The importance of a good plan and mutual understanding
While estimating a new project for a client, time is an essential factor and I regularly hear from clients that we should omit doing wireframes to save some time. Unfortunately, that is the last thing you want to do, because It would be like building the house without the blueprint. Can you construct something that way? Sure. But think how many problems will occur in the process that could be resolved at the get-go. Having a good plan in an application development is as important as in real estate. Therefore, skipping this stage will most likely delay the delivery of the final product, rather than accelerate it.
A man who does not plan long ahead will find trouble at his door.
This problem is mostly present when a client does not understand what wireframes are and what advantages they give. So, let’s make it clear.
What is a Wireframe?
A wireframe is a simplified outline of your product that shows its content structure, information architecture and a range of features before working on details and actual design (mockups). The aim is to provide a clear visual understanding of an application early in a project.
A website wireframe is a basic visual guide used in interface design to suggest the structure of a website and relationships between its pages. A webpage wireframe is a similar illustration of the layout of fundamental elements in the interface. Typically, wireframes are completed before any artwork is developed.
Wireframes and mockups are different things, but both are part of the design process
Some believe that wireframes can vary in their level of detail - you can have low-fidelity and high-fidelity ones. Personally, I disagree, because I think that the whole point is taking as little time as possible to create them, while providing all necessary information. It should be like a bare-bones skeleton that is easy to manipulate and change, because believe me - it will. After finishing wireframes you can start creating design for mockups which in this context would be the skin. Therefore, here you should put additional time that would be wasted on creating high-fidelity wireframes.
Wireframes should always be low fidelity. That’s because hi-fi wireframes would be a waste of time—it’s not their role to pin down fine details.
Jerry CAO, UX Pin
Advantages of Wireframing
There are a lot of advantages that wireframes provide, so I will name the ones which are the most important to an application development.
Wireframes are mainly devoid of color, images, detailed typography or any real graphic elements. This approach helps to focus purely on users’ experience with the application’s structure, content and features. Therefore, It is making usability the key factor to concentrate on.
Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.
In many cases, clients may not understand what you mean when you try to explain some features verbally. Wireframing is a perfect way to avoid misunderstandings, because you can visually present functionality to a client. This provides a clear and simple way of communication and shows how useful some features might actually be.
If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough.
Wireframes can point out flaws in your project architecture or just expose things that may not align with your project’s goals. And this is a great thing to have at the beginning of the project.
One of the greatest advantages of wireframing is that it provides an early visual that can be used to review with a client. Thanks to this you can get a client deeply involved in the application’s planning process and collect valuable feedback earlier in the process. Remember that good communication is the key to success.
We all need people who will give us feedback. That's how we improve.
Wireframing provides a lot of reliable information without much time investment. It is also quicker to review the structure of application in this format. Thanks to this we can make fast adjustments to the project in the early stages, before starting actual development. So that the amount of the problems that would appear later will be vastly reduced.
When it is obvious that the goals cannot be reached, don't adjust the goals, adjust the action steps.
In many scenarios documentation of a project is not good enough and can be abstract, especially if the application is very complex. Creating wireframes shows the first real and concrete visual process of a project, thus giving clients and developers a clear set of functional and visual specifications.
Iterating the development of wireframes to a final version will provide a client and a team with confidence that the application is covering users’ needs while fulfilling the key business and project objectives. This creates mutual agreement on the project vision and scope that helps to avoid scope creeps and rework.
Building applications is a complex process. Hence, wireframing should be the one of the first steps to make if you want your project to be successful. It does not cost much time upfront, but It saves you a lot more effort later on. You have the benefit of being on the same page with a client, so you will avoid problems and misunderstandings during development. Also, your designs will be more accurate and the development team will comprehend what they are building early in the process.
All in all, let’s start with wireframes!