What does the future hold for wireframes? close

Nick Peasant
15th August 2013
What does the future hold for wireframes?

Wireframes are a crucial part in any project and they usually come straight after the initial briefing meeting with the client where we have produced sketches and brainstormed how best to respond to the brief. We use wireframes to communicate how we intend to approach the design structure and they allow us to discuss challenges or possible areas where we can build upon and improve.

After a series of conversations and deliverables we get client approval of the wireframes from the client and then a scope of work is created to explain exactly what we will be delivering.

This process is very similar across all kinds of projects we get but I am starting to feel like the process is becoming more and more challenging due to the shear amount of possibilities these days and how difficult it is explain how your design will work responsively on different screens or what happens on the app when you click a certain spot. Flat photoshop wireframes don’t really cut it so this led me on to thinking how the process could change or is already changing for others and how, as designers, we can start to bridge the gap more and start showing better interpretations of how we see the design working.

So what’s next?

New wireframing and prototyping tools seem to be popping up everywhere at the moment and so it must be something that everyone is thinking about across the industry.

These new tools aim to put your wireframe into an interactive state as quickly as possible. I applaud that and think we’ll adopt these type of tools sooner rather than later as part of our process.

However my concern with these types of wireframing tools, in their current state, is that they inhibit our creativity, restricting the creation of new, unfamiliar UI elements that don’t conform to the tool’s presets. When things are more difficult to do, we avoid doing them and they don’t seem to offer the same kind of freedom as a pen and pencil or a blank photoshop canvas.

Recently we have been using some prototyping tools for our app designs and they have been really invaluable. To be able to see your design on a tablet or mobile as you are wireframing in photoshop is great and it seems to fit in well to our workflow. The clients have responded well and appreciate seeing and feeling something in their hands.

The other option for wireframing your design is to code it . I’ve read a lot of articles recently about the whether or not designers should or shouldn't code as well. Some people feel that it is not the job of a designer and by them getting involved in the coding they are taking their eye off the creative and are less likely to come up with something unique and exciting. This is similar to my point earlier about creating something safe, as when things are out of your comfort range you avoid doing them.

The counter argument suggests that this is actually the only way forward. Clients will become more and more demanding in terms of what they are presented and if that means creating a demo of your idea in html then the the best person to do this is the designer as they are the ones most aware of the details and of each subtle nuance of the product.

I think the need for wireframes will always be there, but it is how we use them that will change.

There are so many aspects to digital design now that it’s nearly impossible to visualise or wireframe for every possibility. I think the need to create a wireframe concept that conveys the core concept is hugely valuable but then we need to invest more time and budget in refining this in the browser while working closely with the developer and responding to changes or problems as they happen.

I think we should use wireframes as exactly what they are, communication paperwork to help refine the brief and to build trust with the client as well as aid scope definition. Investing time in getting the wireframes pixel perfect and selling in design based off the back of them is becoming more of a waste of time as the finished article will bear little resemblance to the original wireframes.

As wireframing tools improve and become much more intuitive to use then I can see them having a bigger part to play. I think the key is to try and fit them into a designer’s natural workflow and not to over complicate things to the point where creativity gets sucked out.