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A website wireframe is the primitive skeleton of your website. It’s not necessarily glamorous or cutting edge, but it holds everything together like a blueprint. Much like building a house, a website should never be developed with eyes wide shut. And with the right wireframe tools in hand, you can be sure you’re building your website with your users’ needs in mind.
Often, eager designers (and stakeholders) begin building a website with an exact idea of the end product in mind. While making a sleek and beautiful site is fun, a good website is built on the proper framework. Arguably, without a website wireframe, even the best-looking sites can be difficult to navigate and complete essential tasks.
You’ve seen them, the websites with strange navigation, infinite scrolling, cluttered text or images, the list goes on. Website wireframes aid in preventing this and generally focus on:
Once you’ve built your website wireframe, your job is only partially complete. Having a blueprint of your website is great, but it doesn’t ensure that it’s meeting the needs of your users.
If you think about the example mentioned earlier about building a house, a contractor wouldn’t begin building a home for someone without making sure they approve of the design first. For example, you wouldn’t build a single-story home for someone who wants a bedroom on the second floor and you wouldn’t put hardwood floors throughout until you’re sure they don’t want carpet. Whether you’re comparing a website’s page hierarchy to the location of a bedroom, or color and design preferences to hardwood vs. carpet, a website’s design should be customer-centric.
While you may be eager to bring your wireframe to life, it’s vital that you consider the needs of your users first. Why? Because you can save yourself a lot of time and effort building something right the first time.
“You can use an eraser on the drafting table or a sledgehammer on the construction site.” -Frank Lloyd Wright
If you want to deliver the best product in the shortest amount of time, the wireframing stage of development is one of the most valuable stages for usability testing and gathering user feedback on your design.
Not to mention, user feedback, in the form of human insight, is also a great way to settle internal design disputes. If you find that your team can’t agree on a specific design, the fastest and easiest way to choose confidently is to ask your users what they think. You can even have users evaluate multiple designs in a single session, enabling you to continue to iterate on your design direction until you have something everyone can agree on.
It’s important to get feedback on your website wireframe in order to validate it before investing resources to build it out. Does the design make sense? Is it clear and intuitive to the user? Are the images and colors appealing? So on and so forth.
You can test website wireframes using a remote feedback method. However, there are some factors to consider that will help you choose if a moderated or unmoderated approach is right for you. Before conducting your test, ask yourself:
Self-guided, or unmoderated, tests are best if you know users will be able to interact with your design without much guidance or explanation and if you have an easy way to share your design.
Live interviews, or moderated tests, are best if you want to ensure your designs are only shared with the test participant during the duration of the test. They’re also more effective if you think a test participant may get confused about a prototype or design. (You can still do this during a self-guided test, just be sure to be very clear in your instructions and anticipate any questions or areas that may need additional explanation.)
When testing a website wireframe, you want to make sure that you ask all the questions necessary for building a website that is truly user-centric.
Here are some great questions to get you started in the right direction:
Now that you understand why and how to test your website wireframes, you’re probably wondering the best way to develop one.
When it comes to building a website wireframe, there are a number of different tools at your disposal. Everything from a sketch on a napkin to a digital wireframe can get the job done and set you in the right direction. Nevertheless, some may be easier to run usability tests on than others.
Here are some of the most popular programs for building a website wireframe:
Wireframing, designing, prototyping, presenting, and sharing amazing experiences for web, mobile, voice, and more—Adobe XD is your all-in-one app. Adobe XD provides you access to all your assets in one place, eliminates tedious manual tasks, create experiences that are adaptable to any size screen, and integrates seamlessly with the UserTesting platform.
InVision makes it easy to create interactive wireframes and prototypes. Simply upload static screenshots and create clickable wireframes your users can interact with and understand. The app runs on the web and works well simplifying the workflow between designers and other stakeholding teams.
Once viewed as only the top vector graphics editor, Sketch has risen and diversified to accommodate wireframing and prototyping. Its popularity makes it great for collaboration, it’s not overburdened with features, and costs much less than editors like Photoshop.
Figma is truly a one-tool solution for all of your design needs. Thanks to real-time collaboration, web-based functionality, and exceptional price-to-value, Figma is rising through the ranks and gaining traction with design teams.
Balsamiq helps you quickly design mockups that are great for sketching and wireframing. With excellent ease of use, a great widget library, and its cloud-based software, it makes team collaboration easy.
Justinmind is an all-in-one prototyping tool for web and mobile apps that helps you build wireframes to highly interactive prototypes without any coding. Justinmind lets you design from scratch and leverage a full range of web interactions and mobile gestures, so you can focus on building exceptional user experiences.