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Is Wireframing a Necessary Part of Site Design?

Wireframing is crucial in site design, but your methods can vary. A wireframe gives you the bones of your website. The process makes for a solid ongoing strategy to keep everyone on the same page throughout the project and subsequent updates.

Some designers refuse to use mockups, feeling it is an added step that puts them behind an already tight deadline. Every project is different, and you must use your best judgment about whether you need a mockup. However, a working knowledge of wireframing helps in various ways.

Are Wireframes Just an Extra Step?

Ultimately, it depends. Wireframes take more time to design and wait for client or team feedback. It’s an additional step some designers scoff at.

You can skip the process if you’re designing for your own purposes, such as a business owner with complete creative freedom. However, a mockup saves time in the long run if anyone else is part of the decision-making. You won’t spend countless hours creating a site only to make revisions multiple times.

A mockup ensures all stakeholders are on the same page and captures the designer’s vision for the site. It also shows the client the designer understands their needs for the website and can deliver.

Start With a Sitemap

Whether you create a wireframe or not, you should make a sitemap showing the navigation structure and where items will live on the site. Doing so ensures you use the correct number of categories without much fluff.

You can also use the sitemap to show how the site can expand and grow as a business scales up. It helps you spot bottlenecks before beginning the design but isn’t as complex as a mockup.

Basic Wireframing Tips to Make Your Wireframe Worth It

Use the following tips and techniques to create a wireframe you’ll actually find valuable and worthwhile.

1. Don’t Spend Too Much Time on Aesthetics

Your wireframe doesn’t have to be fancy, nor should it be — the wireframe process should be the time you dump all your ideas about the site into a visual format, and making that format look good can come at a later stage. You can lay your wireframe out in a rough sketch on paper, create boxes on Canva.com or Adobe, or even just use sticky notes on a poster board.

Using sticky notes is an interesting technique because you can write one element or content type on each note and move them around as needed. The poster board serves as the page with a heading at the top and content going down.

Some people prefer to use note cards, like in school. They write out the elements and lay them on the floor, moving them around as needed. If a concept doesn’t work for the site’s goals, you can throw one out and replace it with a new one.

2. Decide on a Structure

Wireframing develops a structure for the site and provides a basic layout. The best plans consider future growth and how the website can scale up as the business does.

Ask these questions as you lay out your design:

  • What are the main categories of the site?
  • Where can I combine elements?
  • What is the hierarchy? What appears first?
  • What is the goal of the page?
  • What functions do I need?

The most used web frameworks are Node.js at 42.65%, React at 40.58% and jQuery at 21.98%. Many other options exist. While going with a popular framework appeals to designers, pay attention to the features of each before choosing one. Understanding the best structure for current and future needs determines which platform you use.

3. Get Everyone on the Same Page

Excellent communication is crucial no matter how you design your site. Get all team members on the same page by tapping into project management software. The program you use is less important than everyone plugging data into it.

You can lay out tasks to be completed, share notes with clients, and see real-time changes on platforms such as Slack and Canva Pro. Wireframing allows you to see what you can accomplish without jumping through hoops, helping project managers stay on schedule.

4. Find Problem Areas

Wireframing also shows problems before a website goes live. Once you’ve designed it on a platform, you can test it on a staging site and ensure all links work, determine functions behave as they should and test user behavior. Once things work as planned, you can move the site to a published version and conduct A/B split testing to refine the design further.

5. Speed up the Process

Wireframes offer a mockup of the site’s layout, look and functions. Have the entire team look at the wireframed site early to avoid expensive redesigns from performance issues. Putting everything online and appearing as it will look as a finished product gives the client a clearer image of the vision.

How to Create a Wireframe

Here are some methods and tools to get your design mocked up and sent to the client for approval.

Create by Hand

There’s no need to download special software. You can create a wireframe by hand — and there may be strategic advantages to doing so. Studies show writing notes by hand is also better for retention than typing them. When the client asks a question, you’ll have better recall about the project and be able to answer on the fly.

Pull out a sheet of plain white paper and sketch what the site will look like.

Use Software

Of course, you can also use various programs to come up with a mockup, such as:

  • Figma
  • Sketch
  • Balsamiq
  • MockFlow
  • Justinmind

Figma is a popular option. It gets 4.7 out of five stars from reviewers and is an excellent choice for beginners. The learning curve is lower, and this platform has plenty of tutorials. However, you can utilize any preferred tools and create mockups on sites such as Canva and Indesign.

Should You Use Wireframing?

While your preferred technique is up to your individual preferences, most design professionals should use wireframing when designing websites. Your technique can be as simple or complex as you’d like. You can write a few notes on paper or get more advanced and create an interactive mockup with online tools. The key to success is taking time to plan and rolling with client changes.

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