A wireframe is a black and white skeleton of your web page in a two-dimensional format. A wireframe shows the layout of elements on the page without aesthetics such as font, color, and visual imagery. In fact, wireframes for websites are intentionally devoid of these elements because doing so provides a strong blueprint for the informational hierarchy of a website. This approach makes it easier to plan how content is arranged, and what the impact of that arrangement is for the user experience.
Think of wireframes as a blueprint for a home - you can easily see the structural elements (such as plumbing), but without any design elements (such as furniture). It would be counterintuitive to start with the aesthetics of your home before you knew the foundations were in place, and by that same token, low fidelity wireframes allow room for structural changes. Like with a home, it is much easier to make changes to the wireframe of a website, than to a fully designed page-by-page website.
Why is Wireframing Your Website Design So Useful?
Wireframing is a communication tool during a web project, allowing for the client, developer, and designer to assess the structure of a website without the distraction of visual aesthetics. Simply put, a wireframe is useful because it allows for the designer and client to create a firm page structure (and understand the implications of that design overall) before the full page design (including aesthetics) is completed.
Wireframes allow team members and clients to:
- Fully explore, test and refine navigation
- Understand and see how content lays out on the page, assessing and evaluating the overall effectiveness of those page layouts.
- Study and refine user interface design such as interactive elements
- Gain insight as to web development and programming requirements of the project.
The Benefits of Wireframing Your Website
Given their ability to illustrate the layout of pages and the functionality of elements on a page, wireframes help to push usability to the forefront early in the web design process. They can be useful in forcing everyone involved in the project to look objectively at UX and element placement, bringing potential flaws out early which leads to an intuitive and functional product which delights. Some of the benefits of wireframing your website include:
- Displaying site architecture visually by forgetting about styles and colors to create an informational hierarchy. This helps everyone onboard work through the interaction and layout needs of the project without the distraction of aesthetics.
- Designing wireframes with specific outcomes in mind can focus your client on the needs and goals of the project. By gathering feedback earlier you can more effectively deliver the core message of your website.
- Providing your designer with a more streamlined creative process which helps them to layout multiple sections of the website. By clearly determining which elements should be included on each page they’ll be designing with purpose in mind.
- Pushing usability to the forefront. Gain valuable insight from your developer as to the functionality requirements of wireframed elements. For example, which areas may require heavy coding, and whether layout should be adjusted for smaller-sized devices. In short, just how does your developer see the navigation working on larger and smaller screens? Wireframes are a collaborative tool for your designer and developer to communicate their ideas.
- Saving time. When your designs are more calculated and your development team understands what they’re building, content creation becomes much clearer, and you can avoid needing to retrace your steps later in the process. Wireframes save valuable time throughout the project cycle.
Building a website is a process and wireframes for websites are just one part of the web process. Each step in our website design process is important; just as you wouldn’t build a house without a foundation, we don’t recommend building websites without a wireframe. Frequent collaboration during the design process (between team members and client) is key to ensure strong outcomes and efficiency in approach. Let’s start the conversation today about how we can help your website exceed expectations.