I’ve worked in situations where wireframing is a respected & detrimental component to any project and other instances where wireframing was seen as a time suck and obsolete to the process. If you have the time and budget to build a product effectively from the get-go, wireframes are a imperative part of the process. Wireframes should always follow proper User Research as well as Information Architecture which consists of personas, user flows, sitemaps and template allocations. How you create your wireframes, that is entirely up to you as there are a TON of wireframing tools out there. If you plan on prototyping your wires, then I recommend using a platform that allows you to directly upload your screens into a prototyping tool. Sketch into InVision is a great partnership and Adobe XD has a all in one design + prototyping feature. The one main thing that I value in Sketch is the annotation plugin which allows you to export the screens as a annotated PDF as well as turn off the annotations to upload into prototypes. Adobe XD has yet to feature the ability to do this.
Why wireframing is imperative:
- It saves costs down the road. Identifying the main user flows, functionality and navigational structures from the beginning will reduce changes during visual design & development stages. It is much quicker to make a change during the wireframing process then the latter.
- It acts as a blueprint to a solid foundation. Would you build a house without a architect?
- It keeps and helps everyone stay on the same page. This includes researchers, designers, developers, project managers and clients.
- It aligns all the user centered research findings which is the most important part of the product. Just building something with no correlation to solving an actual user problem is obsolete and the product will be useless.
- It allows people to work remotely on a project together. Teams cannot always be in the same room together, some work remotely, some are contractors and sometimes someone is not available to field questions. Being able to refer to a document allows everyone to work independently when need be.
- It allows for usability testing to start at a early stage. This also saves costs down the road.
Why some say wireframes are useless:
- A team is very small, budgets are low and timelines are tight. So only whiteboard sketching makes sense. In this case the team is working so fast they don’t have time to create, approve and edit wireframes. They are internally sketching and going straight into visual designs.
- Things change in the end so the wireframes aren’t always relevant. Products flux, new ideas emerge, it’s all about adaptation and communication. User testing & usability testing uncover new changes, team members must be able to move together.
- Some clients get confused with wireframes and they don’t understand them. It’s up to us to help others understand what a wireframe is. Always start off a meeting with a “back to the basics” opening statement : What is a wireframe? Why do we do it? Why is this beneficial to your business?”