There is a lot of discussion about whether or not creating a wireframe is a necessary step in web development. Some argue that a skillful and experienced web-developer can start immediately with the code. However, creating a website without prior wireframes is similar to setting up a company without any business plan. While creativity is a valuable trait in a web-designer or web-developer, creating a website is often about fulfilling clients’ ideas and needs. Thus, before we jump into programming or designing let us put down our ideas in the form of a wireframe. In this article I will outline four basic steps to creating a helpful wireframe.
Contemplate the elements of the wireframe
The first thing to consider is the level of detail that the wireframe will have. There are low-fidelity wireframes, which are very basic and contain simple lines and labels. A low-fidelity wireframe is interested primarily in the functionality of the website. A high-fidelity wireframe, on the contrary, contains a lot of detail, certain design elements and possibly even a color scheme of the future website. High-fidelity wireframes test not only usability, but also layout and design.
Once the level of detail is decided upon, the actual elements of the wireframe are to be considered. What will the navigation elements be like? Which content elements will be used? What interface elements will be needed for users to interact with the website? How will all elements be situated? Quite often clients will provide you with a spec document with the elements that they want to be present on the website. It is best to have or make such a list and tick it off while laying out a wireframe.
Build the wireframe
One thing to always bear in mind is that a wireframe’s primary purpose is to show the website’s functionality. Unless required otherwise, do not burden the wireframe with design elements. Typically wireframes are created in low fidelity because at this stage it is not important if they are pretty or not. For this reason wireframing software often makes wireframes look like they were drawn by hand.
Another important consideration is the user. In the end the user is not interested in the website’s layout or design, it is the content that attracts him or her to the web site. Make sure that this content is easily accessible and convenient to navigate. Even the initial sample wireframe should be well structured and functional, and yet provide a good user experience.
Discuss your wireframe with others
Asking for feedback at the wireframing stage is important to make sure that all the parties involved in the creation of the website are on the same wave length. A wireframe can help confirm that whatever the web-developer is thinking is what the client really wants. Crating wireframes is also an excellent way of communicating ideas within a team if the web site creation involves more than one person. Having a sample wireframe at hand makes it easy for a team to brainstorm, exchange ideas and try out alternatives. A wireframe helps finalize and settle down all the ideas before the implementation stage.
Make changes and revisions in the wireframe
The last stage of the wireframe creation process involves improving and perfecting the wireframe: adding missing elements, inserting corrections and making revisions. Making changes to a wireframe is very easy compared to revising the website at later stages of development. It goes without saying that revisions are inevitable, so it is a lot more productive and a lot less frustrating to make them to the wireframe instead of the website.
Once this step is through you can get your wireframe approved by the client and proceed to execution.
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