Wire frames are basically blueprints for how a web page or website will be organized. They outline what features and content will be included on each page and how navigation will be displayed and organized. For sites that include web tools and transactional pages, wire frames map out the specific functional requirements. Wire frames do not dictate design. In fact, they specifically omit design, to avoid the distraction of color, layout, and visual elements.
Wire frames communicate site requirements and scope to clients and stakeholders such as content creators, engineers, and developers. Over the course of a project, wire frames provide a consistent guide for project owners and players to reference when considering changes, user paths and new requirements.
Who Uses Wire Frames?
For smaller sites, the web designer will use wire frames as their “to do” list and scope document. Most designers love love love wire frames as they take all ambiguity out of the project and give them a clear path so they can focus on what they do best—the look and feel!
For larger sites and for organizations that include many decisions makers, facilitated discussions and wire frames help groups “hash out” key decisions up front—to avoid late-breaking changes, costly eleventh-hour ideas and opinions.
Why are Wire Frames Valuable?
Wire frames are a planning tool. Just as it’s best to launch a business with a business plan, it’s best to launch a web site with wire frames and site specs. Many business owners lob a website over to their designer or development firm with a few guidelines and page names. Wire frames, facilitated by a professional web strategist, force critical decisions to be made upfront and prevent your website from being designed in a vacuum by a designer or developer who may not know your business, users and customer as well as you.
But Wire Frames are an Additional Cost. Won’t the Design Firm Just Figure it All Out?
Facilitated wire frames are an investment up front to prevent over-spending during development. Your wire frames—acting as your site’s blueprint—prevent surprises during development. For example, when building a house, it costs much less to decide on a 3rd bathroom during the planning of the house than half-way through construction. To avoid unnecessary rework and to ensure you get the site you want, it’s best to plan. Although most business are eager to jump right into design (after all, that’s the fun part), most are thankful that they took the time to plan their site with an experienced web strategist up front.