What Is Wireframing? Overview, Benefits, Top Tools for 2021, and Who Should Learn It

No matter your industry or job function, you’ve probably learned the importance of organization when planning a project or process. Even when an idea strikes and you’re eager to take action, stepping back and considering which steps to take (and in what order) will save countless hours and resources down the line.

In web design and project management, wireframing is one such method for plotting the right course before getting started.

What Is Wireframing?

Think of wireframing as an architectural blueprint for a website or project. Once the sitemap or flowchart of web pages has been developed, the wireframe is designed to visually lay out where each piece will structurally fit.

The wireframe design is typically a simple black and white skeleton — no fancy fonts, colors, or other creative touches. The real design work will come later once the wireframe is reviewed and approved by all stakeholders.

This is a great way to get buy-in from clients before devoting too many resources to a project. Clients can get an overall sense of how an online property will look and function without contracting out design, copywriting, and coding work at this stage. It’s easier, faster, and cheaper to iterate on different maps and strategies without having to call in professionals from multiple departments to see those changes through.

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How to Create Wireframes

Before you start to create a wireframe, it’s a good idea to see examples of how others have done it. A quick online search will allow you to pull up examples of different styles and options.

For further inspiration, Wirify will convert any existing website you choose into a wireframe version. If you already have a website you’d like to improve upon, seeing the before-and-after wireframes can show how things will change without creating a mock-up. For entirely new sites, looking at how other companies in the industry lay out their webpages can spark some ideas and provide real-world examples of best practices.

Industrial sectors and geographic regions will often have different design priorities, so look at the wireframes of similar companies within the same region for the best comparison. This can be part of the competitive analysis while auditing a company’s overall market share.

Steps to Create a Wireframe

1. Research

Don’t rush into the process. Do your research to find out what formats and styles are common in the industry, and what design trends are expected on the horizon. In addition to looking at current templates and examples, explore design blogs to see what new features are making waves. The last thing you want is a well-planned site that’s outdated by the time it’s executed.

2. Keep It Simple

This isn’t the time to think about fancy fonts and taglines. The wireframe design is just the skeleton for how the site will be structured. No color-coding, no graphics – just simple lines, boxes, and placeholders.

You want your audience to immediately see how content will be organized. Don’t distract them with colors and text that won’t make it to the final rendering anyway.

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3. Consider Different Tools

There are a number of platforms available to help develop effective wireframes. Many offer a library of drag-and-drop components to choose from, and some have automatic layouts and graphing ability to make the job easier. Some tools even allow for collaboration among teams, letting all members see and contribute to the final wireframe. You can find a good list of wireframe design tools here.

Of course, pen and paper work well too, as do common presentation-builders like PowerPoint and Google Slides. Test a few different options to get a feel for what works best for your project, and which has the greatest impact on stakeholders.

Wireframing in Business Analysis

While user experience (UX) and design professionals typically handle wireframing, business analysis teams frequently use this method to flesh out projects, as well.

Wireframing in business analysis enables you to visualize data points and how they fit together. This is useful in product development and project management to determine the scope of a project, analyze timelines and costs, and help everyone see how each piece fits together within the whole.

To a business analyst, wireframe design may help leaders see how different updates will improve key business functions, including product discoverability online. This can also make it easier to visualize organizational charts, corporate structures, and other processes.

Determining the goals for each web page allows analysts to structure the data and organize it in a way that supports those goals.

Who Should Learn Wireframing?

Because the ability to create wireframes is vital to so many departments (including web design, digital strategy, marketing, business management, and more), any business professional can benefit from learning to create wireframes. 

This is a skill that applies to all levels within the organization, from interns and trainees to senior managers and executives. The ability to formulate an idea and visually present it in a structured way will set the thinkers apart from the doers.

Wireframe design will obviously take some time to master, but with practice can become second nature. And because there are so many online tools available to assist in research, data organization, and layout, the process will become much easier once you choose the solutions that work best for your application.

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