A Guide to Wireframe Tools (With Types and Uses)
By Indeed Editorial Team
Published 3 May 2022
The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.
A wireframe is a two-dimensional outline of the functional flow and structural elements of a website page, product or application (app). The frame provides a map for the structure, information layout, functionality and the intended responses of the elements. Wireframe tools are useful across most industries to aid the design of physical products or the structuring of data elements. In this article, we discuss what wireframe tools are, list the common tools that are in use to create wireframes and explain who uses them.
What are wireframe tools?
Wireframe tools allow designers to create a quick, accurate mock-up, or map, of the flow of a design. The designer creates a draft layout by inserting blocks as place-holders to show where images, headers and content may go. In wireframe form, it's easy to move the headers, images and content blocks around to change the structure and test different layout options before settling on the final design.
Commonly used wireframe tools
Wireframes are a common tool for taking a collection of scattered website elements and arranging them into logical, ordered steps. These are some of the commonly used tools:
Sketch is a graphics application with effective wireframe capabilities. The program can produce high-detail vector designs, which are graphics constructed from lines to allow scaling without loss of quality. Sketch features smart guides that enable the user to measure exact distances between the objects and the document edges, which helps with the precise layout of design elements within a wireframe.
Sketch allows the designer to switch between two design environments. The first is an infinite canvas where the user designs without the limitations of page borders. The second is an artboard that comes in pre-set sizes. Sketch offers templates that load new pages with recommended elements in place. For example, a website template suitable for a photographer may come with a menu and a slide gallery as the landing page, a product page set up for selling photographs and a contact page. A user can save any page as a template to save time on future projects.
2. Adobe XD
Adobe XD is suitable for beginners to use with an intuitive interface that can be easy to navigate. With Adobe XD, it is possible to go from a hand-drawn idea to a low-fidelity wireframe to a high-fidelity design in a short time. Adobe comes with built-in templates for common screen sizes to cater for different devices, such as phones, tablets or computers, which helps the mock-up process to be adaptable for different users. The zoom function works quickly, even on larger designs featuring hundreds of artboards.
Because XD is both a wireframe and a prototyping tool, static, or non-functioning, wireframes convert to functional interactive wireframes for users to test the flow through the design. Collaboration is a useful feature of Adobe XD that allows designers to work together on the same design in real-time. Sharing designs with clients, product managers, developers and other designers is possible from within the program through shareable links.
Figma is a free, online wireframe tool that can work well for bigger design teams because it allows multiple users to work on the same design simultaneously. Being an online-only tool makes it suitable for design teams with members who work remotely. The autosave feature in Figma helps to prevent any lost progress while keeping a log of all saved versions. Each saved version is available for restoration if necessary.
The other benefit of being available online only is that Figma establishes a single source of truth. This means there aren't likely to be multiple versions of the same design saved in different locations, which may lead to confusion regarding the most up-to-date version.
Besides basic wireframe functionality, UXPin offers the possibility of adding interactions to a wireframe by adding if/else logic which produces a mock-up that is closer to the final design. Another useful element of UXPin is the ability to create different states of a single element. For example, a website button in a neutral state that changes when a mouse pointer hovers over it and again when clicked.
UXPin auto-generates a style guide for each separate project making it simple for a design team to maintain cohesive styling throughout. Team libraries store all the components that make up a project, such as icons or brand logos. The library is accessible by the whole team and allows the reusing of elements which may help shorten design time.
5. InVision Form
InVision Form is a free wireframe kit, suited to creating big design projects in a short time. It comes with a sizeable design library of ready-to-use layouts, items and symbols, which can help shorten the design time. A grid layout aid the designer to make the best use of the space for each layout. Templates available in Form include things such as portfolios, feature pages, pricing tables, headers and footers, testimonials, frequently asked questions (FAQ), team pages and blog post templates.
Mockplus offers Storyboard to view, rearrange and navigate project screens with the ability to add lines and descriptions to each screen to show the workflow flow clearly. Mockplus provides four modes for comparing pages and design versions, Split, Fade, Slide and Difference. Using these comparison modes, it's possible to find design differences quickly and choose the preferred option.
Mockplus features include a cloud app for mobile phone use, which allows the user to share online projects and prototypes directly on mobile. 'Comment' and 'review' modes allow the addition of document or link references to the design. Team members can click on the links and view the additional information from within the wireframe. The commenting and feedback feature offers a customisable way to differentiate between team members' comments, with the choice of colour, number or personal avatar.
Related: How to Become a Web Developer
Three types of wireframes
The level of detail involved in each type of wireframe is the key differentiator between the three different types. Designs usually start with the simplest form, also known as low fidelity, and become more detailed, medium- and high-fidelity, as the best design for the purpose becomes clearer. Here's more information about these types:
Low fidelity wireframes
A low fidelity wireframe is the simplest version of a wireframe that shows the basic plan of a website or application. This level is simple enough to sketch by hand using pen and paper or create by using a digital tool, such as Sketch. Low fidelity designs usually consist of lines and use a single, basic font style. A low fidelity wireframe has no scale, meaning no area of design is necessarily sized correctly at this stage. Low fidelity wireframes are best to use for:
Brainstorming: This tool can help you capture quick ideas, such as in the middle of a meeting or the workshop.
Sharing options: It's helpful for sharing several potential concept possibilities.
Communicating general ideas: You can use it to display general flows more than specifics.
Getting honest feedback: You can share this with others to get feedback early in the design process.
Medium fidelity wireframes
Medium fidelity wireframes can be a continuation or an improvement built on the low fidelity version. The layout is more accurate, including the size of place-holder images, buttons and text boxes. Interactions between pages are more defined and elaborate than the low-fidelity version. Use medium fidelity wireframes when:
all stakeholders agree on the purpose of each screen
the layout and content are open to discussion and input
the aim is to get the approval of a concept without the clutter of fine details
High fidelity wireframes
High fidelity wireframes are the last step in planning before full-scale designing begins. High fidelity wireframes are close representations of the final product including actual written content. The typefaces, colours and branding elements are in place and laid out in the right size and shape.
High fidelity wireframes usually include low-resolution versions of actual images, correct font styles and colours to give the user an accurate feel of what the end product is likely to look like. High fidelity wireframes are useful:
toward the end of the UX process
once experimentation is complete and the design concepts are in place
Who uses wireframes?
Wireframes are useful across many disciplines and industry sectors to take design teams from a collection of ideas to a complete, functioning plan. Those on the development side use wireframes to gain an understanding of the functionality of the site, while designers use wireframes for the user interface process. Some professionals who regularly make use of wireframes include:
user experience designers
Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organisations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.
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