The key to success with any design project is laying the right foundations. How you start a project will significantly influence how it runs and how good the final output is.
When it comes to creating a digital product or service, a UX designer has no greater friend than wireframing.
Maybe you’re already familiar with wireframing, but for those who aren’t, here is a quick introduction before we move on to the top 5 things you should remember when you’re wireframing.
What is wireframing, and why is it useful
‘A wireframe is a two-dimensional illustration of a page’s interface that specifically focuses on space allocation and prioritisation of content, functionalities available, and intended behaviours. For these reasons, wireframes typically do not include any styling, colour, or graphics.’ – (usability.gov)
Think of wireframing as laying down the rough markers that will guide you through the design process; whether you’re working as an in-house UX designer or working on a project for a client, wireframing will help you ensure that the project is heading in the correct direction.
By creating a wireframe, you’ll be able to engage stakeholders and agree on some design and content choices early on in the process, making your design process as efficient as possible.
Now you’ve got a better understanding of wireframing, here are our top 5 things to remember when you’re wireframing:
1. Remember that it’s a wireframe.
This might sound like something that doesn’t need to be explicitly stated. However, it is easier than you might think for you as a designer, or your stakeholders to forget that a wireframe is not a final UI. For example, you may encounter stakeholders who think a wireframe is similar to a final design.
To set expectations, you must communicate the differences between a wireframe and the final product clearly and at an early stage to avoid any confusion and to create realistic expectations for the wireframe. This tip also applies to designers – when you are working on creating a wireframe, remember you’re just creating a guide, don’t spend too much time adding high levels of detail that aren’t simple. There is plenty of time for that further in the design process – when it comes to wireframing, less really is more.
2. Focus your wireframes on functions and journeys.
When putting together a wireframe, especially an early iteration, it can be easy to feel the need to ‘cover all the bases’. However, your early wireframes should focus on functions and journeys to get the best results for your end product.
This way, you can understand how individual elements fit together to inform the overall design without getting too far down the line. Remember to walk before you run. There will be time to add to your wireframe in future iterations, where you can begin to consider things such as layouts and hierarchies. (To find out more about starting a wireframing project, click here.)
3. Stick with black and white.
This tip is simple yet important. Keep your wireframes minimal and resist the urge to add colour. Introducing branded elements or brand colours to your wireframe can often add unnecessary complications; it introduces subjectivity and reduces the focus on function and journey.
We have absolutely seen clients reject fundamentally sound functional design choices because they “don’t like the blue”!
Sticking with a neutral colour palette at this stage can help you nail the essential things and leaves you space to introduce visual detail when the foundations have been laid. Following this tip may also help with client management. It will help you to allow your client to focus on the right things by increasing visual clarity.
4. When it comes to interactivity – don’t overdo it.
It’s easy to spend many hours building complex and realistic interactivity into your wireframes. Tools such as Axure RP enable incredibly realistic interactions to be created. But ultimately, adding too much interactivity can be counterproductive. You can end up in situations where you get tied in knots, wondering why things aren’t working or trying to figure out complexities when the focus at this stage should be laying out the simple things.
While it’s great to feel inspired by your design, ask yourself – do you need this level of detail at this stage? How does this contribute to the next step of this project, and is this something that should be added now, or further down the line? This is a great time to revisit your project goals or deliverables, so you can make sure you are tackling this project in the correct order instead of trying to squeeze too much complexity into a project at too early a stage.
5. Consider the purpose of your wireframes
We have saved the most important point to last. Before you create your wireframe, you should spend some time alone or in collaboration with stakeholders to decide what exactly you want to achieve with your wireframe. For example, are you hoping to explore ideas and ideate? Are you aiming to test this wireframe with users?
Answering these questions will help inform your wireframe and will ultimately allow it to be the best aid to the project it can be. It will also let you decide on the level of complexity, fidelity and interactivity at the beginning, making your wireframe design efficient and meaningful.
Creating your wireframe is an important step in any design process. By following these tips, you can ensure that your wireframes are effective, efficient and live up to realistic expectations rather than being judged by the expectations of the final product.
By focusing on function and journeys you are reducing unnecessary complexity in your wireframes (such as colour or interactivity). Consider the purpose of your wireframe before you begin the work – this will increase the likelihood that you create a clear design that serves as a great baseline for further design development down the line. So when you’re next starting the wireframing process, keep these tips in mind – they may be just what you need to start off on the right foot!