Article in Product Design UX UI category.
How To Create Wireframes: Building a Strong App Structure
Wireframes are diagrams that present the outcome of every possible action, and whether that outcome will lead the user to their intended goal.
Here at Fueled, we eat, sleep, and breathe apps. App knowledge is app power, which is why we’re sharing our top tips and insights for bringing an app to life. By now you know how to validate your app and why creating your feature set is such a pivotal antecedent to the rest of the development process. Your app idea will now be at a stage where its skeleton is at the very precipice of becoming a breathing, living structure.
If the feature set is an exhibit of all the app’s crucial functionalities, a wireframe is a demonstration of the actions. The wireframing phase is a visual journey where change is constantly expected. It is a navigational guide that allows the client to observe the relationship between product and user, leaving an ample amount of room for improvement; anything is free to come and go as long as there’s noticeable progress.
What are Wireframes?
At their absolute core, wireframes are diagrams that present the outcome of every possible action, and whether that outcome will lead the user to their intended goal.
Although wireframes give a tangible shape to the whole product, they don’t necessarily guarantee what the final outcome will look like or how it’ll move. Instead, they anticipate how certain functions are supposed to interact while giving product managers the discernment to differentiate between the actions that are absolutely necessary and those that are considered overly ambitious.
In the long run, what wireframes actually create is an ongoing opportunity for the client and company to communicate. Clients rightfully require certain visuals to make key decisions about their product functionality. And since prototypes are intended to be minimal and flexible, they’re a key tool in helping clients determine which direction their product should go in order to satisfy the desired customer base.
Prioritizing Simplicity and User Base For Your Wireframes
Make Low-Fidelity Prototypes
Wireframes are comparable to a messy, initial sketch of an art piece; they’re most efficient when they’re at their bare minimum. They aren’t about the physical appeal. If anything, their main purpose is to organize an identity for the app before it undergoes a hefty design process; the decisions that establish a set aesthetic come much later.
Until you get to the more advanced stages of app development where other factors like branding and design come into the picture, there’s no need to worry about making the product look attractive.
Keep Your User Base in Mind
It’s crucial for you to identify your demographic of users and what they’re trying to accomplish by using your product. You must recognize what funnel or action will give your users the ability to get to their destination page faster, garnering the app to be an easy and enjoyable process.
“Who’s using the product, and why? How do they go about with their desktop, tablet, or mobile experience?”
Conduct a heavy amount of competitive research to correctly pinpoint the user base. What are some practical product examples that are blossoming in a specific product space? How will your creation be different from theirs, and what functionalities will you include to attract your desired audience?
How to Create Wireframes for a Successful MVP
No matter what, wireframes must cover the core user experience for the MVP of the product. Although they don’t need to include every microscopic detail with the edge case, page variation, and page action, they should still be able to map out the user journey of the MVP feature set in a way where clients can gain more understanding of where the project stands.
While wireframes act as a draft that won’t be shown to the public, the MVP in its entirety is still an essential presentation of what your app will look like, even at its bare minimum. It must illustrate to anyone—with or without tech knowledge—what the product might look like and how it’ll function during use. So by the time clients want to release their first MVP, we ensure that its wireframes are up to par with their delivery of all necessary information.
Successful wireframes have a fundamental understanding of how users will approach the app and how they’ll get to their initially desired achievement. If the feature set is a stationary blueprint of the app’s functionalities, the prototype is an evolution of its characteristics; it matures the feature set into a more real, tangible, and interactive body.
Wireframing a Home Page
Identifying the app’s core solution on the home page will allow you to build out the supplementary features that can boost the efficiency of the overall product. The point of a wireframe is for it to stand as a rapid prototype; it exists to guide clients through all the possible actions that can be incorporated.
But before we think about making a product draft that is serviceable for users, we have to first construct a homepage that will highlight the app’s main purpose. If clients were to envision a taxi app similar to Uber and Lyft, its home page would need to display a uniform set of features that fulfill the principal ride-sharing capabilities.
After instituting a homepage that shows different ride options and prices, clients would then be allowed to experiment with niche app features that can distinguish their product from competitors like Lyft or Uber.
Tinder: a Wireframe Example to Learn From
The wireframing process allows change to happen sooner than later so there will be fewer complications in future development stages. We sketch out the options to recognize what functionalities are user-friendly and to see whether there are better alternatives. The wireframes need to stand as a navigational structure of what the journey will look like, and we make sure that it does not stray off course.
In a scenario where we’re building sample content for any type of app, we rely on the user’s experience as a top priority that will determine which pages will hold certain features.
There are rare instances when we have to wireframe animations— but that can only occur in an app where the interaction is the experience, such as swiping versus a regular scroll.
When Tinder co-founders Sean Rad and Justin Mateen brainstormed the wildly popular Tinder app, their most successful approach was implementing the swiping mechanism into the dating experience. Unlike the traditional method of manually clicking and scrolling through match profiles, Tinder offered its users a quicker, more convenient swiping option that allowed them to have a more playful and lighthearted interaction.
If someone were to wireframe Tinder without its swipe mechanism mentioned in its wireframe, there would be no indication as to what the app can actually do. During the MVP process, the co-founders would have to keep in mind that the core map of the app is to open, swipe left, swipe right, and match. Those actions are necessary indicators of action that need to be placed in the wireframe; the rest of the process will be dysfunctional otherwise.
“ If we’re building an app where the interaction is the app, we have to spend our wireframing time with animations.”
Wireframing gives definition to the product and its experience with minimal effort. The faster you understand the app’s core functionalities, you faster you’ll be able to move onto development— but there’s no rush when you’re dedicated to perfecting your app.
Using Wireframes to Inform Our UI/UX Decisions
During the beginning phases where we’re helping clients identify the problem or user base, we conduct a rapid prototype of ideas and potential solutions. For each possible solution, we sketch out a quick wireframe flow.
Wireframing allows product managers and designers to present realistic efforts and suggest better directions clients can take with their app. It’s the perfect time to weed out unrealistic expectations or refine certain elements for the sake of functionality and development. It’s about showing a better alternative that will boost the product into desirable figures— and the wireframing process puts that perspective into the light.
Above All, Put Your User First
As exciting as it may feel to include fancy functionalities and designs that will differentiate your app from others, micromanaging every detail is extremely unwise. If the app can only be identified for its appearance and not as a usable, high-demand solution for a universal problem, it’s of very little value.
At the end of the day, users will always value a clean and simple UI over a cluttered and bloated experience. Every unique app idea deserves its own value prop— but there’s a reason why even competing apps follow a uniform structure. There’s also a valid reason why phone screens stay the same size and why the home button is always on the lower center of your screen. Patterns are supposed to come naturally; muscle memory is your greatest ally for maintaining a practical wireframing process.