Designing a website or a mobile application has never been an easy task. It takes a ton of planning and an equal amount of confusion and frustrations and time. At the same time, most of the time UX designers are on a deadline. So even they need to speed up the process of designing, which only adds to everything.
Most of the times, the clients are not from the technical background and as a UX designer you must comply to what you clients need. This can be a bit difficult because creating a website requires a lot of tech work and your clients probably won’t know any of that. More often than not, your idea will likely clash with the client’s even if they are not very realistic. So you need something that is extremely easy to explain to your clients and will give them a rough picture of what the website should actually look like. As a designer, it is your job to not only impress your clients with your designs but also take in their vision and put it to reality while keeping the design simple and easy to use for the users.
In another scenario, when you are working with a team. Everybody needs to be on the same page. Every member of the team should know the direction the flow is going towards and the steps to be taken forward. And one of those steps to keep the basic picture of the website clear is called wireframing.
What is Wireframe Design?
Wireframe designs are like the blueprint of the website. They are the rough sketches of the entire web site’s essential structure that the designers make to ensure that they don’t lose track while designing. It provides the necessary information about the website like the page layout, information boxes, functionality, user flow and the intended behaviour. Wireframes don’t have a lot of intricate details. It does not show details like the colour, graphics and animations, fonts of the content, etc.
Generally, wireframes are usually hand made, but nowadays people prefer to make them online using specific wireframe tools.
The wireframing process takes place in the initial stages of designing when the website is being planned. In this, the designers use and test their knowledge and experiment with various website designs.
Why Should You Create Wireframe Designs?
When it comes to wireframe designs using wireframe tools, many designers tend to skip this step as they feel that it’s not required. However, that is not the case. Creating wireframes using the wireframe tools has its benefits which are as follows:
Wireframes are the perfect devices to communicate your designs to your team or the client. Since the designs aren’t complicated and don’t involve many technical details, it is easier for them and designers to talk about things. The designers can easily communicate with their clients who may or may not be from the technical background as wireframes are easy to understand.
Creating wireframe tools helps the designer to keep the initial process in check. As a designer, you must remember that your users may or may not have the same knowledge and expertise as you. So the products have to be created in a useful way for everyone and can be easily understood and is user centric.
Since wireframe tools is a step that you will come back a million times to, it will ensure that you don’t lose track of your primary structure while designing.
Making wireframe tools save a lot of time. Since it is created in the initial stages of designing, it leaves a lot of time for feedback. So even if your team or your client(s) suggest changes in the website design, it’d be easier for you to work accordingly as you have not made a solid structure yet.
Free To Create
Wireframes are super comfortable and inexpensive to create. Wireframe via wireframe tools is practically free to create. You can either make them by pen and paper, or you can use digital wireframe tools that will help you make wireframes within just a few minutes.
Since wireframes can be made for free, it can be easily made changes too as it is not too polished. As the process goes ahead, the changes are hard to be worked with.
Types of Wireframes
While wireframes are easy to use and understand and don’t give out too much information, they are the foundation of website making. Depending on the stages of website designing and the details mentioned, there are three different types of wireframes that you can create to make the design process more comfortable.
Low-Fidelity wireframes are the starting of wireframe design. They are the visual representations of the webpage. Low-fidelity wireframes are the rough sketches of the website. They omit any detail that could potentially distract the designer from the website’s basic skeleton.
Low-fidelity wireframes only include details like labels, subheadings, block shapes, etc. They don’t have anything that can be “too much information” in the first step.
Besides, low-fidelity wireframes are like conversation starters. When you show your plans to the clients, it helps them give their feedback correctly as the design is not too polished and changes can be made quickly. It helps them understand the direction or the flow they are going in.
They are usually made on pen and paper, but some designers also like to create them digitally using wireframe tools.
Mid-Fidelity wireframes are the most common ones used. They showcase the information a bit more accurately than the low-fidelity ones. While mid-fidelity wireframes avoid images and typography, they are more specific about components and features that are differentiated from each other. Some designers also use varied text weights to separate headings from the body and the rest of the content.
Some designers also use different shades of simple colours like grey to showcase different wireframe boxes and features. Mid-fidelity wireframes can be made using pen and pencil, but they are usually created using wireframe tools.
High-fidelity wireframes come in the later stages of website designing. In this stage, the wireframe design is much more detailed. For example, in this, you would use fill in some of your grey boxes with an “X” to indicate the sign of image. In some cases, high-fidelity wireframes may also include the real images that will be used on the actual website.
The added details in the high-fidelity wireframes are perfect for exploration and documenting the complex concepts of website designing.
Difference between Wireframes/ Mockups/ Prototypes
While you are researching wireframes, you will come across terms like mockups and prototypes. The difference is as follows:
Wireframes are the low-fidelity designs that include the basic structure of the website designing.
Mockups are the high-fidelity wireframes that show some important details of the website.
Prototypes are the closest to the finished product. They usually are the trial run or the sample of what the website would look like once everything is all done and setup. It helps in testing the website via the users and the challenges they may face. It helps in further improving the website before it is officially launched or deployed.
Why Do We Need Wireframe Tools?
When it comes to wireframe tools, there is no such thing is as “one size fits all”. Just like you wouldn’t build a house without a blue print, similarly you can’t build a website without wireframe tools. However, wireframe tools look much more professional when you create them digitally.
Also, with larger companies or big design teams, you need to have digital wireframe tools to create wireframes as you’d need to share it with your team members. They would further suggest changes until everyone is satisfied with the wireframe and take the process forward.
To do the same, you would need certain wireframe tools that ease the entire process and is flexible enough to be shared around the teams. Below are some of the criterias that you must look for before picking the wireframe tools:
You must pick the wireframe tool that is up-to-date and active. There are many big names in the market that haven’t changed their softwares or updated them in years.
While you are designing the wireframe, you’d need to test it’s usability before you start building the website. And having the UI kit in one software saves a lot of time and energy. So you must look out for a wireframe tool that either offers an in-built UI Kit or allows you to upload it in the software.
Levels of Wireframes
Whether you choose to stick with the low-fidelity wireframes or you go forward with mid-fidelity or high-fidelity wireframe. You must always pick out the wireframe tool that allows you the access to create high-fidelity wireframes.
With the advancing technologies, wireframe tools are just a few clicks away. But not all will offer all the needed features or the programs that you might need to design your wireframes. While some designers use pen-paper methods to create wireframes, using wireframe tools, look a lot more professional and eases the entire task. Besides, mid-fidelity wireframes and high-fidelity wireframes are usually made in the wireframe tools.
Some of the best wireframe tools that are easy to understand and offer the best possible features are as follows:
Balsamiq is one of the best wireframe tools available in the market. It has been around for a long time and offers a clean and straightforward interface. It is perfect for professional-looking wireframes but not with too perfect pixels. In this, designers can get off of the aesthetics. It works with things like layout, interaction designs and the essential information structure.
It also has a built-in UI that you can use to test your wireframes in the later stages. It has a 30 days free trial and charges $89 annually.
Sketch uses a combination of artboards and different design shapes to assist in the wireframe designing. However, it doesn’t include the ready-made UI components that are available in the competitor wireframe tools. At the same time, Sketch offers you to create the UI Elements and save them for later uses. It offers free basic wireframing tools.
It is available for both mac and Windowns along with Firefox as an add on. It has loads of templates to choose from and you can create many low-fidelity wireframes. However, it is good only for beginners as it does not offer high-fidelity wireframes.
Pencil Project is available for free.
Photoshop stands unchallenged when it comes to creating high-fidelity wireframes. It not only offers to edit the images but also create useful quality high-fidelity wireframes. It is one of the adequate wireframe tools that designers use to come close to the actual website. The photoshop features also have other features like creating UI components within the app or downloading an external UI kit. It charges $20 per month.
If you are into creating quick and straightforward wireframes, Figma is the way to go. It offers artboards, UI elements and everything else in one place for you to use. It further extends its services to sharing the work with the team within the software.
Figma offers free services up to two editors and three projects. Then the charges are $12 per month with unlimited projects.
Wireframes are the easiest and the most organised way to with the website designing and shall not be skipped at any cost. Amidst the designing and the tireless times, wireframe tools make the job of the designers much more comfortable and much more professional in front of their clients.