How to create better wireframes

Wireframes are a necessary part of the web design process. Acting like blueprints for web and app projects, they help you discover early on what works and what doesn't, and allow you to set the content and focus without the distraction of a flashy design.

When done well, wireframes can clarify your thinking. But they can also derail a project if not done correctly. With that in mind, below you'll discover 10 straightforward ways to improve your wireframing skills, as well as how to use some of the best wireframe tools

Following these tips will help keep you focused on what's important: ensuring the functionality and usability of your product.

01. Start your wireframing with a sketch

While it may seem like a good idea to jump right into your favourite design tool, sketching out your wireframes – with a pencil and paper – can yield better results. The process shouldn't take too long, and it'll help give you a better idea of your overall plan.

02. Skip the colour

The purpose of a wireframe is to lay out content, page and view elements, and to describe the app's functionality. Adding in any elements of design, such as colour, detracts from its primary purpose. So leave the colour for the mockup, and keep it out of the wireframes.

03. Keep wireframes simple

Don't overcomplicate your wireframes. Keeping it simple will allow you to focus on the bigger picture and avoid distractions. Wireframes should clearly describe the usability and functionality of your app. You don't need to get into the nitty-gritty details or the final look of the design.

04. Use better sample data

Poorly selected sample data can kill a wireframe. While you don't need to spend a lot of time populating your wireframes with data, you should at least make sure the data you add is relevant.  

05. Annotate when needed

At their core, wireframes are blueprints; they are the designer's and developer's guide to building the app or website. If you want them to be easier to read and understand, add annotations when needed and where appropriate.

06. Use a grid system and lay out boxes

An interesting technique for making wireframes is to use a grid system and layout boxes. Using this approach, you can quickly group and lay out the different components in a simple and structured way.

07. Create reusable styles and symbols

Most software used for wireframing has the capability to create and reuse styles and symbols. Not only will this help to speed up the process, but it'll help keep your wireframes consistent.

08. Use the right tool for the job

Speaking of software, there are many tools available for making wireframes. Some of them are specifically designed for wireframing and some aren’t. Here are a few favourites:

  • Sketch is one of the best tools out there. Used in conjunction with other solutions, like InVision, Sketch offers designers the necessary tools you'll need in order to get the job done
  • Affinity Designer is a lightweight vector design tool that comes fully packed with everything you need to create great wireframes
  • Pencil Project is a free, open-source tool with built-in shapes and stencils for Android, iOS, Dojo, and more. You can also use it to wireframe websites and desktop apps

For a few more ideas, take a look at our pick for The 20 best wireframe tools.

09. Know your wireframe types

If you're unfamiliar with the term 'fidelity', it means the level of detail. In the world of wireframes, your options are low fidelity and high fidelity. Both are needed, but each has its own function and purpose.

A low fidelity wireframe is where it all starts. It's the basic no frills, quick to create, wireframe. Its primary purpose is to get you started. Whereas high fidelity wireframes provide a lot more detail, though aren’t full-colour mockups. Often these are grayscale or single colour wireframes, which provide a closer representation of the actual design.

10. Get feedback early and often

One of the benefits of using wireframes is that they take very little time to create. As such, they can be shared with the team earlier in the design process. This makes it easier to catch things early on and address them accordingly. That said, get feedback on your wires early and often.

Wireframes shouldn't slow you down. They are just one step in the process to creating better UX/UI designs for your users.