Ultimate Guide to Website Wireframing

Most designers wireframe their designs in one way or another, even if it just involves them making quick sketches on the back of some scratch paper. Wireframing is an important part of the web design process, especially for more complex projects. Wireframes can come in handy when you’re communicating with clients, as it allows them to visualize your ideas more easily than when you just describe them verbally.

 Marketing is no longer just direct mail and billboards, it’s much more than that.  You must be able to impress your clients by showing care and dedication to their marketing efforts, or they will just go to another agency.  This is why wireframing is so important.

This guide covers everything you need to know about website wireframes to get started.

Why You Should Wireframe Your Web Designs

Wireframing is really the first step in the design process. Unless the site you’re designing is incredibly minimal and simple, wireframing helps clarify exactly what needs to be on the different page types of your website and assures to the client that they are getting their money’s worth with their online marketing effort.

Website Wireframing
An example of Website Wireframing

By taking the time to create at least a basic wireframe, you can make sure that your designs will take into account all the different page elements that need to go into the design, and that they’re positioned in the best possible way.

Wireframes are also cost-effective by saving you potential time lost due to revising a high-fidelity comp. Wireframes can easily be revised or discarded. Wireframes give your page layouts a great starting point and a solid foundation.

Wireframe vs. Mockup vs. Prototype

Wireframes, mockups, and prototypes are sometimes used interchangeably, but they are three different things (though there is sometimes some overlap between them). Each one has a slightly different purpose that it gives to the design process.

Wireframes are basic illustrations of the structure and components of a web page. This is generally the first step in the design process.

Mockups generally focus on the visual design elements of the site.

These are often very close or identical to the actual final site design and include all the graphics, typography, and other page elements. Mockups are generally just image files.

Prototypes are semi-functional webpage layouts of a mockup/comp that serves to give a higher-fidelity preview of the actual site being built. Prototypes will have the user interface and are usually constructed using HTML/CSS (and even JavaScript for showcasing how the front-end interface works).

This stage precedes programming the business logic of the site. While they might not have full functionality, they generally give clients the ability to click around and simulate the way the site will eventually work. Prototypes may or may not also include finalized design elements.

You can use wireframes to show you product’s design in different fidelities. You can see how the design evolves between each stage.

The best way to differentiate between wireframes is by their level of fidelity. You can consider anything from quick pen-and-paper sketches to illustrated mockups to be a wireframe. So let’s go over examples of different types of wireframes.

Wireframes come first. What follows — either prototypes or mockup models — is largely going to be dependent on the type of site you are building.

If it’s a web app rather than a simple static website, it’s likely going to benefit from prototyping.

How to Create a Wireframe

Creating a wireframe can be as simple or as complicated as you want. In its most basic form, your wireframe might be nothing more than a sketch on some graph paper. Other “wireframes” are created digitally and are really more like prototypes, with clickable objects and limited functionality.

 Usually, it’s pretty simple for a site with just a few pages such as a local restaurants website, but more diverse sites, such as one for a college, will have a more complex wireframe. The type of wireframe you create will depend on what the individual project requires, as well as what your own workflow is like. More complicated projects will likely have more complicated wireframes, while simple sites might have simpler wireframes.

What to Include in a Wireframe

Your wireframes should include enough information to reflect what needs to appear on each page of your website.

Think about the general elements of most web pages: headers, footers, sidebars, and content areas. Then think of additional elements your specific project will have: dynamic widgets, basic site features such as search bars and navigation, graphics, and so forth. Once you have an idea of what your site will include, start creating your wireframes based on those elements.

How detailed you want to get will again depend on the project and the purpose of the wireframe. If your wireframe is just going to serve as a guiding document for your own reference, then you don’t want to get too involved in the wireframing process. On the other hand, if it’s going to be used by more than one designer or developer, or presented to your client, then it needs to be more formal.

Low-Fidelity vs. Medium-fidelity vs. High-Fidelity Wireframes

Low-Fidelity Wireframes

You have a couple of options when it comes to the style of your wireframes. Some designers opt for low-fidelity (low-fi) wireframes that are basically just lines on a plain background with some labels. These include both hand-drawn and digital wireframes, and they’re usually very simple.

An example of a Low-Fidelity Wireframe of a Travel app idea. They’re quick sketches that you can create with pencil and paper.

A low-fidelity mobile app wireframe will be very light on details, you don’t need text or images, or to show app functions. But, judging by the four main app pages, we can assume the general function of the app will be finding and booking hotels and trips.

Medium-Fidelity Wireframes

A medium fidelity wireframe is a step up from its low fidelity counterpart. Medium wireframes will have more detail — including accurate spacing, headlines, and buttons. They might even be displayed together in a sequence called a wireflow that shows exactly how the web pages will work together.

Medium fidelity wireframes are usually created in a wireframing tool for more accuracy, precision, and detail.

Website Wireframing
An example of a Medium-Fidelity Wireframe of a Travel app idea. They show more details and you can design them in wireframing tools.

Medium-fidelity wireframes still avoid design details that could change later in the process such as color, copy and images.

High-Fidelity Wireframes

Taking things up another step, let’s take a look at an example of a high-fidelity wireframe. While they take a lot more work — design-wise — high-fidelity wireframes are the most accurate representation of the final product.

An example of a High-Fidelity Wireframe of a Travel app idea. They show more details and you can design them in wireframing tools. You’ll need a wireframing tool to create these, and they add a lot more detail to your concept.

This might include the logo or some other basic graphics, as well as the color scheme and other visual design elements.

Wireframes like this start approaching the level of mockups, but they can be invaluable in conveying a sense of what the website will look like, especially to clients who might have a hard time visualizing what a website will look like based on a low-fi wireframe.

These are just a few examples of wireframes, and as we’ve shown, there are no strict rules. Wireframes can serve many different purposes, and can have a huge positive impact on your design process. If you’re curious about anything else wireframe-related or want to share your own wireframes, reach out to us on VizVids Pro.


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