Wireframing is part of the Product Development Lifecycle which helps a development team present their vision to clients and decide on the final tech and design solutions. You need to design wireframes regardless of what business area and digital project scale you are working on.
Unlike creating a sketch and or app prototype (mockup), product wireframing is about discovering potential design and engineering solutions, as well as checking to see if clients and development agencies envision the future product in the same way.
For a typical design process, wireframing is the middle stage between sketching and prototyping, where sketching is about the general concept, wireframing is about defining your app components, and prototyping reflects style and interaction logic. Coding comes right after prototyping.
A mobile app wireframe guides the whole app designing process. You can also call a wireframe a schematic version of the future product, an app skeletal framework, as well as an app blueprint.
As usual, a wireframe is an illustration of your app interface represented in a 2-dimensional form. It shows the way people are supposed to use the product. If something was missed at the sketch stage, the wireframe helps to highlight it, thus improving the app and avoiding costly code rebuilds. More information here — How to Reduce App Development Costs Without Losing Quality.
If you wondering how to make a wireframe, keep in mind that an app blueprint usually consists of a limited number of structural elements.
A typical wireframe includes image and text place holders, projected buttons, screens, and other page elements, content prioritization, conversion and navigation areas on the app pages, and possible actions a user can take being on a certain page.
If the product prototype shows what the product will look like, a wireframe reflects the way it will work. That’s why it doesn’t include design elements, graphics and images, final colors and fonts, or actual logos.
There are several issues that can be resolved with a wireframe:
- Defining the User Journey within the product
- Finding out what features you need on each app page (navigation and content items)
- Visualizing the core elements of your product
- Providing clients and developers with a basic document about what they are working towards, giving them the chance to find app pitfalls and improve the product before the development stage
In other words, wireframes are aimed to show stakeholders, designers, marketers, and developers features and functions available within an MVP (learn more — How to Build an MVP). This will include transitions between different parts of the app, intended user actions, and content hierarchy principles.
Just like any other complex process, wireframing could be separated into stages. At LANARS, we communicate with clients during each of them, let our clients monitor our team activities and are open to suggestions. To explain to you how to wireframe an app avoids cost overruns during the development stages, follow our short guide:
explore user personas, think of a possible user journey and use cases
User research is the starting point of wireframing your app. Here, you need to define your target audience and create a marketing profile of it (age, gender, occupation, marital status, level of income, education, interests, needs, fears, and more). Later, the target user description will also help you to master your marketing campaign. Details — How to Monetize Your App Idea.
If you are still wondering how to create a wireframe and imagine the process as a drawing, then you are only partially correct. Wireframing is about research and engineering. Since your final aim is to create a product that will be in high demand, you need to know precisely what user issues you are going to resolve. Mapping out projected user flow helps with this.
Then, it’s time to conduct market research. Create a list of your competitors and products that could substitute your app and try to find their strengths and weaknesses compared to your product features. The results will help you to master your value proposition. Read another article for more information — How to Use Business Model Canvas. Prioritize your app features with respect to user needs and its competitive advantages for the final vision of what you are developing.
Output: structured and comprehensive user and market research documentation, a list of features, UX priorities, and potential user flow map
prepare schematic versions of the app interface and operating logic
It’s hard to talk about wireframing without confusing it with sketching and prototyping. In fact, a wireframe is a form of the app interface draft itself, however, you can also work with a draft of your wireframe to polish it before switching to development.
Building a wireframe means deciding on content priorities, interactive details, and ways users can use your product. Wireframe drafts are ideas of what your app may look like. One wireframe can have several drafts that you can use to discuss app features, format, Ux details and functionality with other team members.
Here is LANARS wireframe draft checklist:
- Underline content types that should be presented on each app screen, work out how many screens are needed
- Decide what content is more and less important (for each screen)
- Define the message and aim of the app pages (or screens)
- Look at the app parts from the users point of view (What do users expect to find in this app section or part of the screen?)
- Add buttons and other interactive zones, decide where users go after taking actions
You can use paper and pen, a whiteboard, or digital tools to create a draft. Sometimes, you may need all of them to present, discuss in a group, and improve your wireframe draft.
Output: app page variations to choose from
save budget and time working with a UI toolkit
All entrepreneurs want to spend as little as possible to achieve good results. In the case of wireframing a cost-effective approach is to use UX templates instead of custom-made ones. At the same time, an iOS app wireframe needs to be slightly different from an Android one. This is connected to the nature of these programming platforms, which means you will need to create 2 different wireframes from scratch, which is costly and time-consuming.
Essentially, all you need to know about UX templates for wireframing is that they are designed to simplify the work and make wireframes drafts interactive, making it easier to show to stakeholders and other team members.
A common UX kit for wireframing is a digital drag and drop constructor. Users set their future product parameters and the platform offers several templates for wireframing.
Examples of UX templates for wireframing and UI toolkits: Greyhound UX Flowcharts, Blokk Wireframe Kit, UX Workflow, Turbo iOS Wireframe Kit, and many others. You can also use InVision or Lucidchart, but be aware that they are not toolkits, but more complex instruments that require knowledge of design.
Output: clear app functionality visualization with certain schematic UI details
choose the right tools and wire the frame
At this stage, you will already know a lot about your future app, including what platform you need to use (iOS, Android, or both), app functionality, general rules about content prioritization, and other things. Speaking of platforms, we recommend that you analyze your target audience and see what platform is more popular among them. For detailed advice read our article Android vs iOS: Which Platform to Build Your App for First Is Better.
Keep in mind that an Android app wireframe is usually more complicated to develop compared to an iOS one, as this platform is less standardized and there are significantly more device types operating with Android than iOS.
The common elements of an app wireframe are as following:
- App screens
- Content modules (links, potential images, buttons)
- Space distribution
- Transition between screens
- User journey mapping
There is no generally accepted time required for preparing a wireframe for a particular application. The more complex your projected product, and the more it differs from what is usually offered on the market, the longer it will take to develop its wireframe. Usually, this task is performed by a UX designer. The full procedure may take from a few hours to several days.
Output: a completed wireframe ready to be shown to team members and stakeholders
create a digital prototype and let clients, stakeholders, investors, or focus groups check it out
A Wireframe for mobile apps typically looks like sets of text and boxes, while a prototype is something you can interact with. That is the reason why prototyping takes significantly longer than wireframing, which can be literary created with paper and pencil. For designing a prototype, one needs digital tools such as InVision, Figma, Axure RP, Adobe XD, and Marvel. At the same time, you might already have used them for wireframing. In this case, at the prototyping phase, all you need to do is make your wireframe interactive.
So that you never confuse wireframe drawing with prototyping, remember that the prototype necessarily contains working elements such as clickable buttons and links, real-time transitions between screens, and drop-down menus, whereas a wireframe does not.
Like a wireframe, a prototype is also about UX (not UI) design. Therefore, you are unlikely to see a prototype with the final design elements.
A prototype is needed to create a real feeling of using the future mobile application and to detect potential problems in its design or the logic of user interaction. First, the prototype is tested and polished by a team of designers, then the prototype is presented to the customer or a stakeholder. In rare cases (as a rule, when developing global products) a prototype is also evaluated by a focus group.
Output: a list of UX improvements required
collect clients’ (stakeholders’ or users’) opinions, update your wireframe and then the prototype
Depending on the complexity of your future proposal, the scale of the product, marketing plans, and the project budget, after the prototype presentation and collation of feedback, the design team can create new versions of wireframes for mobile apps, as well as prototypes. This loop will end when the team delivers a prototype that satisfies the product owner and potential audience.
The approved version of the mockup will be shared with the UI team of designers, illustrators, and developers. Based on this version of the UX product, the planning of marketing campaigns and PR will take place, as well as building the code of the mobile application.
Output: tech documentation for the development team and UI designers; details — Choosing a Tech Stack for Full-Cycle Web Application Development.
If you are wondering how to make a wireframe and you have no experience of creating this type of design documentation, we recommend that you start with simple wireframing forms like sketches on a board or paper.
As you already know, to create a wireframe, you can use either a graphical editor (for example, Adobe PS) or a regular whiteboard or notepad. You can also combine these expressive means. For example, present your wireframe option on a board in front of an audience and prepare an interactive document so that the participants in the discussion can make changes in real-time.
You can find many app wireframe examples on platform blogs with which you can create a cloud-based design document: InVision, Figma, Adobe XD, Visio, and others. The wireframes created in these specialized graphic editors may vary in detail and interactiveness.
Keep in mind that some platforms are designed to help you with a particular type of product. For example, MockFlow is more suitable for online shops, and Pidoco is a perfect tool for landing page prototyping. At the same time, most platforms are designed for both wireframing and prototyping.
If you plan to launch a new application, sooner or later you will have to ask yourself how to create a wireframe. The goal of wireframing is to think about the UX design, that is, define the user journey, determine the application’s functionality and content distribution, design transitions between screens and identify key interface elements.
Wireframing is an intermediate step between the usual sketch on paper that the designer has prepared for internal use and the draft interactive prototype that is usually passed to the UI designer and programmer as work documentation. Wireframing helps to avoid errors in UX before developing code, as well as to think more deeply about the competitive advantages of the product.