Wireframe in Web Design: Complete Guide

Web Design
Wireframe in Web Design: Complete Guide
Article by Maria Martin
Last Updated: January 15, 2024

With different types of website designs, choosing the right one for you can be rather overwhelming.  

To know which is the right one for your business, you should opt for a website mockup a.k.a. wireframe. But what is a wireframe in web design, how to create wireframes and are they as beneficial as everyone says? 

Let’s find out!  

What Is a Wireframe in Web Design?

Wireframes are the "skeletons" of web design.  

They are used in a number of situations, but most often to:  

  • Plan the layout of a user interface  
  • Communicate the overall structure and layout of a design 
  • Establish relationships between different elements on a page 

Wireframes are typically created using simple shapes and lines and do not include any color or branding elements.  

Instead, they usually contain placeholder content, such as dummy text or images, to give an indication of what content will go in each area. They are also often annotated with notes on functionality or behavior.  

Wireframes in web design help map out the structure and flow of a user interface before any visual elements are created.  

They are intended for the early stages of development when an idea has not been finalized yet. This means potential problems can be identified and ironed out early on in the design process.  

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3 Types of Wireframes  

It’s easy to conclude that wireframes are best used when you want to get an idea of how something will work before investing time into creating it. 

To better define them, let’s take a look at the different types of wireframes: 

1. Low-fidelity Wireframes 

Low-fidelity wireframes are simple, black-and-white sketches used to convey the general layout of a website or app.  

They are typically created using pencil and paper or by using a simple drawing tool like Microsoft Paint. 

The focus is on functionality and hierarchy rather than aesthetics. This makes them ideal for early-stage planning when the overall purpose and flow of the site or app are still being determined. 

They are efficient for user testing since they provide user feedback and help identify any areas that may be confusing or unclear.  

While they may not be as visually appealing as high-fidelity wireframes, low-fidelity wireframes are quick and easy to create and are an essential part of the design process. 

2. Mid-fidelity Wireframes  

Mid-fidelity wireframes are a type of design mockup that falls between low- and high-fidelity. 

Low-fidelity wireframes are typically simple, black-and-white sketches that show the key elements of a design, without much attention to detail. High-fidelity wireframes, on the other hand, are fully fleshed-out designs that include colors, images, and typography. 

Mid-fidelity wireframes strike a balance between these two extremes, including more details than a low-fidelity website wireframe but not as much as a high-fidelity website wireframe.  

This makes them an ideal tool for testing early designs with users, as they provide just enough information to get feedback on the design’s overall layout and flow without getting bogged down in minor details.  

Ultimately, mid-fidelity wireframes can help designers make their designs more user-friendly and effective. 

3. High-fidelity Wireframes 

High-fidelity wireframes provide a detailed visualization of a website's layout, helping communicate the overall design concept to clients and web developers.  

Unlike low-fidelity wireframes, which are often little more than simple sketches, high-fidelity wireframes contain detailed information about your website's proposed design.  

This includes the placement of buttons and links, the size and font of the text, and even the colors that will be used.  

By creating high-fidelity wireframes, designers can be sure that their vision for the website is clearly conveyed and that potential problems are addressed before development begins. 

In other words, high-fidelity wireframes give you a much clearer picture of what your finished website will look like. 

Note that they can take longer to create and may be less flexible than low-fidelity wireframes when it comes to making changes.  

Overall, they're an invaluable tool for any web designer who wants to create a successful website. 

How to Create a Wireframe Design for a Website

Now that you know what a website wireframe is, let’s elaborate on the step-by-step process of creating a website wireframe design.  

  1. Set Your Business Goals 
  2. Decide on Your Websites Primary Function 
  3. Create Wireframes By Hand
  4. Create Final Website Mockup 

1. Set Your Business Goals 

Whether you are building B2B, eCommerce or a site whose primary goal is affiliate marketing, you need to decide what goal your site should achieve before embarking on the design process.   

Knowing the site’s objectives will make it easier to determine its primary function and, therefore, the features it should provide to enhance UX.  

In order to decide what the goal of your site is, determine your

  • Target audience
  • The goals of your business and
  • The actions you want the visitors who come to your site to take 

2. Decide on Your Website's Primary Function 

Your business objectives will facilitate understanding the primary function of your website, which will guide your framing process.  

For example, if you want to increase your blog views, place your blog posts near the top of your website's home page to make them easier to find. However, if you run an eCommerce website, instead of a blog section, focus on transaction decisions much earlier in the process.  

3. Create Wireframes By Hand

Drawing a wireframe by hand has many advantages - it allows you to take advantage of a burst of inspiration - all you need is paper and a pen or whiteboard if you want to share an idea with collaborators so that they can build on and complement it.

To draw a wireframe, follow these six simple steps:  

  1. Decide what type of device you are designing for;  
  2. Draw the navigation;  
  3. Center your design around your product or unique selling proposition (USP);  
  4. Add the place for large elements (images and text blocks);  
  5. Add calls to action (CTAs);  
  6. Add More Details to Your Wireframe. 

Once you have a hand-drawn wireframe and the basic page layout, enrich it with more details. Now it is time to move from the whiteboard to a digital platform - one of the tools for wireframing (look at the 10 best choices further in the text).   

Gradually add details to your wireframe - color scheme, font, images, logos and textual content, to get the feel of how will the final product look to your users and make necessary adjustments.  

4. Create Final Website Mockup 

Website mockup is like a final rehearsal for your website before publication. It is designed to bring wireframes to life and it allows a designer to test how various visual elements interact with one another.   

Consider whether the website layout corresponds to your business goals and serves its primary functions. Remove all unnecessary buttons and features to provide a satisfying user experience once the website is published.   

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10 Reasons Why Wireframes Are Important in Web Design 

Wireframes allow you to explore different page layout options and visualize how your website will look when it's converted into real life by using different browser sizes, screen resolutions, and other factors.  

Wireframes also help:  

1. Define the Structure of the Website

What are wireframes for websites but blueprints?  

As such, they are used to map out the layout of the site.  

This is important as it helps ensure the website is easy to navigate and all of the content is easy to find. 

2. Plan the Information Hierarchy

The information hierarchy is how information is organized and presented on a page. 

By creating a wireframe, designers can ensure that the most important information is given prominence on the page. 

3. Target the Functionality of the Website 

Wireframes are used to specify how users will interact with the site and what features will be available.  

They help ensure the website is user-friendly and that all the features are easy to use. 

4. Outline the Content of the Website 

Wireframes define what content will be included on each page and how it will be laid out.  

This way, you can confirm all of the content is relevant and presented in an easy-to-read format. 

5. Prepare the Aesthetics of the Website 

With wireframes, designers can set the colors, fonts, and images that will be used on each page.  

The goal is to ensure all elements work together harmoniously and that the overall look and feel of the site will be pleasing to users. 

6. Facilitate Communication Between Designers and Stakeholders

When designing a website or an app, it is important to get feedback from those who will be using it.  

Wireframes provide a common language that both designers and stakeholders can use to communicate their ideas. 

7. Identify Potential Usability Issues

Usability refers to how easy it is for users to navigate and use a website or app.  

By creating a wireframe, designers get an idea of how users will interact with the design and identify any potential areas of improvement before the app or website go live.  

8. Reduce Development Time and Cost

Wireframes help designers quickly identify and fix problems before development begins, saving a lot of time, labor, and money on developing a product that won’t work as expected.  

Additionally, by having all stakeholders involved in the design process from the beginning, there is less need for changes to be made during the development process, which also cuts the costs to the lowest.  

9. Increase Testing Efficiency

Since designers can create multiple versions of a wireframe with different variations of content or functionality, these different versions can be tested with users to see which one works best.  

This testing helps improve the overall quality of the final product. 

10. Support Designers’ Focused on User Needs

When creating a wireframe, designers must think about how users will interact with the design and what their needs are.  

This focus on users helps ensure the final product meets their needs and provides them with a positive experience. 

5 Wireframe Examples  

To get the entire picture of the front-end design, take a look at a few wireframe examples, from sketches to finished website mockups:  

1. Hand-drawn Website Wireframe Sketch 

Sketching wireframes will give you a rough idea of what your layout will look like once it’s finished. Some designers begin the design process by creating sketches on paper, while others start straight in the digital surrounding. Hand drawing provides certain benefits - you can do it anytime and anywhere when inspiration kicks in; all you need is a pencil and a piece of paper.  

2. Low-Fidelity Wireframe 

Once you've created a wireframe sketch of how you want your website to look, the next step is to create a low-fidelity website wireframe.  

Low-fidelity wireframes outline blueprints for web pages or app screens that help make ideas more understandable. These wireframes are typically black-and-white schemes that focus on the "big picture" of the page or the project rather than the specifics. They display UI elements as boxes and lines with no detailed annotations.  

3. Medium-Fidelity Wireframe 

Compared to low-fidelity wireframes, medium fidelity is an improved version. It contains more details, including precise spacing, headlines and buttons. They are displayed together in a wired flow to demonstrate how the web pages will interact with each other.   

Medium-fidelity wireframe has limited functionality, but its elements are clickable and show the application's interactions and navigation possibilities.   

4. High-Fidelity Wireframe 

In the advanced stages of the design process, a high-fidelity wireframe conveys the look and feel of the final product. High-fidelity or hi-fi wireframes include more details than wireframe templates and “lorem ipsum” text.  They contain the actual content, image dimensions and branding elements.  

A high-fidelity wireframe will give you an idea of how your website will look when it is finished and how it will represent your business.  

5. Website Mockups 

The last stage in the wireframing process is creating a website mockupa realistic portrayal of the website. Mockups take wireframes to the next level by incorporating design elements like color schemes, fonts, icons and navigation elements. Typically, designers create more than one mockup, providing the clients with various options to consider.  

10 Beginner-Friendly Wireframing Tools You Have to Try  

If you want to start wireframing, check out these slick tools:  

1. Adobe XD

Adobe XD is a vector-based tool for designing user interfaces, user flows, interactive wireframes, and more. It significantly eases the graphic design process and is known as the most popular web design tool.  

2. Balsamiq

Balsamiq is a rapid wireframing tool that allows you to create low-fidelity prototypes quickly and easily.  

It’s focused mostly on the content and structure of the website and thanks to its drag-and-drop editor, it is best suitable for wireframing beginners.  

3. MockFlow

MockFlow is a web-based wireframing for UI planning and sketching.  

Among others, it offers features such as version control and team collaboration which significantly improves the overall organization of the wireframe.  

4. Moqups

Moqups is another web-based wireframing tool with a super intuitive interface.  

The free plan includes some basic features, while the paid plan provides additional options such as team collaboration and export to PDF or PNG. 

5. InVision

With over a hundred done-for-you templates, InVision makes wireframing a breeze.  

Additionally, it enables seamless communication between all stakeholders — for free!  

6. Figma

A collaborative wireframing tool that connects all participants of the design process so that teams can produce better results faster.   

Figma introduces designers to the fundamentals of user experience and user interface design. It provides all the necessary features for web designs, applications, logos and more. It functions effectively on all operating systems (Windows, iOS, Linux and Chromebooks) and makes the design works available to everyone.  

7. Lucidchart

Wireframe tool that offers a visual workspace that combines diagramming, data visualization and collaboration to accelerate understanding and drive innovation.  

Its wireframing software helps designers and product managers visualize a final product's appearance and functionality. Lucidchart facilitates the feedback process for wireframing, making collaborating with stakeholders easier.   

It provides templates for web pages and apps, shaping their design to be suitable for every device type so that you can deliver a quality experience for all users.  

8. Miro

The online whiteboard for wireframing magic, Miro will map out your vision—and iterate quickly—with intuitive tools and an infinite canvas for exploration. It offers over 15 interactive UI components that will help you to create low-fidelity wireframes on the fly.  

With Miro, co-creation is seamless since it offers collaboration tools for every part of your process - meetings, brainstorming, planning, designing, iterating and teaching.  

9. Whimsical

Another wireframing tool ideal for beginners, Whimsical includes a rich library of configurable elements like buttons, inputs and checkboxes that will provide instant wireframe creation.  

Whimsical is expressive yet simple enough to keep the focus on what matters - your ideas. It provides smart customization options - add a label or change a state with a click. Quick lookup and keyboard shortcuts will make your wireframing faster than ever before.   

Design wireframes for any screen - desktop, iPhone, android, tablet or custom.  

10. Justinmind

Design and prototyping tool for web and mobile app creation. All-in-one UI and UX design platform facilitates designing UI assets, prototypes and simulations - without coding knowledge.  

Justinmind wireframing platform provides many features you’re going to love: free design templates, interactive UI components, plugins and third-party integrations, export to HTLM and images and export specification documents from your prototypes.  

Expert Insights on Wireframe in Web Design 

  1. Client's Needs, Objectives and Audience
  2. Client's Vision
  3. Simplicity
  4. User Flow
  5. Complexity of Content/Structure

We asked agency experts: "What determines how you'll approach wireframe design for your clients?"

1. Client's Needs, Objectives and Audience

Tony Paris, Senior Website Creator at AppWT:

"Wireframe design for clients should consider their needs, objectives, and audience. Low-fidelity designs are basic and show only visual details, while high-fidelity designs are pixel-perfect and interactive. At AppWT LLC, we use wireframe design incorporating text and boxes, logos, search fields, headers, navigation systems, content, share buttons, contact information, and footers. The design uses gray tones and X-marked boxes instead of distracting images, with only one generic font and varying sizes to differentiate text."

2. Client's Vision

Slam Sarymamedov, CEO & Founder at Ubunzo:

"At the heart of wireframe design lies the client's vision, serving as the compass for all creative and structural decisions. It's this vision that illuminates the target audience and the intended user experience, dictating the flow and functionality of the wireframe. Every aspect, from content hierarchy to interactive elements, is a reflection of what the client aims to achieve, ensuring the end product not only meets but exceeds their expectations. This vision-centric approach is the cornerstone of a design that's both impactful and purposeful."

3. Simplicity

Bethany Seymour, Owner and Lead Web Strategist at Seymour Digital Marketing:

"In wireframe design, simplicity is key. Our approach centers on clarity and accessibility, using a user-friendly wireframe tool that facilitates communication with clients. The primary goal is to outline content and design efficiently, ensuring a perfect fit for both the client and their target audience. By avoiding unnecessary complexity, we focus on marketing to our ideal client and prioritize mutual understanding. The wireframe serves as a strategic communication tool, depicting design sections and curated content. This streamlined process allows us to easily strategize, guaranteeing a website design that resonates with the client and effectively meets their audience's needs."

4. User Flow

Aditya Roy, Founder and Creative Director of XAXs Corps:

"The most important determining factor for approaching wire-framing is shortlisting and differentiating the key actions or goals, operational actions and user flow of the platform/application/website the client is trying to build or improve."

5. Complexity of Content/Structure

Grant Smith, Web Director at Stage Marketing:

"Three factors determine our approach to wireframe design. First, the complexity of the content or structure. If a client has a very specific vision, wireframing a detailed concept can save time and money. Second, if there are no real references, a wireframe of simple to medium detail will usually suffice. Finally, the budget also plays a role. A smaller budget might be best served with a high-level sketch. For larger budgets, a more detailed wireframe design would be a good use of time and money.”

What Is a Wireframe in Web Design: Takeaways  

Wireframes are an essential tool for web designers and web design agencies, allowing them to plan out the layout and functionality of a website before starting the design process.  

Simply put:  

  • Wireframing process is a prototyping technique in the web design process that helps create a blueprint for a website. 
  • Wireframe defines the layout, behavior, and functionality of a page. 
  • Wireframing helps in exploring different layout options before delving into finalizing the visual design. 

The best part is, they can be used as a tool by both newbies and experienced designers!  

Wireframe in Web Design FAQs

Is Wireframing UX or UI?

Wireframing is used in UX and UI design, which is equally important for both. Its purpose is to provide a visual understanding of a page in an early project stage to gain stakeholder and project team approval before the developers build an interface with code.  

Who is responsible for wireframing?

Wireframing is the responsibility of UX and UI designers. They draft it in the early stages of project design, gradually enriching it with more details, creating low, medium and high-fidelity wireframes that precede website mockups and final versions.

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