Creating Wireframes: A Step-by-Step Guide for UX Designers 💻

  • Design & Creative
Contra Tips
· 7 min read

Master the art of creating a wireframe to ensure a user-friendly website with our comprehensive guide, including expert advice and examples.

Behind every successful website is a thoughtful blueprint: the wireframe.Dive into the world of wireframes as we dissect their crucial role in crafting a user-friendly experience online, including what’s involved in creating a wireframe, different types, and tried-and-true strategies for success. As a bonus, we’ll include stunning examples from independent designers who have harnessed the power of wireframes to create websites that shine.

What is a wireframe? 🫥

A wireframe in web design is a fundamental aspect of user experience (UX) that visually represents a website, app, or product’s layout. It displays the arrangement of elements, maps user interactions, and previews the overall structure, emphasizing the client’s desired user information processing based on the design team’s user research.

Employing wireframes during the web design process is critical; it effectively articulates ideas in a visual format. Wireframes allow designers to identify potential problems early, saving valuable time and resources down the line. Wireframes also encourage innovation and creativity by providing a flexible framework. This provides space for experimentation and refinement before diving into the design’s finer details. 

Understanding the types of wireframes 💡

Want to plan an effective, user-friendly interface? First, you need to understand the types of wireframes. An app, product, or website wireframe is categorized into one of three types based on its fidelity, and it can be created by hand or with software.

Here’s what you need to know:

Low-fidelity wireframes 🗺️

These wireframes are basic sketches or rough drafts. They typically outline a website's information architecture, layout, and essential elements, without getting into the nitty-gritty details. Low-fi wireframes can be sketched by hand or made with software, and dummy content (e.g., lorem ipsum text and placeholder graphics) is often used. 

Mid-fidelity wireframes 🌐

Mid-fidelity wireframes are more refined versions of their low-fidelity counterparts. They’re detailed sketches that include the significant features of the project. While these wireframes still lack in-depth visual elements, such as typography, they offer a more precise representation of the final design. They can also be created using software tools or by hand. 

High-fidelity wireframes 🌎

Unlike the other two, high-fidelity wireframes cannot be made by hand. Advanced software tools must be used to construct these intricately detailed representations of the final product.

These wireframes accurately depict the layout, content, functionality, and design elements, closely resembling the final design. They provide a comprehensive overview of the user interface and are often created by web designers for web developers.

5 tools to create a wireframe 🔨

Although pen and paper are adequate for creating low- and mid-fidelity wireframes, many free tools are available for making them digitally, too. Our experts recommend experimenting with a handful to see which suits your needs. 

Here are five of the best tools for drawing wireframes:

  • UXPin. This versatile, functional wireframing and prototyping tool builds responsive prototypes directly in your web browser. It’s excellent for sharing projects and implementing simple mock-ups, but the word on the web is that the platform runs slowly.
  • InVision. This tool focuses on collaboration and streamlines the design process with its easy-to-use interface. InVision’s main advantage is that it allows design teams to provide feedback on clickable site mock-ups, but unfortunately, it does not integrate with other software. 
  • This free tool is minimalist and browser-based — perfect for those seeking simplicity and speed. Although its ease of use is a significant advantage, it’s not the best choice for complex wireframes.
  • Adobe XD. This popular program is part of the Adobe Creative Cloud suite. It offers a robust set of wireframing features, and its integration with other Adobe products is a plus. It’s available via subscription-based pricing — a drawback for some users.
  • Sketch. A popular choice among designers, Sketch is a quick and easy way to plan, design, and wireframe. It integrates well with external apps and plug-ins (such as Figma) but is only available for Mac. 

How to create a wireframe 🧰

Creating a wireframe is an essential step in the design process. It helps designers and other team members — including the client — visualize the structure, layout, and functionality of a website, app, or product.

By developing a wireframe, designers can effectively communicate their ideas to stakeholders, ensuring everyone is on the same page before moving on to the intricate details. As noted above, a well-crafted wireframe also enables designers to identify potential issues before they become big problems.

To create a wireframe, follow these seven steps: 

  1. Do your research. Investigate your user personas to identify their pain points, analyze your competitors, and examine common UX trends to build a solid foundation for your design.
  2. Identify your user flow. Where is your user coming from, and where do you want them to go? Determine their journey from start to finish. 
  3. Determine your website’s features and structure. Outline the essential features, layout, and navigation elements of your website. This should be informed by the research you did in the previous steps. 
  4. Start sketching. Create a visual outline of your website’s layout using pen and paper or your favorite wireframing software.
  5. Add details. Add information to your wireframe, such as usability conventions, calls to action, and tooltips. This preps your wireframe for prototyping. 
  6. Choose your test platform. Select a suitable tool to test your wireframe, gathering user feedback for potential improvements. Popular testing tools include UsabilityHub and Prott. 
  7. Turn your wireframe into prototypes. Refine your wireframe based on testing insights from the previous step and develop a high-fidelity prototype. You can import it from your wireframing tool into a prototyping tool. 

Tips for building a good wireframe 🧱

When building a wireframe, it’s essential to consider some key tips. This advice will help you build wireframes that guide the design process efficiently: 

  • Align your wireframe with your client’s expectations to guarantee that the final product suits their needs and vision.
  • Aim for clarity and simplicity in your layout.
  • Don’t go overboard with information, copy, or links.  
  • Employ a user-friendly design that feels trustworthy and reliable to increase the likelihood that your website engages and retains visitors. 
  • Ensure buttons and calls to action are easily identifiable and maintain a consistent design throughout the website. 

Stunning wireframe examples ✨ 

Reviewing wireframe examples is a great way to gain valuable insight into the wireframing process and inspiration for your own portfolio. Below, we’ll highlight a couple of wireframe examples from talented Independents at Contra and beyond who have showcased their work. 

Nike app “SNKRS” community case study by Scott Bachmann 👟

In this Contra case study, Scott Bachmann showcases his skill in redesigning the Nike “SNKRS” app. He created wireframes to showcase an idea for the app that fosters engagement and focuses on the user with personalization options while accounting for community moderation. 

Wireframe for DMC (Test) by Ahmed Tawfik 🩺

Ahmed Tawfik demonstrates his design expertise by creating a visual representation of the Doctor Medical Community. His project illustrates the importance of layout and structure in crafting a user-friendly and engaging design.

Contra helps web designers find work 🙌 

Understanding the ins and outs of creating wireframes is vital when crafting captivating, user-friendly websites. As an Independent offering design services, this skill sets you apart from your competition, lets clients know you’re a cut above the rest, and helps you find work. Ready to take your freelance career to new heights? Join Contra, an all-in-one, commission-free platform that empowers Independents to showcase their experience and services. You can also check out our blog — the Contrarian — or connect with like-minded designers on our Slack channel for more tips and tricks. If you’re hiring a UX designer, browse our Discover feed to get started.

How to Create an Impressive UX Portfolio: 6 examples 📁

A professional UX portfolio is crucial for success as a user experience designer. Follow these tips to create a lucrative professional site.

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