Understanding the wireframe concept and why it should be part of the design process of any digital product
Gone are the days of testing a new product idea by sketching on our knees. After all, now users are more demanding than before.
However, we still see too many developers who ignore critical wireframe practices and jump straight into the interface design.
It’s okay if you want people to see the product before you put down the pencil, but with this approach you risk neglecting too many user requirements. This, in turn, can be extremely detrimental to the overall success of the product.
Let’s take a closer look at the concept of wireframing and why it should be part of your design process.
What is wireframing in UI design?
A wireframe is an architectural design of a technical product. It gives you the ability to define the basic structure of a product and organize the hierarchy of its user interface (UI).
The main purpose of creating a wireframe is to depict the overall functionality of the product itself. Therefore, it will display things like navigation, data visualization, buttons and general layout. It’s an incredibly effective way to visualize how UI elements will be displayed to your users on the most important screens.
This way, you can define the fundamental structure of your product so that you get confirmation from stakeholders and colleagues that you are heading in the right direction before embarking on a visual design.
Dangers of avoiding wireframes
This happens over and over and over.
Development teams skip this step to get the product out as quickly as possible.
It’s easy to see why. Most companies’ limited resources mean that it is often difficult to justify the time it takes to get the right wireframe right, so they jump right in to work on the interface design.
This can lead to a number of renegotiations – this not only generates additional work, but also requires additional time and money. Moreover, this inevitably leads to a low-quality product that is too complicated and inconvenient to use.
We create a wireframe to define the structure of the product. Then we can iterate and make smoother changes throughout the design process. It fosters discussion about how the product works, how screens are connected, and how the structure of the interface looks to users. This means that opinions can be expressed as early as possible and structural changes can be carried out as smoothly as possible, at virtually any stage of design.
Wireframes can validate your ideas.
From my own experience, rough sketches are the fastest way to structure a product early on in user testing.
As a rule, in this way you can get confirmation of the validity of your ideas in advance. Therefore, this is an important step towards realizing your design vision.
It is a simple and fluid process that is easy to implement in your company as it provides a platform for feedback at the appropriate stage in the process. If you consider it as a continuous loop of feedback, then ultimately you will move to the stage at which all project participants will be fully prepared for your solution to the problem of their users.
How to create a working wireframe
Wireframe and prototype development
There are several different approaches you can use, but low fidelity wireframes are generally the most efficient way to get things right without wasting a ton of time.
Sometimes it’s helpful to physically draw the wireframes first. However, at some point you will need to digitize them. I’ve created a bunch of A4 frames from various devices and browsers that you can print to get started. They are available at this link.
When you’re ready to convert them, there are many useful and simple tools you can use. Try my favorites: Balsamiq, Figma, and MockFlow.
One of the biggest benefits of creating wireframes this way is that anyone viewing them will focus on functionality rather than aesthetics. If there is no visual design at this stage, people will not be distracted by this level of detail. This means you can focus on what’s important at the appropriate stage in the design process.
The main focus here should be on shaping the structure and navigation of each screen, including the architecture and hierarchy of the content that you will display.
Once you’ve identified these elements, you can take it a step further by creating a simple prototype that lets you connect each screen to create an interactive user experience.
At this point, you don’t need to worry about the actual visual design, as the interactive elements of the prototype will do enough to simulate the user experience. This way, you will not rely on the user’s imagination when it comes to specific scenarios and will receive more valuable feedback.
Prototyping wireframes may take a little longer, but it will pay off in the future.
Testing wireframes by users
This primary testing phase is critical to the correct implementation of the project. You have to include the right people in your testing, and that should be your real target audience.
Your potential end users will provide the most honest and insightful feedback possible because they have no personal interest in your product. Therefore, you need to show them right away how you can provide value and solve their problems.
When I test the products I design, I use an informal approach that guides project participants and users through the thought processes that underlie each decision.
This means they need to complete specific tasks that have been designed with the best user flow in mind. That is, you ask them to provide feedback or share their opinion individually or in the form of a discussion.
It is important to remember that such product reviews can often be subjective and should therefore be excluded from such sessions and handled with any potential biases that might arise.
If you agree that biased opinions will influence user feedback, you can only draw the most valuable insights from your testing sessions.
Now it is the work aspect of user engagement at this early stage. You can dig into their reviews, no matter what form they were provided, and analyze each individual screen and how it was perceived by your users.
Now is the time to prioritize what is worth discussing, what needs to be done, and what can be ignored.
The wireframe can be tailored to suit the real needs of the user, but don’t try to “take the short cut,” user testing can be repeated as many times as necessary. In order to achieve absolute accuracy as early as possible before you start visual design.
This process may seem time-consuming at first, but the amount of time, money, and effort you can save in the future will pay off when you see feedback from your real users.
How can I help you with wireframes
The benefits that wireframing can offer far outweigh the reasons for not including it in the design process. However, it is understandable that it is not always easy to find time for it.
Even if you can find the time, it can often be difficult to simplify your product and increase conversions.
Therefore, I am ready to help you with the design or redesign of your product. I have the experience to meet your users’ expectations.
Contact us and we can arrange a consultation to discuss your needs.