For those looking to build any form of application, whether it's a mobile app, a game or a website, wireframes are the foundation on which to begin building. Wireframing usually comes after the application architecture has been determined by a map or flow chart of the applications pages and before the creative design phase.
Wireframing correlates these ideas into a cohesive flow of pages with clear and well-executed focus.
1. Wireframes are simple black and white layouts that outline the specific size and placement of page elements, features, conversion areas and navigation for your web site or application.
2. They are devoid of color, font choices, logos or any real design elements that take away from purely focusing on a site's structure.
3. We often say that they are much like a blue print to a home, where you can easily see the structural placement of your plumbing, electrical and other structural elements without any interior design treatments.
Overlooking this step in order to get to the look and feel can be a huge mistake. To reinforce the importance of this phase in a web process, we have outlined seven extremely important reasons on why you need to wireframe.
1. Displays site architecture visually
An application or site map is often abstract, especially large ones. Taking the map to wireframe starts the first real concrete visual process for a project. Wireframes turn the abstract nature of a flow chart into something real and tangible without distractions. This step ensures that all parties are on the same page.
2. Allows for clarification of web site features
In many instances, clients may not understand what you mean when you say "dynamic slide show," "news feeds," "google map integration," "product filtering," "light boxes" and hundreds of other types of features. Wire framing specific project features on a web site provides a clear communication to a client how these features will function, where they will live on the specific page and how useful they might actually be.
3. Pushes usability to the forefront
This is the one of the most important points of the entire wire framing process. Creating wireframes pushes usability to the forefront in showcasing page layouts at their core. It forces everyone to look objectively at a web site's ease of use, conversion paths, naming of links, navigation placement and feature placement. Wireframes can point out flaws in your site architecture or how a specific feature may work. And this is a great thing.
4. Identifies ease of updates
For clients who purchase a content managed web site this point is especially important. A wireframe will immediately identify how well your site will handle content growth. For example, if you only have ten products offered right now, but in six months you may have 100, you will want your web site to accommodate this growth without impact to the website design, site architecture or usability.
5. Helps make the design process iterative.
Instead of trying to combine the functionality/layout and creative/branding aspects of the website in one step, wireframes ensure that these elements are taken in one at a time. This allows clients (and other team members) to provide feedback earlier in the process. Skipping wireframes delays this feedback and increases the costs of making changes because full design mock-ups must be reworked, not just simplified wireframes.
6. Saves time on the entire project
Wireframing saves time in a multitude of ways. Your designs are more calculated. Your development team understands what they are building. Content creation becomes much clearer. You avoid hacks later on in the process. Everyone from the web team, the agency and client are all on the same page about what the web site is supposed to do and how it is supposed to function.
7. Experience shows it works
Building a web site is a process. Wireframing is one of those parts of the web process that should not be skipped, just as you wouldn't build a house without a blueprint, or live in it without decoration. Each step has an important place in a larger process.
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