what is a website wireframe

What is a website wireframe and how to use it in your online strategy

Those who do not invest time and resources in good planning always end up being forced to find time and money to do it all over again. This is a common saying in Marketing that probably applies to the most different contexts, including the development of websites, blogs, and digital profiles.

In practical terms, a website wireframe is an illustration that condenses and organizes the main elements that we intend to add to a website.

It represents the first stage of a digital platform’s creation process, and it must contain all the “pillars” that will give origin to a subsequent project and its execution.

In this article we will explain:

Keep in mind that a website is also a product and, once active, it becomes the living room of a business, so we need to take its construction process very seriously.

Read below to understand everything about wireframes and learn how to make your own!

What is a website wireframe?

We know that practice does not always follow the theory, so it is important to study and prepare sketches to prevent failures, disagreements, and losses.

Therefore, a website wireframe is a website’s first draft, and it is at this stage that we must consider more critical changes and adjustments before we actually start building the layout.

The developer or information architect responsible for executing the project expects the wireframes to be a collection of ideas (suggestions) and solid elements (already consolidated in the market) that clarify the site’s kind of language, content, and structure, as well as the users interactions within that virtual space.

There are three essential components in a website wireframe:

  • information architecture: organization of content and visual components that can guarantee a pleasant experience for the user;
  • navigation structure: navigation elements and maps that offer a logical and precise navigation;
  • layout design: a sketch of some visual elements to guide the art production and web design.

Website wireframes can be done in a variety of ways, from simple hand-drawn illustrations to sophisticated navigation simulations on specialized software.

There is no rule in this choice, as the important thing is that it is able to transmit your future site’s idea with accuracy.

Generally, wireframes are completed and approved before any design or development work is done.

However, in some cases, especially in the creation of richer and more complex platforms where several drafts are needed, each part of the project’s execution can be done concurrently the completion of wireframes.

What are the types of website wireframe?

From pencil and paper to the most fully-featured digital tools, a wireframe can be built with the resources you have or find best.

However, there are different construction models and some of them require a greater wealth of details, which requires the use of software. Check it out below.

Low fidelity

This is the most basic type and, therefore, can be built manually. A low-fidelity wireframe generally lacks colors and details.

Average fidelity or annotated

In this case, we still have a very simple wireframe; however, its visual and textual elements are more organized and accompany captions and annotations that make it easier to understand.

High fidelity

The high fidelity model remains an outline of the project, but its details bring it much closer to the final version. In this case, software is needed to add elements of navigation and interaction.

It does not need to be impeccable, because that way we would lose the agility and flexibility benefits of this step. Your goal is just to make the structure of the website you want to build as clear as possible.

What is the difference between a website wireframe, mockup, prototype, and layout?

To clarify the different steps in the process of creating a website, we can order them in wireframe, mockup, prototype, and layout. We will discuss each one of those below.

Website wireframe

As said above, the website wireframe is the first thing to do when building a website or any other digital platform. Here, our job is to think about the basic structure and element positioning of our product.

Mockups

The mockup is very similar to the wireframe; however, it contains more visual details. In this step, we will define the colors, typography, logos, and other elements that are planned in your branding strategy.

Prototype

The basic difference between the prototype and the previous steps is that it is a high-fidelity model, which requires the incorporation of elements that go beyond design. At this point in the process, the main objective is to check the visual components and validate the website’s features.

It is possible that some sections defined in the website wireframe behave unexpectedly or do not work well when the project enters its prototype stage. In such cases, it is necessary to check all the steps and make the necessary changes.

Layout

This is the moment when the designer takes action by mixing their talent with the prototype’s goals. The layout should complete the entire visual structure of the site, a job that is done on the platform that will bring the site to life.

How to create a website wireframe?

Before anything, it is necessary to create a creative brief alongside the site’s owner to clarify all of its requirements and the objectives they seek to achieve in the project. This document will be the guideline for future ideas that will be discussed throughout the wireframe’s development.

The initial sketches can be done on paper while the creative team discusses and decides what will be the best elements to be added to that specific website. When the basic structures are well polished, we then move to the computer, where we will develop a model with more fidelity.

Many types of software can help you in this step and below you can check some suggestions.

InVision

Starting with a completely free solution, we have InVision, a pleasant tool to use with several interactive resources to assemble your website wireframe with many elements and notes.

Adobe XD

Adobe offers an exclusive software for the development of website wireframes: Adobe XD. If you are a subscriber to their complete package, then you already have this tool available on your computer. For those who are not customers, you can create your first project for free.

Axure

Axure is a popular software in this category. With it, you have access to a series of features to build your projects and to test your future site’s navigation.

Hotgloo

With Hotgloo, you can create high-fidelity models using a variety of interactive features. It supports multiple languages in its interface.

Canva

Canva is widely used to create simple images for social posts, cards, and pamphlets. However, its features also allow the creation of wireframes. If you are already familiar with the tool, this may be a good choice.

However, regardless of the company’s requests or suggestions from the professionals involved, it is important to maintain some basic features that guarantee the website’s “health” nowadays such as UX (User Experience), mobile-friendliness, and SEO.

Why use a website wireframe?

The most noticeable advantages of using a website wireframe relate to the planning itself. With an open and adaptable basic central design, many mistakes and rework possibilities can be identified quickly before applying many resources in the construction of a solid model.

In addition, we need to think about the file transfer that is facilitated with wireframe software. Many tools feature cloud storage and file integration with development and web design programs.

The greatest benefit of wireframes, however, is that they also function as a communication and discussion tool between clients, content producers, developers, and marketers.

As they are flexible, it is possible to suggest changes, introduce new elements, diversify the structure and even start planning from scratch without the risk of dealing with large losses of time or money.

We can conclude that the website wireframe is a simple solution for pre-planning different platforms on the internet. Its role is very important for the quality of a professional website and its methodology works as a means of saving resources and keeping the entire project team aligned.

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