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April 23, 2015

The hidden art of wireframing

Posted by Thomas Halter

Wireframe_DEF_BLOG_2

Do you like your house? Is it comfortable? Does it look nice? Do you think it will collapse? Wait… what? Why would you worry about your house collapsing?

If an architect built it, you shouldn’t. He (hopefully) calculated the weight of the roof, the width of the windows and the way your doors should swing without knocking over your precious designer lamps. However, if you didn’t resort to the services of an architect (or you did but he was ‘ne schieven architect’*), your windows won’t open, your walls will peel off and light bulbs will keep exploding around the house. This is also true for your website. If you skipped the architect, your visits will start to dwindle, buttons will stop functioning and crawlers will index the wrong pages.

Let’s face it: wireframes are bland. They are black. And grey. And they leave everything to the imagination. They’re not sexy, they don’t sell, they don’t even feel like a real website. But you can’t start development without them, unless you’re prepared for some nasty surprises along the way. And here’s why.

Wireframes are the blueprint of success. Because the information architects who make them read your analytics. They know about UX and they know how people navigate content. They feed the functional analysts who compose the pixie dust that makes developers link one page to another, fill up an online shopping basket and make a profile picture appear in the correct size.

They feed the designers who make your site so pretty you wish you could take it to bed and make long sweet love to it. And they give the project managers a point of reference for their macroplanning, retroplanning, scrum planning, agile planning and budget planning. Only the copywriters moan, because the buttons have to say exactly what they are going to do.

In the end, it’s all worth it. The time, the investment, the hours spent bent over an A3 filed with squares. Double-checking the sitemap, peering at each button, scrutinizing the tiniest detail of your dropdown menus. Until it’s right. Until all of it fits to perfection and you can go to bed knowing your digital construction will hold. And your roof won’t collapse over your head while you’re asleep.

* Ne schieven architect is an idiom famous in Brussels, translated roughly as ‘a twisted architect’.

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