Designing wireframes and prototypes play an important role in every web development project. Whether you’re a creative agency or an individual, wireframing your designs before development is something that can help you save your valuable time and money.
“Good design must necessarily, in my opinion, have an impact on people’s lives, no matter how seemingly small. Good design changes things.” – Garr Reynolds
Web Prototyping saves the costs of any marketing communication that may be necessary to undo brand damage resulting from a poorly functioning website and a frustrating user experience. Expensive site redesigns are often undertaken to correct those kinds of problems. Adding a few days to create a wireframe and testing a prototype ensures that the redesigned site won’t introduce any new causes for user frustration or further erosion of brand equity.
Of course, a designer doesn’t have to reinvent the wheel with each new wireframe diagram. Every page in a site will share some elements, even when the pages don’t follow the same template.
These common elements are the must-have items, which, if absent, can cause visitors to experience frustration and resentment that may linger long after they’ve moved on to other sites. Alienating visitors and creating a negative brand impression will not help the site-owning
Alienating visitors and creating a negative brand impression will not help the site owners achieve its business goals, nor will it save money. For example, every page needs clearly labeled navigation so the visitor can easily move from one page to the next and from one section of the site to another without having to go back to the home page.
What Is A Wireframe?
Understanding how to work with wireframes is the key to creating a successful website prototype.
The wireframe diagram illustrates the layout of a web page. Using different shapes (such as boxes, ovals, and diamonds) to represent content, functional, and navigational elements, these shapes displays their placement on the page. HTML coders use the diagrams to “wire” each page, connecting links, attaching content, and so on.
Visual designers use the wireframe as the basis for renderings that show the hierarchical importance and location of the elements (with each general section of the page labeled); free of any potentially distracting design treatments.
The use of simple shapes lets you focus on the information design first, to make sure it meets users needs, before moving on to the pretty pictures. For an existing site, wireframes are abstracted from screen shots, with new content, functional, and navigational elements sketched in.
Difference Between Wireframe And Visual Design
Usually, your clients will want to see visual designs early in the web development process. I encourage you to be brave and stall if necessary, but in any event, resist the temptation to yield to this request.
Why? One very important reason is to save money. Why spend time on graphics before the underlying information design is complete?
Equally important, colors, fonts and stylistic treatments of logos and other graphical elements can invoke emotional responses (“I hate this pink”; “I love that blue”; “That version of the logo makes me ill”) that distract from the task of determining the best information design for the page.
A wireframe diagram lets everybody focus on what’s important at this step: clearly understanding what goes on each page, where it goes, and why it goes there, so you can achieve the best overall balance and structure for each page. A wireframe is a sketch of a page-layout idea. The sketch may be rendered in the computer using an illustration application or hand-drawn on paper. Either method is fine, as long as it clearly communicates your ideas.
The information design will evolve as wireframe diagrams change, incorporating results from the usability test at the end of this step, to reflect the placement of page elements in ways that better meet user needs. Keeping the information design flexible at this stage will help you create a more positive brand experience over the long term, so you don’t want anyone to develop partisan attachments to a particular look this early in the game.
Note for Visual Designers
At this point in the process, visual designers should conduct exploratory meetings to understand the client’s visual preferences and the visual elements of the client’s brand. Wait until wireframes are set before showing any visual design treatments of the pages to the client.
Note for Clients
For clients who insist on seeing visuals earlier rather than later, ask visual designers to design page mock-ups representing possible colors, imagery, its look and feel, as well as possible styles of what is being considered at this stage. However, you should do this only if absolutely necessary – that is, if they won’t take no for an answer – and be sure to emphasize that these mock-ups, in no way, reflects the final designs (repeat this warning early and often).
Chances are these people will not be happy when they see the final design with text, links, and information added to it. Focusing only on wireframes at this stage helps you avoid building unrealistic expectations about the site’s final look and feel because having maximum flexibility to evolve the site’s information design is necessary.
9 Application Tools To Create Wireframes Digitally
Traditionally, interactive web designers use pencil and paper or Photoshop to do a mock-up. However, in recent years, there has been a handful of websites that allow designers to create prototypes, wireframes or sitemaps digitally.
Here are 9 tools that you can consider using.
Using BALSAMIQ mockups gives you the feeling like you are drawing, but it’s digital, so you can tweak and rearrange the controls easily, and the end result is much cleaner. Teams can come up with a design and iterate over it in real-time in the course of a meeting.
UXPin is another powerful wireframing and prototyping tool that allows you to create interactive wireframes and even work on projects as a team while collaborating with your teammates. Pricing starts at $19 per month.
#3 Marvel APP
Marvel is a new prototyping tool that’s quite beginner-friendly. It has a beautiful user interface with a drag-and-drop builder for quickly designing wireframes. It even comes with a Free forever plan for individuals.
#4 Auxre RP
This is a mockup tool that’s mostly suitable for small businesses and design agencies. The software comes with a set of incredible features, including animated wireframes, math functions, dynamic content, and more.
InVision is similar to Marvel, but more suitable for advanced users. It includes a series of powerful prototyping tools, especially for designing mobile apps. InVision app also has a Free forever plan as well.
This is a different type of a wireframe tool. Mockplus is a desktop software that you can download and install on your PC or Mac to design prototypes without needing an internet connection. You can use it for free.
OmniGraffle is a brilliant software that can handle everything from website wireframes to electrical systems, family trees, maps, and more. The only downside is that the software is not available on Windows.
With iPlotz you can create clickable, navigable wireframes to create the experience of a real website or software application. You can also invite others to comment on the designs, and once ready, you can manage the tasks for developers and designers to build the project.
#9 Frame Box
If you’re looking for a lightweight wireframe app for designing basic mockups, then this is the tool for you. Frame Box is completely free to use and it works on your browser. No registrations or downloads required.
When it comes to design, there’s no right way to do it. Different creative minded people have different ways of approaching designs in their own ways. But, no matter what your design process looks like, always remember to give mockups and prototypes a major role in that process.