Wireframing is truly essential to UX design. Think of it this way: without the foundational support of a wireframe, creating a piece of software would be like building a house without a blueprint. The developer would likely spend more time fixing mistakes and redesigning elements than actually developing.

The wireframe is much more than a safeguard against confusion amongst designers, however. It’s also a guide to the complete development process, start to finish.

What Wireframing Looks Like

In the early stages of user interface development, user experience (UX) designers create simple mockups of interfaces, assign priority and ordering of tasks, and create a general flow of the design process. This is wireframing, and it establishes the style and standards UX designers use, making it an essential step to the development process.

Early wireframes are simple and minimal. As designers add more detail, the wireframe can become more complex. This is called “low-fidelity” in the industry, and it is common practice to have scribbled lines in place of text and boxes without flair in place of design elements like images or buttons.

How UX Designers Wireframe

Nowadays, nearly everything can be imaged or constructed digitally. But UX designers typically go back to a golden oldie for wireframing -- the mighty pen and paper. The freedom of a blank page and the power of a permanent writing tool both hold sway today, even in the midst of a multitude of wireframing tools available online. The ease and simplicity of drawing by hand makes it a great first step to the wireframing process.

After sketching some basic layouts, it’s time to bring out the digital big guns -- software. Wireframing tools can be invaluable to a UX designer. They can drastically improve development speed and mitigate confusion from a lack of standardization.

Wireframing Tools for UX Designers

There are almost as many wireframing tools on the market as there are UX designers, so choosing the appropriate tool may feel overwhelming. The tool you choose, however, depends upon your specific needs. To help you decide, here is a short list of some of the most popular wireframing tools of 2016:

Penultimate

This wireframing tool is an “app for iPad that combines the natural experience of pen and paper with power of Evernote’s sync and search features” that is used by UX experts and designers alike. Primarily a sketch app, this tool allows one to ditch the pen and paper and go digital with quick wireframing and drawing.

UXPin

By providing myriad drag-and-drop options, this tool allows UX designers to wireframe in a flash. Another great feature that makes this tool so popular is the ability to take a basic wireframe and turn it into a high-fidelity mockup with a few clicks.

Axure

If simple tools aren’t your cup of tea, Axure is the wireframing tool for you. Widely used and considered the leading wireframing app, Axure provides robust offerings to complete the most complex tasks.

Sarah Baker

Brian Russel Davis

Brian is a Full Stack Dev/Engineering professional with nearly 17 years of experience developing web media for global brands, and executing outside of the box thinking.