What Is Wireframe in Software Development
by Anna Khrupa on Mar 9, 2022
A wireframe is a blueprint for a website or application. It is a sketch of a digital interface created before deciding on the perfect design aesthetic to plan out the user’s engagement with basic elements and navigation of a product. A wireframe does not display colors, fonts, shading, or any specific descriptions of an app or website. It focuses on a structure of design instead of concrete details. The purpose is to help the team plan how everything is going to be laid out on the screen. It happens before going into specifics of design and can be tested with users to confirm or deny anything in the chosen concept.
Wireframes are organized visuals of what the main features look like. They are a visual representation of the core screen elements. The sketches of a desired app or website are prepared before mockups, design, and development process. Once they have been created, there will be a discussion with a team about whether they address the business needs or not.
Business analysts, user experience designers, graphic designers, product managers, developers, and many more professionals have adopted wireframes in their workflow. In software development, it is typically a responsibility of a designer, who uses wireframes before visual design and content creation.
Wireframes are easy to create and work with. They provide a clearer view of a digital product design and increase the effectiveness of communication in a team about the desired result.
5 Benefits of Wireframing
- Key elements on a page. The first and the most important reason to wireframe is the process of establishing a hierarchy of information on a page and nailing down the interface structure. Therefore, what is a wireframe for a website or application? It is a skeleton. Wireframes help define where the most important elements of a page are going to be to make the use of a digital product easier.
- Communication in a team. Wireframing helps the product team figure out whether the designers went in the right direction with a product. It allows them to find out the pain points that can or should be improved in the early stages. Wireframing ensures the team gets the message correctly and understands which way to build a screen before code is written and the final design is agreed upon. Doing this saves time on unnecessary improvements later.
- Clear product structure. Wireframes make the structure of a future product clear for the whole team. They help to visualize the interface, highlighting the main features.
- Early feedback. A wireframe gives an early view of a future product to clients. They give feedback on the core of the product before deciding on how to make it look. The wireframe is a solution for developers as well. They use it as a guide to get more into application/website functionality and generate quality code.
- Cost-effectiveness. Among the main benefits of wireframing are speed and price. It can take under an hour to create the simplest sketch depending on how complex an application or website is. Compared to concept designs, wireframes are easier to fix. For a company, it will be cheaper to invest in wireframing to ensure the positions of the functionalities on the page are correct than to improve mistakes further in a project. Design should be applied in practice only after establishing a functional structure.
A wireframe is not the final version of the design. It serves as a starting point for a user interface. The team is open for discussion, incorporating new ideas, improvements, and feedback that are easy and quick to respond to.
How to Use Wireframe in Software Development
There are a couple of recommendations on how to use wireframe in software development, making full use of it.
A wireframe can be created either by hand with a pen and paper (hand-drawn sketch) or digitally with the help of software (digital sketch) by UX or UI designers in coordination with the team. Rough and rapid hand-drawn sketches with different layout options are a good starting position for getting an idea of the initial structure of a page. The next step is moving to a digital sketch and a variety of free or paid wireframing software tools like Figma, Adobe XD, Balsamiq, Miro, or Sketch.
Digital sketches are easier to share with the rest of the team, allowing others to add something new or make improvements and upgrades. To try and map out different things, revising and changing them, polishing the sketch is the main idea behind every wireframe. Every sketch is used early in the development process. It considers user needs and journeys of interacting with an app or website.
Both types of wireframes are going to be made up of the same things, no matter which one you choose – a handmade or digital one.
Standard Elements of Wireframes
The key elements of wireframes in software development are:
- Simplicity in shapes. Keeping things to the basic forms is essential. Circles, rectangles, squares, and lines are used to display screens and fields. Simple boxes represent images and icons.
- Structure over details. Avoid too much happening on a page and too much detail. Details are distracting. The designs should be comprehensible and easy to understand.
- Black & white or grayscale color palette. Wireframes are not about beauty. Skip the color and avoid using images. Nothing should distract from layout and navigation.
- Focus on the desired aspects of design. Stop making a wireframe if it already communicates the key information about functionalities, order, structure, and navigation.
The main rule to follow when working with a wireframe is not to be afraid to experiment and explore different layouts and alternatives to end up with the solution better than you had before. Understand who you are creating the app or website for and take a user perspective. A wireframe is a blueprint to trace future steps in the development process. Its main idea is not to complicate but to make the design process manageable and obvious.
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