Creative Lead, 7+ Years of Web Design and Development Experience
March 16th, 2016
At the beginning of your website redesign process, your ideas are typically just starting to bloom, so they may be a bit unpolished and rigid.
Despite this, many feel that this is enough to begin launching their website into the design phase so they can begin to bring some life to their thoughts. Unfortunately, this approach can quickly leave you second guessing you ideas and wasting time refining them.
Before you begin executing on the design of your website, you need to take a few steps back and take a look at the bigger picture by wireframing your ideas.
Wireframing can serve as an excellent foundation allowing you to establish the information hierarchy, architecture, and imagery of your website. It also helps save you time and money by defining basic functionality early and eliminating painful roadblocks in the long run.
Let’s look at what wireframes are in detail and then begin to reveal the value in utilizing them in your redesign.
What is Wireframing?
Unlike a website's layout design, a wireframe is a low-fidelity visual representation defining the basic architecture of your website.
It should be devoid of color, logos, fonts, and decorative elements that are later incorporated during the design process. At this point you should be focusing purely on the sites structure and how the elements will work together on the page.
Wireframes can be produced in a number of ways. Some prefer to use programs or software such as Balsamiq, Mockingbird, or Adobe Photoshop while others use the most affordable tools; pen and paper.
You should also be able to easily explain to someone what's going on in your wireframe, and they should be able to understand it. If you're having trouble communicating it or they have trouble seeing the full picture, that's usually an early warning sign that something isn't lining up.
This gives you time to revisit and rethink the idea early on rather than when you design is half finished.
Be careful not to get too carried away with polishing your wireframe with design elements and unnecessary ‘fluff’, your designers can take care of that once your wireframes are completed.
Now that we know what a true wireframe is, let's look at how it can be beneficial in your website redesign process.
1. Make Changes More Efficiently
When your website is being developed, it can be cumbersome to recognize major flaws with the design that require you to go back to the drawing board.
Skipping wireframes also causes a loss of time and money, fractured trust, and missed deadlines. Needless to say, it is not worth the headache a half-planned design might cause.
With hand-drawn wireframes, it's much easier to discard an idea and try a new approach. This makes you much more willing to try a variety of ideas before the right one comes to you. It also makes you more accepting of feedback and testing before you ‘OK’ anything.
2. Allows For Clarification of Features
Certain pages you need may require slightly more attention due to their functionality or features you want to integrate into them. Rather than guessing what features will work best during development or design, you can think about the functionality early on and recognize and remedy any issues.
It also allows you to think about smaller scale functionality such as search boxes, button placement, animations, etc. You may find out you don’t need certain elements at all or can drastically simplify them.
3. Displays the Architecture of Your Site
You may think you have your site mapped out exactly how it should be in your head, but it’s always good practice to write it all out for you and your team. This way, you can triple check that it’s laid out in a way that flows naturally for your users.
This also ensures that everyone is on the same page with the website’s visual architecture and avoids the possibility of confusion further in the redesign process.
4. Saves You Time & Money
This is one of the most critically important benefits that wireframing offers; saving you time on the overall project and preventing unnecessary spending on issues that could have been avoided.
Wireframing allows your designs to be more calculated, so you have an easier time producing concepts that you know offer a better UX.
Your development team will also better understand what they are building since the initial concept has been communicated to them. This helps you avoid spending time hacking together bandaids to errors you find later in development.
Together, all this helps you prevent spending money on extra hours you need to put in to refine the product so it's ready for deployment.
5. Makes Content Development More Effective
If you aren't taking a content-first approach and are instead using brainstormed content (or maybe none at all), wireframing can help make content development easier on your copywriters.
With wireframes, writers will be able to gauge how long their content should be for each page so it ends up being perfectly tailored to the site’s design.
This also allows you to organize your content to ensure maximum readability, optimal font size, and properly arranged lists and headers. For example, large paragraphs of content can be difficult for users to read, so breaking it up into smaller paragraphs with images may provide more attractive on the eyes.
6. Shows Your Information Hierarchy
Since your wireframes are all about organizing your site’s structure and information, it’s important that you figure out the hierarchy of the items on the page.
This lets you figure out what information is most important to your users, how they should read it, and what actions you want them to take on your pages and make your design reflect that. Organizing this also lets you know what’s unnecessary for your users.
7. Website Responsiveness
While it may seem a bit early, I see the wireframing stage as a excellent point to begin thinking about how your website will be laid out on other devices.
If you already have a website, check to see how your current users currently interact with it. It’ll give you direction so you know what issues your current site has that can be remedied in your redesign.
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