Posted on 6/28/2017 in UX and Design

By Tim Hawkins

When creating or redesigning a website, most clients want to dive right into the aesthetic design and implementation. They are eager to see the final site and don’t want to take the time in the beginning to create a wireframe. It is completely understandable to want your site live as soon as possible and therefore get right into the development. But skipping the wireframe development phase can wind up costing time and money later. It is a crucial foundational process that should not be overlooked. We often must explain what a wireframe is or what its purpose is in the website implementation process.

What is a Wireframe?

A wireframe is a mock-up of the layout of a page on the site. It outlines where content and images will be displayed. It illustrates how large the images will be and how much content is required for each section of the page. Any multimedia, such as videos, and forms are also positioned on the page. The site navigation is spelled out and both the main menu and submenu items are laid out. Any major functionality, such as site searches and ecommerce, is also decided in the wireframe process. The wireframe is as important to a website as a blueprint to a house. Laying out the wireframe of a website, planning where the content and images will live, and how it will interact with the user is much like planning where the rooms, windows, and doors will be built in a home.

What Does the Wireframe Exclude?

A wireframe does not show the colors, fonts, or specific images that will be used on the page. Those items are purposely left out so the reviewer does not get caught up in those design elements instead of focusing on the bare bones of the pages.

Why is the Wireframe Important?

The wireframe takes client site requirements and puts them in a format that can be reviewed and easily changed. The wireframe review process allows a client to refine how they want the site to function before development has started. Making changes to the wireframes before any development has begun is much less costly and efficient than having to change development code.

The wireframe also assists the client in preparing the content for the site. The writer knows if short product descriptions are needed for the home page with fuller, in-depth write-ups are required for a sub-page. Knowing exactly where the content will live may also help writers brainstorm ideas faster and easier. It also helps to ensure that the main marketing message is clearly displayed on the home page. The client can see if the most important content and images are showing above the fold.

The wireframes also act as a tool for testing site navigation. The client can clearly see how a site visitor would get to certain pages on the site. If there are too many steps to get to some information, the navigation and menu structure can be changed. Use cases that outline what a user will do on the site can be tested to ensure the user can easily complete an action by using the wireframes. Changing the menu or links to internal pages at this point in the process is much easier and less expensive than changing them during a testing phase after the site has been developed.

Forms and Calls to Action, such as “Contact Us” forms, demo requests, whitepaper downloads, and requests for more information, are included in the wireframe. These items are very important for converting visitors into clients and should be considered at the very beginning of the site planning process. Tightening up spaces between content and other on-page elements that allow CTA’s to be above the fold and easily accessible to potential customers can greatly improve conversion rates. Overlooking simple UX optimizations can cost you time and money. Being able to review them through the wireframes ensures that they are included on the right pages and are collecting the correct information. Integration points with other systems, such as marketing systems, email servers, or databases can also be identified in wireframes?

By identifying issues with CTA’s during the wireframing process can save a client an immeasurable amount of time in A/B testing in the future. If best practices can be applied during this time, you won’t have to waste thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours identifying what the problem is, formulating an A/B test, asking developers to implement the variables, monitoring the results, and finally coming to a conclusion.

What is the End Result of the Wireframe Process?

The result of a thorough wireframe creation and review process are site pages that present correct information in an easily navigable page flow. When the wireframes are complete, the aesthetic designs can be applied to them to ensure that the site is also appealing to the eye. The resulting wireframes clearly outline what needs to be developed, ensuring that the final live site will satisfy the client’s needs.

See our previous blog for additional information about wireframes.

Want to learn more about this process?

Please contact us to see how we can help develop wireframe designs for your website.

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