Wireframe of a website, with different devices representing the different screen sizes

How to Create Wireframes: An Expert’s Guide

by Mads Soegaard | | 89 min read
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Wireframing is a fundamental step in UX design. Imagine building a house without a blueprint. Tough, right? Wireframes are similar. They're the blueprint for digital projects. These sketches provide a visual guide to the layout of a website or app. It shows where elements will go before detailed design work starts.

Following user research, wireframing is one of the earliest stages in UX design. They save time, reduce errors, and ensure a clear vision. When designers, developers, and stakeholders see a wireframe, they get a clear project view. It helps in syncing everyone's expectations.

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If you’re curious about creating efficient digital solutions, then this content is for you. We’ll talk about the nuances behind creating wireframes and how they serve as the roadmap to a user-friendly digital experience.

The Basics of Wireframing

Wireframing is a visual representation of the workflow of a website or mobile application. This preliminary design step illustrates the page's structure, layout, and functionality. It helps in planning the user experience without distractions from color, graphics, or content.

The Elements of a Wireframe

Elements of a Wireframe

© Interaction Design Foundation, CC BY-SA 4.0

  1. The logo signifies brand identity. It usually sits at the top corner of a page and anchors the brand's presence.

  2. Navigation helps users explore different parts of the site or app. Commonly seen as a menu bar or sidebar, it directs users to primary sections or features.

  3. Search fields allow users to find specific content or features. It's especially useful for content-heavy sites.

  4. Text blocks on a wireframe represent the content placement. It can be headlines, paragraphs, or bullet points.

  5. Buttons prompt users to take actions like "Submit," "Read More," or "Buy Now."

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  1. Image placeholders show where you will place your visuals. They help in understanding the content-to-visual balance on a page.

  2. Videos mark the areas on the wireframe where multimedia content, such as videos or animations, will appear.

Different Types of Wireframes

1. Low-fidelity Wireframes

Low-fidelity wireframes are the first you create. They provide the basic visuals of the design, but lack scale, grid, or pixel accuracy. The main aim is to strip away distractions. You’ll find simple images, block shapes, and placeholder text in this wireframe. An example is sketching an app layout on paper. This approach is beneficial for initial tests.

These wireframes ease discussions, help in setting navigation, and outline user paths. Picture a room with stakeholders or clients. A designer sketches ideas with a pen during a meeting. When many product ideas float around, low-fidelity wireframes help zero in on one.

2. Mid-fidelity Wireframes

Among the three, mid-fidelity wireframes are the most prevalent. They offer a clearer layout view, though they still omit visuals like images or specific typography. But, components have more precision, and features stand out.

Designers might use varied text weights. It helps distinguish between titles and body text. They don't use colors, but different shades of gray can indicate elemental importance. While suitable for early product stages, designers usually craft these using digital tools like Miro or Figma.

3. High-fidelity Wireframes

High-fidelity wireframes are detailed. They provide pixel-specific layout views. Unlike the low-fidelity version, which might use placeholder text (lorem ipsum) and symbols, these wireframes present actual images and relevant content.

Their intricate detail makes them apt for exploring and recording complex ideas. Think of detailed menu systems or dynamic maps. Designers reserve high-fidelity wireframes for the design cycle's advanced stages. They refine and finalize design concepts using these.

When to Use Wireframes?

Wireframes play a role throughout a project. They're essential for clarity, feedback, planning, and testing. But they serve a specific purpose. Here are the scenarios where creating wireframes can help. 

  1. Explore the initial idea: At the start of a project, wireframes help visualize rough ideas. They bring abstract concepts to life.

  2. Collect meaningful feedback: Before you get into the details of a design, wireframes help you gather initial feedback. Stakeholders, members of the design team, and potential users can provide valuable insights before you move on to the next step.

  3. Plan functionality: Wireframes map out where you will place functional elements like buttons or interactive features. It helps you understand how to create an interaction design for usability.

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  1. Structure content: Wireframes help plan where content will appear. For instance, positioning text, images, or multimedia is easier.

  2. Customer journey mapping: Wireframes are tools to plot user journeys. They enable designers to envision how users will navigate a site or app.

  3. Usability testing: Before final designs, wireframes can undergo usability tests. It helps identify and rectify usability issues early.

Choosing the Right Wireframing Tools

Benefits of Digital Wireframing

  1. Precision: Digital tools offer accurate measurements. This ensures elements align and match the intended design.

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  1. Efficiency: Speed up the wireframing process. Features like copy, paste, and templates save time.

  2. Collaboration: Many digital tools have built-in collaboration features. Teams can review, comment, and iterate together in real time.

  3. Version control: Digital wireframing can help you track changes. Most tools offer version history and allow designers to revert or compare versions.

  4. Easy sharing: You can share digital wireframes with a link. It eases the process of gathering feedback.

  5. Interactivity: Some tools enable clickable wireframes. This simulates user interactions by offering a dynamic preview.

  6. Scalability: Adjusting wireframe sizes for various devices is straightforward. It ensures designs are responsive.

  7. Integration: Many tools integrate with other design software. This streamlines the transition from wireframing to high-fidelity designs.

  8. Asset management: It’s easy to organize and store assets. Icons, components, and UI elements remain at your fingertips.

  9. Professional presentation: Digital wireframes look polished. Presenting them to stakeholders or clients gives a professional impression.

Wireframing tools and software

Wireframing tools help you map out the user experience, layout, and overall flow. It streamlines the design process and ensures everyone is on the same page. In this section, we'll talk about some of the top wireframing tools that are leading the industry. (Prices correct at the time of writing.)

1. Figma

Design interface showing figma wireframe in action

© Figma, Fair Use

Figma is a top-tier, cloud-based design tool. It's a favorite among solo designers and teams alike. Even free users benefit from its comprehensive feature set. 

FigJam, an online whiteboard, integrates with Figma, and you can use it for brainstorming and user flow mapping. This way, you can transition to wireframing and prototyping within the same platform. There is no need for external design apps.

The platform excels at team collaboration with real-time edits and in-file discussions. Developers can extract CSS for smooth transitions to production.

Best Features

  • Generous free plan

  • Online whiteboard companion (FigJam)

  • Seamless team collaboration

  • Vector-based pen tool

  • Integrated team conversations

Pricing

Free (3 projects). Professional plan at $12/user/month (annual billing).

2. Mockflow

The user interface of Mockflow

© MockFlow, Fair Use

MockFlow is an online wireframe tool with real-time collaboration. Its clean, intuitive interface makes wireframing simple with many UI packages. The platform has design controls placed on the left, which maximizes the space for the design. Beginners find it easy to use due to the precise placement of its diverse elements.  

The platform offers unique features, like organizational functionality. It allows you to create separate spaces for each project. You can also export in various formats, including Word and PowerPoint. 

With native Slack and Microsoft Teams integrations, team communication stays streamlined with Mockflow. Bonus features like AI image and text generators enhance its capabilities. 

Best Features

  • Intuitive interface

  • Multiple project management

  • Diverse design elements

  • Slack and Microsoft Teams integration

  • AI image and text generators

Pricing

Free (1 UI project). Wireframing plan at $14/user/month. Product Design plan at $19/user/month.

3. Lucidchart

The user interface of the lucid chart that depicts its features and how the tool is used

© Lucidchart, Fair Use

Lucidchart is a diagramming tool accessible via web browsers. It empowers users to draw, do revisions, and distribute charts and diagrams collaboratively. This platform is ideal for enhancing organizational structures, systems, and various workflows. With a user-friendly interface, it's a top choice for those seeking visual collaboration tools.

The platform’s strength lies in promoting teamwork through real-time collaboration, in-app chats, and extensive integration capabilities. Lucidchart syncs with popular tools, including Microsoft Office and Google apps, and connects with its virtual whiteboarding product, Lucidspark. 

Best Features

  • Vast wireframe template library

  • Drag-and-drop functionality

  • Real-time collaboration

  • In-app chat

  • Automatic sync and save

  • Integration with Microsoft, Google, Atlassian, and more

Pricing

Freemium version. Paid plans start at $7.95/month.

4. Miro

A visual depiction of the user interface of Miro for wireframing

© Miro, Fair Use

Miro is a dynamic AI-powered virtual whiteboard platform. It fosters real-time team collaboration with features like sticky notes, wireframe libraries, and mind-mapping tools. 

With diverse integrations and templates, Miro provides a holistic solution for brainstorming and design. The free version is generous, and additional perks come with the team plan.

Best Features

  • Collaborate in real-time on whiteboard

  • Extensive wireframe library

  • Versatile mind-mapping tools

  • Diverse built-in templates

  • Seamless integration options (Slack, Dropbox, etc.)

  • Realistic sticky notes for brainstorming

Pricing

Free for up to 3 boards; Team plan at $8/member/month for added features.

More notable mentions: Adobe XD, Balsamiq and Adobe Illustrator.

How to Create Wireframes: A Step-by-Step Guide

The steps to create wireframes

© Interaction Design Foundation, CC BY-SA 4.0

Understanding how to create effective wireframes is crucial for a seamless user experience (UX) design process. Wireframes serve as the foundation of your design, as they allow you to visualize the layout and features of your website or application. 

With the right process, you can ensure precision, save time, and avoid costly changes in the later stages. So, let's look at the essential steps to create impactful wireframes.

Step 1: Do Your UX Research

Before sketching, you need to have a good understanding of your audience and business. Start your UX research from the perspective of your target audience. 

  • What motivates them? 

  • What holds them back? 

  • Which products resonate with them? 

Utilizing tools like user personas or the jobs-to-be-done (JTBD) framework can be invaluable here.

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Simultaneously, familiarize yourself with the business side. Understand what you offer, the goals you have set, and what your desired outcomes are. The main point is to balance user needs with business objectives in your wireframe.

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Step 2: Define Requirements and Prioritize Features

After you complete your UX research, the next step is narrowing down what to build. At this stage, involve stakeholders or the product owner. They will help translate broad user needs into specific features. 

For example, if your e-commerce site aims to improve user engagement, it may require a 'Recommended Products' section. Stakeholders can provide insights on what features align with both user needs and business goals.

This step is crucial for deciding what elements will make it to the wireframe. Make a list of prioritized features to guide the design process. This ensures you focus on what’s most important for users and the business.

Step 3: Map the User Flow

User flow is the blueprint of a user's journey on your platform. Taking an e-commerce site as an example, a user's path might start from the homepage, leading to a product search, then product selection, payment, and finally, order confirmation. 

Recognizing these steps will highlight the necessary features and inform your design decisions.

Step 4: Sketch the Layout and Features

With the user research and project requirements in hand, sketch your wireframe. Select an appropriate canvas size and start positioning elements. Piece together a puzzle; you can shift components to achieve an intuitive, user-friendly design.

Here are some things to consider:

  • Information architecture: Focus on how you organize the content and prioritize information based on its significance.

  • Interactive elements: Highlight buttons, links, and other clickable items.

  • Static elements: Remember foundational parts like headers, footers, or menus.

  • Fidelity choice: Decide on the detail level. Early stages might use low-fidelity sketches, while detailed projects lean towards high-fidelity designs. In between, you find medium-fidelity designs.

Step 5: Review and Iterate

Now, share your wireframes. Gather input from stakeholders, including business professionals and developers. Consider guerrilla usability tests, which involve testing the wireframe with users to gather insights. 

When you collect feedback, frame your questions to include broad insights and specific details. If you have varied wireframe versions, let reviewers pick their favorites. 

Collaboration is key here. As a UX designer, your role is to champion the user's voice. While businesses have objectives and developers focus on feasibility, you advocate for a user-centered design

Step 6: Build on It

Upon reaching a mutual agreement on the wireframe design, progress to the next stages. Create detailed mockups and interactive prototypes and transform them into minimum viable products. This progression helps refine the user experience so that the final product is functional and user-centric.

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(Watch this video to learn about the minimum viable product and how to scope out the MVP)

What is Wireframing in UX?

Wireframing in UX refers to creating a skeletal layout for a digital product. It's the blueprint or foundation upon which you create the design. Think of it as the architectural plan for a website, app, or digital platform.

Wireframes for different screen sizes.

© Interaction Design Foundation, CC BY-SA 4.0

Different platforms have specific wireframe sizes. These are:

  • Smartphone screen: 1080 px x 1920 px

  • 8” Tablet screen: 800 px x 1280 px

  • 10” Tablet screen: 1200 px x 1920 px

  • Desktop screen: 768 px x 1366 px

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(Watch this video to learn about the differences between smartphones and tablets)

The Necessity of Wireframing

  1. Clarity: Wireframing interprets abstract ideas to convert them into a visual format.

  2. Feedback: Early-stage wireframes gather valuable feedback from stakeholders and users. 

  3. Cost-efficient: It's easier and cheaper to make changes to a wireframe than to a fully designed product.

  4. Focus on Functionality: Without distractions like color or graphics, the core user journey and functionality remain at the forefront.

Approaches to Wireframing

  1. Hand-drawn: Quick sketches on paper or a whiteboard. Ideal for brainstorming.

  2. Low fidelity: Basic visual design that focuses on structure and layout.

  3. High fidelity: Detailed, closer to the final design. They showcase interactions and more precise placements.

Wireframing Principles

  1. Simplicity: Keep it straightforward. Focus on structure and functionality.

  2. User-centered: Prioritize user needs and the intended user journeys.

  3. Clarity: Every element should have a clear purpose.

  4. Feedback loop: Constantly gather feedback and iterate.

  5. Consistency: Maintain a uniform structure and design language.

Wireframing for User Testing

Testing with wireframes is invaluable. Before getting deep into design or development, wireframes provide a tangible product for users to interact with. This early-stage testing identifies potential usability issues, layout problems, or unclear navigation paths. 

Using wireframes for testing ensures that the final product is both user-friendly and meets business objectives.

Wireframe Page Layout: Structuring Content

  1. Header: The topmost section, usually containing the logo, navigation links, or contact details.

  2. Main content area: The primary section where the core content resides. It's the focal point of the user's attention.

  3. Sidebars: Secondary content areas, often containing links, ads, or additional information.

  4. Footer: The bottom section displays copyright information, additional links, or contact details.

The key is to organize the content logically. The layout should guide the user smoothly through the information to create an intuitive and pleasant browsing experience.

UX and UI Wireframe Examples

Every wireframe begins as a basic drawing of your desired layout. Check out the examples below for ideas!

1. Website Wireframe Sketch

A hand-drawn website wireframe

© Dribbble, Fair Use

A basic homepage wireframe sketch. It outlines sections and highlights essential details. Simple and straightforward.

Strengths

  • Allows for quick ideation without tool constraints.

  • Encourages collaboration; anyone with a pen can contribute.

  • Sparks creativity and is less restrictive than digital tools.

Weaknesses

  • Not as precise or scalable as digital versions.

  • Difficult to share and edit in remote settings.

  • Lacks interactivity features present in digital tools.

2. Mobile Webpage Sketch

A hand-drawn website wireframe of a mobile website

© Miro, Fair Use

A hand-drawn app wireframe with detail. It gives context for each step and uses grids for structure.

Strengths

  • Emphasizes the mobile-first approach, focusing on essential features.

  • Quick to draft and foster iterative design.

Weaknesses

  • Limited detailing can lead to assumptions.

  • Does not capture specific UI nuances or interactions.

  • Not suitable for complex app structures with multiple layers.

3. eCommerce Mobile Wireframe Sketch

A hand-drawn wireframe of an eCommerce mobile website

© Miro, Fair Use

The digital sketch shows the main parts of a mobile eCommerce site. Products are at the top for easier user transactions.

Strengths

  • Allows designers to quickly visualize product listings, calls to action, and user journeys.

  • Encourages a focus on essential eCommerce elements like product images, pricing, and checkout flow.

  • Great for brainstorming promotional placements or special features.

Weaknesses

  • Doesn't capture the detailed intricacies of product variations or filters.

  • Limited in representing interactive elements like dropdowns or sliders.

  • Often lacks detailed space allocation for promotional content or ads.

As the design matures, transitioning to digital tools can bring more precision and clarity to the wireframes. After sketching out your desired web design layout, progressing to the upper level of digital wireframe refines your design approach.

4. Classic Blog Website Wireframe

Low fidelity website wireframe

© Lucidchart, Fair Use

A straightforward digital wireframe example that uses basic tags for description. Empty boxes in the wireframe with crossbars indicate image spots in the UI. This wireframe is ideal for blogs and basic eCommerce sites.

Strengths

  • Distinct placeholders indicate where images will be for simplified visualization.

  • A clear layout supports content-focused designs like blogs and product listings.

  • Minimalistic design helps prioritize content hierarchy.

Weaknesses

  • Lacks intricate design details.

  • Interactions and transitions between elements aren't showcased.

5. Service or Product-Based Website Wireframe

service or product-based website wireframe showing different web pages

© gravitatedesign, Fair Use

This well-designed example shows diverse page layouts. It includes products, reviews, services, and a blog section in a clear format.

Strengths

  • A comprehensive design displays varied page layouts.

  • Incorporates essential components such as customer reviews and blog posts.

  • Offers a holistic view of the site's structure and navigation.

Weaknesses

  • Absence of color and typography details.

  • Does not show potential animations or dynamic content placements.

6. E-commerce Low Fidelity Mobile Website Pages

A low-fidelity digital wireframe of a mobile website

© Patryk Moskot on Dribbble, Fair Use

A superb low-fidelity digital wireframe for mobile. It features filled buttons, headings, and text content.

Strengths

  • Designed specifically for mobile navigation.

  • Clear demarcation of buttons, headings, and text.

Weaknesses

  • Misses out on detailed UI elements like dropdown menus or swiping actions.

  • Doesn't represent potential challenges in mobile design, such as limited space.

Finally, we have high fidelity wireframe that bridges the gap between concept and reality. It infuses brand elements such as imagery, typography, and colors. This allows you to visualize your website's final look while ensuring alignment with your brand's identity. Here are three examples of high-fidelity wireframes. 

7. Business Website Wireframe Example

A high-fidelity wireframe of a business website

© Dribbble, Fair Use

A clear, organized business site wireframe. It includes a header logo, menu, windows, and top-placed call to action for best visibility.

Strengths

  • A simple, direct layout emphasizes key elements.

  • The header logo, menu, and top call to action ensure immediate user engagement.

  • A streamlined design facilitates easy navigation.

Weaknesses

  • May require additional design iterations to optimize for mobile devices (Android and IOS).

  • Details about responsive behavior or dynamic elements might be lacking.

8. Food Website Wireframe

A high-fidelity wireframe of a food website

© Zahidul Hossain on Dribbble, Fair Use

A lively wireframe featuring ample white space and round images. It has a distinct call to action and is user-friendly, and the circular designs add a vibrant touch.

Strengths

  • A refreshing design with plenty of white space offers an inviting user experience.

  • Round images add a playful and contemporary feel, enhancing approachability.

  • A clear and prominent call to action ensures user focus.

Weaknesses

  • Might need additional visual cues or indicators for secondary actions.

  • Specifics about image loading and optimization are not evident.

9. Branded Food Website High Fidelity Wireframe

A high-fidelity wireframe of a food website that includes colors and more details

© Zahidul Hossain on Dribbble, Fair Use

A complete wireframe showcasing text, buttons, colors, and images. It provides a preview of the site's final look before development.

Strengths

  • Fully detailed with copy, imagery, and design elements; ready for stakeholder review.

  • Embraces the brand's colors, imagery, and voice for an authentic feel.

  • Comprehensive representation provides a clear vision for developers.

Weaknesses

  • Might become too cluttered if not optimized for different screen sizes.

  • Potential challenges related to font rendering or image resolution may arise.

A detailed vision of high-fidelity wireframes reduces ambiguities during the development phase. It leads to a smoother project flow.

The Take Away

As we talked about wireframing in this content, it’s clear that wireframes play an integral role in UX design. You need a clear understanding of elements, types, and appropriate use cases to create better wireframes. You have wireframing tools like Figma, Mockflow, and Lucidchart to support your efforts. 

Use the step-by-step guide and wireframe examples as stepping stones toward creating the best wireframes of each type. 

Here are the two major takeaways:  

  • Wireframing is a crucial preliminary step in UX design. It helps in the visualization and planning of a product's structure.

  • The choice of wireframing and prototyping tools can greatly influence the ease and efficiency of the design process. Thus, it’s important to select the right one based on your goals.

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