Business people often think about websites strictly in terms of what they look like and the information they present. While these aspects of web development are essential, user experience is even more critical because it has the most significant impact on whether website visitors convert into customers.
The first step toward developing an optimal visitor experience is crafting wireframes before building or updating a website. Taking time to create a wireframe allows you to focus on the user experience as a separate — yet connected — part of developing or updating a website.
A wireframe allows you to envision and test page layout and user flows to see how the website will function. You can identify issues before you invest any money into site development work.
This article explains the basics of wireframing and why you should leverage it the next time you work on your business website.
What Is a Website Wireframe?
A website wireframe is a series of diagrams used to map out the main features and navigational elements of a website. It documents site functionality before adding visual design features, like content and color schemes. After these elements are added, it can be more challenging to identify basic flaws in the site. The wireframe for a website is comparable to the blueprint of a house before design and decorative details are added. It makes it easier to understand how visitors will navigate without graphics, text, and other elements getting in the way.
A wireframe includes page elements and features such as menus and buttons so you can assess the overall visitor website experience. As a bonus, a site’s wireframe provides a practical map that allows developers and other team members to see where everything will go and how it will work as they build the site.
You may be tempted to skip wireframing to save time or money, but doing so can be a big mistake. You wouldn’t build a house without a detailed blueprint — the same is true for websites. A wireframe is a blueprint for a successful website. Working without a wireframe guiding you usually ends up taking up even more time. Moving forward this way also runs risk of identifying website flaws too late in the game — or the project failing altogether.
The bottom line: Always develop a wireframe at the beginning of the website development process. This allows you to find issues early and correct them at minimal cost.
What to Include in a Wireframe
Some wireframes build in more details than others. It's best to start simple, especially if you’re new to this process. Basic wireframes show the location of elements on different screen types, including smartphone, tablet, and laptop. You can then evolve simple wireframes into more detailed versions, which could show what the final elements will look like. These can be used as design guides for the site.
Some elements to include in your wireframe may include:
Buttons (share, CTAs, etc.)
Body content (this can be incomplete or dummy text for formatting purposes)
Whether you use simple or detailed wireframes depends on project needs, scope, and complexity. For instance, if your website is a basic landing page, a bare-bones wireframe could be adequate. If it’s ten or twenty or more pages long with complex functionality, a more detailed wireframe may be needed.
Why Develop a Website Wireframe?
There are several sound reasons to create a wireframe. The most important is that it enables you to identify issues and improve the site’s functionality, ease of use, and convenience. It can also help your design and development team collaborate better. You can also gather feedback from prospective users and stakeholders before the design and development process begins.
A website wireframe provides a picture of how users will interact with a digital property, revealing any issues with its design or functionality that could prevent them from taking desired actions, like becoming a customer, signing up for a newsletter, reading a blog post, making an appointment, or offering up contact information. Identifying any points of friction at the earliest stages of the design process is better — and cheaper — than discovering them after you’ve built the site.
A small investment in wireframing can pay off in a big way by helping you build an optimal site delivering an ideal user experience.
Learn how to develop a wireframe for your business website in this article.