What Is a Wireframe?

What Is a Wireframe?

Need to get a complete understanding of what wireframes are?

If you are interested in getting in the UX field, you will certainly hear a lot about wireframes.

Wireframes are an important part of app, website, and product development projects as they are the foundation on which to begin building.

They present a clear summary of the page layout, format, information architecture, user flow, and intended behaviors. All these pieces of information are key to web design teams and can be used by different disciplines.

Let's get into the definition of a wireframe in more details:

What is a Wireframe? 

In layman's terms, wireframes are essentially the blueprints that communicate the structure of the site or software being built. 

It is a way to design a webpage or mobile app at the structural level, like a two-dimensional skeletal outline.

Wireframes are commonly used to layout content and functionality on a page which takes into account UI design and UX design. 

In this stage, color, font choices, logos, or any real design elements are not taken into consideration.

These initial mockups are used early in the development process to establish the basic structure of a page before visual design and content is added.

How to Create a Wireframe

Creating a wireframe is simpler than it sounds like. These are the steps you should follow:

  1. Decide whether you need a wireframe tool or not. 

There are multiple advanced wireframing tools and programs available to simplify the wireframing process, such as Balsamiq and Adobe Illustrator. These tools often allow you to organize your thoughts on a flowchart, and then use drag and drop to create the wireframe on a whiteboard.

You can also do it using a pencil and a paper if you are a good sketcher. But that will also depend on the complexity of the project.

If the app or website wireframe is too elaborate, you might need a wireframe tool to help you organize your ideas.

Once you decide how you are creating the wireframe, it's time to start sketching.

  1. Know what your focus is.

Make sure you focus on user experience, not on real design elements. 

Building a wireframe doesn't mean building the entire website from scratch, it just means determining how users will interact with the basic interface elements of your site. 

For example, you will need to determine whether or not to include a drop-down menu, but it doesn't matter what color it would be. That means focusing on interaction design over visual design.

  1. Use high-functioning applications as an inspiration.

Luckily, you don't have to reinvent the wheel. There are endless websites and mobile apps out there loved by users. 

Look at their strong points and tailor their successful ideas to your company's needs as a starting point.

There are also excellent templates out there that can help you get started.

  1. Sketch it and test it out.

Whether you chose a wireframing software or you are physically drawing, you will need to make your finished product work.

You can use a clickable prototyping tool, like InVision, to do so. These tools allow you to create interactive prototypes that will help you identify and fix design bugs. In this phase, it's important to iterate every detail that you feel the need.

After you have a perfect prototype it's time to transform it into an incredible UX design. 

What to Include in a Wireframe

It's hard to list everything that you should include in the wireframe because each project will have different requirements. What to include also depends on whether you are building a low-fidelity wireframe or a high-fidelity wireframe.

Wireframes typically have the low-fidelity look to intentionally show that the design is not final and is open to discussion among the team. Good interface design comes before the finalized design and coding, and getting this right during the wireframing stage is essential to good user experience.

Low-fidelity wireframes tend to be a quick sketch usually with static UI elements while high-fidelity wireframes capture the look and feel of the product.

Overall, wireframes should include search fields, breadcrumb, headers, buttons, and pseudo-Latin (Lorem Ipsum) placeholder text. 

Some wireframes also include navigation systems, contact information, and footers.

The elements on your sketch should communicate the following aspects:

  • Information displayed
  • How different modules, buttons, etc. are placed
  • Rules for showing different information
  • How different scenarios affect the display

Why is it Important to Build a Wireframe? 

Great wireframes effectively organize the many details in a product and inspire the creative designer with the final design.

In past projects, I've worked with UX designers to communicate requirements, which they translate into wireframes. After discussing with the designers and also receiving feedback from the software engineers, the team makes any agreed-upon changes before creative designers transpose the wireframes into finalized front-end designs.

Based on the agile methodology this process can be much less formalized and free-flowing. PMs work with both UX and creative designers to make changes to the design based on incoming user feedback or data, and everyone may sit in the same area to have a working session with real-time discussion and updates.

Who Needs Wireframes

Wireframes can be created by business analysts, information architects, interaction designers, UX designers, graphic designers, programmers, and product managers. But these roles are not the only ones who benefit from a wireframe.

Wireframes are often needed by multiple team members, from different departments. 

Business stakeholders review wireframes to ensure that requirements are addressed through the design.

Developers need wireframes to get a more tangible understanding of the site's functionality. Designers use them to get a grasp of what the design system will look like.

Information architects and UX designers use wireframes to show navigation paths between pages. 

Business Analysts use them to visually support the interaction requirements for a screen. And the list goes on.

Ready to Build a Wireframe?

If the thought of skipping the wireframing step had occurred to you before, now you know that that’s not a smart move. 

You are now armed with the knowledge necessary to start building your wireframe and you know the importance of it.

Remember that wireframes should communicate how the site is supposed to function. The other details will come later in the design process, but getting the structure right is an important first step to a solid end product. Check out this site for some great examples of wireframes.


Interested in learning more about wireframing? You might want to check out our popular course: One Week PM. You'll learn the fundamentals of product management, how to launch your own side project, and how to dominate product manager interviews.

Published in On the Job, Product Management, Product Manager, Skills

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2 Responses to “What Is a Wireframe?”

  1. […] side project could be anything from a tangible iPhone app, wireframe, or even PowerPoint case study. You could volunteer to help a non-profit or small business or you […]

  2. […] Practice design. Take the initiative in designing wireframes and mockups and getting feedback from your classmates. Their feedback will allow you to iterate and […]