireframes without learning about user experience. Your goal is to make the user journey in a product as effortless and enjoyable as possible, and it's possible to achieve this only when you have a solid understanding of design patterns, human psychology, and the business objectives of your product.
How do I practice wireframing?
You can create wireframes using physical pieces of paper or a digital design tool. The actual process of creating wireframes is similar to the process you follow when you design mockups. The only difference is that wireframes require much fewer design details, so they can be created much faster. However, it's always possible to start with low-fidelity wireframes and turn them into high-fidelity design assets.

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