Recently, I have been in a few meetings where we are working on developing a website. In these meetings, it has been suggested that we skip the wireframe stage and roll right into what the site is going to look like, the design.
This kind of thinking stemmed from the notion that the client would not understand what wireframes are and that jumping into design would get us one step closer to launch. This suggestion is a bad one.
First, let’s back up and talk about what a wireframe is. For those looking to build a website of any size or shape, wireframes are the foundation on which to begin building. Wireframing usually comes after the site architecture has been determined by a site map or flow chart of the web-site’s pages and before the creative design phase.
Simply overlooking this step in order to get to the look and feel is a huge mistake that would prove disastrous for any website or any contractor building a home. To reinforce the importance of this phase in a web process, I have outlined seven extremely important reasons on why you need to wireframe.
A sitemap can be a bit abstract, especially ones that are very large. Taking the sitemap to wireframe starts the first real concrete visual process for a project. Wireframes turn the abstract nature of a flow chart into something real and tangible without distractions. This step ensures that all parties are on the same page.
In many instances, clients may not understand what you mean when you say “hero image,” “google map integration,” “product filtering,” “light boxes” and hundreds of other types of features. Wireframing specific project features on a website provides a clear communication to a client how these features will function, where they will live on the specific page and how useful they might actually be.
Sometimes you may decide to take out a feature once it is wireframed due to the fact that it just does’t work with what your site’s goals are. Seeing the features without any creative influence really allows a client to focus on other equally important aspects of the project and clarifies any expectations about how features will be executed.
This is the one of the most important points of the entire wireframing process. Creating wireframes pushes usability to the forefront in showcasing page layouts at their core.
It forces everyone to look objectively at a website’s ease of use, conversion paths, naming of links, navigation placement and feature placement. Wireframes can point out flaws in your site architecture or how a specific feature may work. And this is a great thing.
For clients who purchase a content managed website, this point is especially important. A wireframe will immediately identify how well your site will handle content growth.
For example, if you only have ten products offered right now, but in six months you may have 100, you will want your website to accommodate this growth without impact to the website design, site architecture or usability. Wireframes will identify these important areas of content growth.
Instead of trying to combine the functionality/layout and creative/branding aspects of the website in one step, wireframes ensure that these elements are taken in one at a time. This allows clients (and other team members) to provide feedback earlier in the process.
Skipping wireframes delays this feedback and increases the costs of making changes because full design mock-ups must be reworked, not just simplified wireframes.
Wireframing saves time in a multitude of ways.
Everyone from the web team, the agency and client are all on the same page about what the website is supposed to do and how it is supposed to function.
Building a website is a process. Wireframing is one of those parts of the web process that should not be skipped, just as you wouldn’t build a house without a blueprint, or live in it without decoration. Each step has an important place in a larger process.
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