User Experience and Customer Experience, UX and CX, are often confused. Some people use them interchangeably, even though they refer to two separate concepts.
When designing a website, you need to prepare a framework that will become a guideline for creating all functionalities and content prioritizing. This will facilitate multiple website-related processes and make you satisfied with the final result. But how to create it?
What is a wireframe? Basically, it’s a sketch of the user interface, a plan / framework / diagram that becomes the basis for creating an efficient, functional website which will be eagerly visited by the online content recipients. Today, wireframes are used not only when designing various web pages, but also when creating applications that need to be operating in accordance with UX. The main purpose of wireframes is to allocate space to individual functionalities, establish content hierarchy, determine available functions and predict intended behavior. Styles, colors and graphics, however, are not a part of it – this kind of information can be found in other documents.
What is wireframe in web design?
Are you wondering what a wireframe is in web design? Well, a wireframe has many functions, but there are several that must always be fulfilled. First, according to the wireframe definition, it is designed to combine the information architecture of the website with the visual design. The person designing such a framework must create appropriate paths between different views and indicate how their functionalities should operate. In addition, with wireframes, you can find out how certain types of information will be displayed on the user interface – which is important from the user experience standpoint. They also help to define the intended functionality of the interface. However, the most common answer, given by the industry professionals to the question „What are wireframes used for?”, is that they are used for organizing and prioritizing content, by determining how much space is needed for a given element and where to put it.
What are wireframes used for?
The wireframe allows you to completely build a website or application that will serve customers and, as a result, bring profits. It’s useful in:
- Building and following user paths (flow).
- Creating different variants of the way in which information is presented (that will allow the decision-maker to pick appropriate and remove unnecessary interface elements).
- Testing various interface concepts, which would be very expensive to fully implement.
- Testing website assumptions.
- Explaining various concepts to people who are not fully involved in the project (e.g. to the customer or marketing team).
Types of website wireframes
Wireframes are divided into types that determine their detail and accuracy in terms of applied solutions, assumptions or the previously mentioned paths. We can distinguish:
- Lo-fi (low-fidelity), i.e. low-fidelity mock-ups facilitating communication between the project team. They don’t take much time to develop, which is their biggest advantage. The downside, however, may be that they are more abstract, they use simple forms and filler content, so people who are not closely related to the project might have a problem with imagining what the page will look like in the end.
- Medium-fi (medium-fidelity), i.e. intermediate wireframes.
- Hi-fi (high-fidelity), i.e. the most refined and detailed models, that almost resemble the end product. Frameworks of this type are very accurate. They often contain information about all elements on the page – even the smaller ones. They display dimensions, behavior and actions related to any interactive element. They’re also filled with specific content. It is definitely a better option if you want to go over the mock-up with people who are not familiar with the project. The downside of this type of wireframes is that they are extremely time-consuming.
Professionals most frequently create low- and high-fidelity mock-ups. Your choice should depend on the type of your website. If it’s a simple page with little functionality, probably a lo-fi mock-up will be a sufficient solution. However, if it’s an online shop with many subcategories, a blog and additional subpages it will require the creation of a hi-fi wireframe.
What is a wireframe for a website?
Contrary to what you might think, this is not the initial stage of creating a product. Before you even decide to make a wireframe, you need to know the user’s profile of an average person that will be using your site. How else would you be able to design it properly? You should create personas, i.e. “target customers”, they will greatly affect your decisions during the wireframe making process. The next step is to complete the content for the website. After you understand the behavior of users who will access it, create scenarios that will help you isolate the paths different people might take while navigating through your site. Thanks to that data, you will create an information architecture, which is a great foundation for a wireframe.
What is information architecture?
It is a design discipline which aims to arrange information in a way that it’s easy to access and understand. Visitors should be able to navigate through a given space without any issues and quickly find what they are looking for. Remember that in today’s world, there’s nothing more valuable than time, which is why many people don’t like to waste it by waiting while something is loading. Creating information architecture and wireframing should be done separately – with the former preceding the latter.
How to hierarchize content on the website?
Every piece of content should be assigned a priority – a place in the website hierarchy. One of the most popular methods to do it is called MoSCoW. It refers to four categories of content – “Must Have”, “Should be”, “Could be” and “Won’t Be”.
The “Must Have” category should include the content that must appear on the website. Are you not sure what content to put in this category? Think about what will happen if your website is not equipped with a given feature. Is there any workaround in case it’s unavailable? Will the site function properly without it? If it turns out that without specific functionality or content the website will be useless or will not work, it is a sign that it needs to be addressed in this category.
This category contains content that’s important to the project, but not essential. The website could function without it, but might significantly lose on value.
Here, you should include everything that is neither essential nor important, but could add interesting value to the website. Absence of the elements from this category should not have any effect on the functioning of the website.
This category should contain all the content that won’t be released any time soon and there’s no place/use for it in the project.
Points to remember during wireframing!
Before you start creating a website wireframe, you also need to remember the three golden rules of mock-up making.
Do not use images
Many UX Designers say that you shouldn’t use any images, animations or videos when creating your mock-up. Why? Because they distract from the task at hand, invite chaos that creeps into the framework and make it difficult to navigate later. Use simple shapes instead, e.g. rectangles, circles or squares in various sizes.
Typography is not part of the mock-up
Use only one typeface. Just like the name suggests, you’re building the mock-up / framework of a website, not a visual concept blueprint, so you don’t need to focus on the variety of typography. The only thing worth paying attention to is using different font sizes. This will allow you to mark the hierarchy of content, important elements or headings.
Do not use colors
Creating a website layout should be done in shades of gray. You won’t need colored pencils or felt-tip pens. This is the same case scenario as with images and typography. You’re creating a wireframe, not a style guide.
How to start?
It might seem very difficult if you are just starting your adventure with creating website mock-ups. The whole process is demanding, sometimes arduous, but also very rewarding. What are the key points to remember?
Do a creativity warm-up
You can start designing a website mock-up when you have collected all the necessary information. First, choose one of the methods that will allow you to get into the work rhythm. One of the well-known exercises would be Crazy Eights – creating 8 solutions in 8 minutes. Don’t exceed this time, and don’t focus on one feature for too long. Remember, this is just a warm-up. You probably won’t use these functions, or they will need extensive refining. Nonetheless, it’s a great way to stimulate your creativity and prepare your brain for action.
Try out the different options
It’s worth preparing both traditional equipment for modeling, i.e. large cards, pencils, pens and markers, as well as a program that will allow you to create a model in an electronic form. If this is your first time doing this, you have to find your own way to make such a framework, as not everything might suit your preferences. Test solutions, search for different programs, don’t be afraid to start over. Wireframing takes time. It’s a process similar to the creation of a new product or even creating a work of art, so don’t rush yourself and let your creativity explode.
Remember to constantly ask yourself questions while creating the wireframe. What would the user do after entering this subpage? Where would they go next? Are there any steps that can be skipped? Can some of them be combined? What issues can occur at different stages? How long will it take for the user to go through path A or B? Are there any alternative paths that have so far been overlooked? Each question that comes to your mind when creating the framework will make you prepare a website tailored to your personas. It’s also a good idea to get other people’s opinions, both those related to the project and those standing completely on the sidelines. Their impartial view on the matter can change your approach!
Look for inspiration and learn from other people’s mistakes
The Internet is filled with UX wireframes examples and all sorts of places where people are eager to share their visions and tips. It’s also good to visit various websites that are convenient to use and analyze their solutions. Copying is wrong, and you should never duplicate other people’s work, but looking for inspiration, ideas and answers in the work of others is most welcome.
This will definitely help you when creating a mock-up. You should reckon with the fact that many of your ideas will be rejected, some projects will go to the trash, and you will spend a lot of hours rearranging the content tiles and creating different paths. Ultimately, however, we guarantee that the effect of the work will be extremely satisfying!
Do you have to be a UX Designer to create website mock-ups?
Many people wonder if such tasks should be done only by UX Designers. Indeed, people who have an understanding of user experience are certainly better at designing websites that are easy to use. It is not uncommon, however, that the people responsible for maps are developers, product managers, marketing specialists, graphic designers or business owners. Why? Because they know their customers best, and they know what they expect. This way, the customers have an impact on the final appearance of the website layout! It is worth asking for their opinion through a survey, as there is no more valuable information than that concerning the expectations, needs, frustrations and requirements of people who will use a given site.
Now you know all about wireframe in web design. Are you afraid that you will not be able to create it on your own? Use our UI / UX design services – we will make it for you! You will save yourself some stress and a lot of time, while being sure that your site’s wireframe fulfills all the criteria.