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Are you building a site from scratch for the first time and finding the process a little too overwhelming? Here is a guide to familiarise you with website wireframes as a beginner.

A website is not only the online identity of a business or individuals working independently but also an important marketing and sales tool. It won’t be wrong to call it your 24/7 sales associate. Overlooking this marketing aspect of your business will be a rooky mistake. 

Building a website is not everyone’s cup of tea, especially if you have no experience or just beginner’s knowledge. Taking your skills further up a notch can take a lot of time, effort, and constant learning. Fortunately, the entire process can be made more efficient and less intimidating for beginners with the help of wireframes. 

wireframe
Source: Envato

Wireframes are created to improve the website development planning process. They ensure timelines are met and changes based on feedback where needed are made on time. This process flow does not require major changes later on and helps save a lot of time when creating a website or an app.  

What is a wireframe for a website?

A website wireframe is the initial basic layout for any mobile app or website that helps you create a primary rough sketch for the website. It helps create a structure for your website. It also helps to create a more polished web design, which is just a preliminary design, not the final website design.

wireframe-website
Source: Unsplash

An easier example to understand web design wireframing could be comparing it to a framed house with a basic structural building. It does not in any way help us understand what the final outlook of the house will be like, i.e. additional house elements, paints, doors, windows, and other such things.

Simple wireframes in website wireframe design don’t require them to be perfectly put together and look like a real version of the website or app. It’s meant to be simple, so you can play around and work on different variations of design mockups, depending upon your requirements. The less complicated and basic the wireframe in web design is, the easier it is for you to make the required changes.

A website wireframe consists of multiple layouts and features based on the experience you are trying to provide to the user. While some designers and clients prefer to skip steps they think are unnecessary and require extra effort on their part throughout the process, a wireframe should be developed early on to ensure that all the errors are fixed in the early stages of design.

How to create a website wireframe?

How simple or complicated your website wireframe is depends on you. It needs to be a basic sketch. You need multiple wireframes to create a complete website with multiple tabs or a mobile application. But as a beginner, you should start with only one. You can repeat this process to create multiple wireframes.

Wondering how to wireframe a website? Here is a list of steps you should follow: 

  • List down the elements you need

The first step is deciding what needs to be on the page and creating a wireframe according to that. For this, you need some brand elements, such as the font type, logo, a few images, a menu bar to navigate the website, a headline, and the body text or landing page content. Make sure you have the list of requirements ready and narrowed down, so you can incorporate them when needed.

  • Create a few sketches

This step requires creating at least one basic sketch for the wireframe. If you know how to use a pen or a pencil, your best way forward would be to create the sketch instead of going the digital way manually. This will speed up the iteration process of your website wireframe and help you create multiple template versions of the website. You can create as many variations of wireframe sketches as you want at this initial stage.

  • Finalize a wireframe

Narrow down your options to a single sketch and start working on creating a refined version wireframe to get valuable feedback from people. Never go on to create the website wireframes without testing them and getting feedback on what needs to be done to improve it. Various tools can help you create a more refined version of your final sketches.

  • Solicit initial feedback

Always make sure after you’ve worked on creating initial one or two website wireframes, you share it with your stakeholders and prospect users and get their initial thoughts on it. These people will be seeing the final version of your website and would be more interested in seeing the final outlook of the site. For a more unbiased approach, try to avoid getting feedback from your friends and family at the initial stages.

  • Iterate the design

After receiving feedback, go back and make the suggested changes to your wireframe and get another round of feedback. This time, you can not only go to the same group you went to for initial feedback or target a different group to get a different perspective on the design and layout. Ensure you continue iterating and getting feedback until you get a more refined version of your initial sketch.

Why is there a need to wireframe a website?

By creating a website’s wireframe, you provide a structure to build on and allow for smooth and rapid iteration, making it easier for your team to make the necessary changes.

Types of wireframes

There are 3 main types of wireframes:

  • Low-fidelity (lo-fi): This wireframe is merely a simple sketch and doesn’t look much like the final website design. It contains very few details and might not even have the required text. It might only have some of the initial features from the wireframe.
  • Medium-fidelity (mid-fi): It’s one step forward for lo-fi and is a bit more polished and refined. It does not contain any text but is black and white. It has a few more details, elements, and placeholders.
  • High-fidelity (hi-fi): It’s more of a prototype stage with actual content and has image placeholders and lorem ipsum text. It has all the branding elements and provides a proper final website or app outlook.

Wireframe vs mockup vs prototype – What’s the difference?

While you may use these terms in place of the other, they all have different meanings and may sometimes overlap. A wireframe is a simple sketch or a rough outline for a website or an app. Each step in building a website or app is similar in different stages, but they do have distinct differences when you are working on them to build an app or a website.

A mockup looks similar to a wireframe’s final design but is still not functional. It gives us a glimpse of what the elements would look like on the website. It shows what your final product will look like in 3D or a painting style. It is not much functional but provides a finished look to the website design.

A prototype provides a more detailed visual representation and is functional. To understand this better, take the example of a lo-fi wireframe and how you can turn it into a prototype. This can easily be done by layering several screens that could act as a mockup to navigate through. On the other hand, a hi-fi wireframe can be converted into a prototype with the help of software like Sketch, Figma, Adobe, or similar software that can help connect different elements and make the final website functional. It can’t go live or functional, but it can help provide a view of what the website will look like.

What should be included in a website wireframe?

Depending upon the kind of website you are looking to create, you can decide on the different elements that you want to and can include in the wireframe. You need to be clear on who your audience exactly is, their demographics, and other important factors that you want to consider. Following are a few major elements that all wireframes should have:

  • Navigation: Users need to move from one page to another unless you have a single landing page website or app. A logo is placed in the wireframe, along with the company name in the website text.
  • Logo: Most apps or websites have the logo on the top left corner or in the centre of the web page. When it comes to a wireframe, the logo fills out the space and acts as a placeholder.
  • Layout: The layout is more like a blueprint of how the overall website will look while navigating the different tabs.
  • Call-to-Action (CTA): This needs to be defined based on what action you want the framework to take once a user presses on something. To understand this better, take the example of the Sign Up option. This option always comes as a link that directs you to the Sign-Up page or a CTA button. You may have multiple call-to-actions, but it is important to have a placeholder included for them.

An important tip to keep in mind as a beginner is that these main elements should be the set placeholders, and they don’t need to be placed in a specific manner in the wireframe. You can place the navigation links on the top of the page, where later on, you can add the menu bar or box. Keep in mind that the wireframe only provides you with the structure and does not include choosing font or colours for the final design.

Other than the mentioned elements, a few other general elements include having different content areas, headers, sidebars, footers, etc. Make sure you don’t put too much effort into the website wireframing process if it’s a document to guide you through the website development process. If you need to share it with a professional developer or a client, make sure it looks presentable and more formal.

Wireframing Process

While the wireframing process can vary for everyone, the basic steps remain the same to help create structure. You need to list everything you want to add to the site and your specific design requirements. Everyone has a different approach to even going through these steps, like starting from the initial step and ticking off one step at a time while moving forward to design a wireframe for an app or a website.

Some others like to create a basic foundational structure that you can build upon to create a “big picture” look. You can never rule out one method over the other as a mix; a few modifications from both methods help create a better wireframe.

Wireframing Techniques

Many different ways can help you create wireframes. These can be as basic as a pen-to-paper sketch or as complex as proper diagrams, which give a polished look to the production website. These techniques are purpose-driven and depend upon the designer who is working on the project.

You can wireframe using InDesign and Illustrator and use the Grey Box Method. This method allows you to create a wireframe, from a simple sketch on paper to a greyscale structure in Illustrator. A complete step-by-step process ensures that the final results are worth it for not just the designer but also the developer and site owner.

Tools for website wireframing

When selecting a tool for wireframing, there is no right or wrong tool or the best or average tool. The selection of tools depends on what you are comfortable using and what works best for your project.

Pen and Paper

This is the most basic tool you can select to create a website wireframe. For this one, you can use graph paper to create super clean and simple wireframes without needing a ruler. The grid lines help create an outline and sketch the layout better.

wireframing
Source: Pexels.com

Some people use colored pencils and sticky notes to create a proper color-coded and organized framework. With sticky notes, you can add labels to see which page layout looks better and then go ahead with it. You don’t need to re-sketch or re-do much. Just change placements by using sticky notes for quick prototyping.

Web-Based Tools

These tools allow sharing of designs and layouts with clients and team members. They can be accessed at any time and place and are known to be cross-platform compatible. Some of the examples of web-based wireframing tools are as follows:

It works on Chrome, Safari, and Firefox and has many different features. One of the handiest features it has is auto text resizing.  It even allows you to make changes in multi-pages without changing the original structure. It saved time and a lot of going back and forth.

mockingbird
Source: Mockingbird 

These are easy to use for a variety of charts. It has a drag-and-drop interface which makes it easier to use. It also provides assumptions to help create charts faster and on a short timeline. It is quite intuitive when it comes to its use.

lovely charts
Source: Lovely Charts 

This is a free online tool for website wireframing. Similar to Lovely Charts, with its drag and drop option, you can save on time and speed up the overall wireframing process. It can publish your wireframing options and lets you share these designs through URLs but keeps your privacy.

cacoo
Source: Cacoo

This tool can convert the basic structure into a proper testing prototype, which can be used to provide a reference for the finished website outlook. It will have real-time customer support, live chat, image editing, and collaboration options. 

lumzy
Source: Lumzy

This tool works for wireframing and provides prototype layouts, with multiple tools that help bind the web pages and different tabs together. You can add up to two collaborators and two projects. This tool also lets you export your project prototype, but only to the paid version of WordPress.

jumpstart
Source: Jumpstart

This tool provides users with the experience of sketching out wireframes and making them into more formal designs. It provides a similar feel to a pen and paper tool design, letting you sketch out a wireframe on a digital sheet. It provides options to collaborate and share content with other users.

Balsamiq Mockups
Source: Balsamiq Mockups

This tool helps create more traction and is a viable wireframing app. It’s part of the Google framework and can be used for free. Its working process is similar to an online drawing app, with shapes and text-adding options. You can use Google Drawings templates and create website wireframes. You can work on a collaborative form and bring multiple people on board.

Google Drawings
Source: Google Drawings

It is designed for web and desktop app prototyping. It has more than 200 icons, and you can use the banner to help your wireframes and avoid repeating things in your framework. While a free plan is available with limited access, you can avail of the paid plan for only $19/month.

Just Proto
Source: Just Proto

It has a variety of objects and shapes that you can easily drag and drop and create different diagrams and layouts. You can also collaborate on this tool by sharing the publishing URL.  

Creately
Source: Creately

What is a wireframe in HTML?

Using HTML or CSS gives you the advantage of starting early with the page design and coding it one step at a time. The drawback of coding the website from the start is that you tend to focus on that more rather than focusing on creating a structure for a quick wireframe. You can convert a website mockup to a full-fledged prototype through this.

HTML gives designers a head start not just in the design but also on the entire coding side. You get dragged into the creative process when you dive into creating website wireframes through HTML. You can learn more about HTML wireframing and prototyping in detail through different sources.

Website wireframes: an essential part of the website design process

While sometimes you may want to skip the website wireframing process to save time and effort, the truth is that without wireframing, you might face problems and setbacks, which might cause more delays in your project. With the help of wireframing, you can map out the problems and tackle them early instead of dealing with them in the middle of the long-term process.

If you want a properly functioning website, you need to have a proper execution plan from start to end. You can use a wireframe to help you map out what exactly needs to go into the website, from the different elements to the content in different sections and tabs. The advantage of following this route is minimized errors on all ends and a cleaner website version.

After you have created a website wireframe and checked it for flaws and any changes, you can work on a website builder to create your website. It can be like the one that Mailchimp provides. This editor is easy to use and navigate through and allows you to be flexible with your design. For this purpose, it gives various options to experiment with, with the help of which you can bring your wireframe to live and up and running.

You can start with a low-fidelity wireframe and add the necessary details every step of the way. You can choose the tools to use according to your need and ease. The best routine to go with is selecting one layout that fits your design idea and needs and going ahead and polishing and refining it along the way.

Key Takeaway

Wireframes enable web designers to determine which elements should be a part of the web page. This layout also helps them assign functionality traits to each user interface element. It serves as a cohesive connection between the designer and his client and keeps them on the same page. 

If you want your web design project to go smoothly, do not skip this step. 

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