Wireframe for a website

A hastily drawn wire frame for a fictitious site.

I’ll always be the first to admit that a blank page scares me because there’s no structure on which to start hanging ideas. When designing web sites and web pages, that’s where wireframes are a lifesaver.

In order for content on a site—and on an individual page—to be relevant, easy to consume, and quick to find there needs to be agreement between the designer, the clients, and the site users. Wireframes provide the opportunity to have a dialog between these three entities, albeit usually the site user is in the form of a developed persona.

I’ve used wireframes from the beginning and have never considered creating a website without first sitting down with the client to discuss the needs of the site and how to navigate it.  But, I’ve only used wire frames for the site navigation. Having just read Shades of Gray: Wireframes as Thinking Device by semanticwill, I’ve realized that there’s so much more I can do with wireframes to make the design and implementation process of web site creation easier and more enjoyable. (It’s never fun trying to get somewhere when you have no map and a deadline.)

Wireframes are great for proposed data location on an individual page, which takes into account the relevance of the information and it’s hierarchical position in context with other information elements. Often there’s disagreement on the position of individual elements and wireframes offer a visual perspective that can help answer questions like, Is this where customers expect to see this kind of information? or What is the best place for this type of information?

Like creating thumbnails and roughs when working on a graphic design solution, wireframes allow the designer to try different ideas in order to determine the best information layout. And, clients appreciate seeing the proposed solution rather than listening to a description of it and trying to imagine what it will look like.

With an “updated” tool in my toolbox, I’ll be better able to meet the client’s needs and, just as important, enjoy the process.

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