The benefits of wireframing are often overlooked during the website design process. Clients often request to skip this stage of the process when discussing budgets. Often justified by “we’re going to see a vibrant, interactive prototype anyway, so why bother with a shell-like layout”.
A completely valid point when looking at it from a clients perspective. That is until you realise the benefits of wireframing. Our article examines how a seemingly unnecessary stage of the process can actually save time and money.
What is a website wireframe?
A wireframe is a simple, low-fidelity layout of a website. It consists mostly of basic text and shapes, free from any real “design” elements such as colour and font choices. Each of these shapes represent an element of the overall layout, like a header or conversion area for instance. Wireframes are created by arranging these elements logically and hierarchically, thus creating the basic structure of a web page.
Wireframing benefits are often explained with the help of a house analogy. If you think of a website as the house, then the wireframe is the architects drawing. The drawings don’t dictate the interior design features just as a wireframe doesn’t include colour, font and design elements. It does however show the structural placement of each element in the layout.
An important part of wireframing is to see first hand how a user will interact with your site. With wireframes, it’s much easier to arrange elements to guide users to the content you want them to see in line with the overall goals. Simply omitting this phase in order to dive straight into the prototype is likely to be a costly mistake. After all, you wouldn’t build a house without an architectural drawing.
So why do we use a website wireframe?
For an overview of website features
Visualizing the site structure helps you understand how the main features work in context. Website features may include navigation, search capabilities, enquiry forms, 3D model viewers, etc. If you see them all together, you can determine what features are most useful, if some features are really required or, if any additional features would improve the reachability of your website.
Focus on information hierarchy
The wireframe stage marks the beginning of our creative journey after we develop the sitemap and research. Through the wireframing process, the sitemap becomes more conceivable. The features on each web page are positioned in a way that will direct users to the content you want them to see. When colours, fonts, and designs are stripped away, the main focus becomes how a user will interact with the site.
Save time on revisions
It’s perfectly understandable for a client to be craving the opportunity to see their website’s proposed design in full bloom. However, when asking for feedback on functionality and visual aesthetics in the same step, the latter commonly receives the most attention. Information flow and user journey feedback becomes an afterthought, or even overlooked as the client delves into a myriad of design details.
When clients review a wireframe for feedback, they can focus on functionality and the order in which information is presented to the user. If changes are needed, then modifying a low-fidelity wireframe takes less time and is more cost-effective than reworking a high-fidelity prototype.
Now you understand the benefits of wireframing…
Given the importance of wireframes to the website design process, you can see why this step shouldn’t be overlooked. At Reflection we recognise that a websites functionality is equally as important as how it looks. This is why we always begin a website’s creative journey with a wireframe.