When working on new client projects, we are often asked what is the wireframing stage of planning and development. Here is a post from Site9 founder and CTO Andrew Mottaz to explain a bit better why this stage is so important. His team developed ProtoShare, the wireframing and prototyping software we use when wireframing your website or application.
Why build wireframes and prototypes?
Wireframes and interactive prototypes are your guide to the end product.
When starting a project, the first task is to get everyone on the same page with respect to the project: what are we doing, why are we doing it, what are the goals?
Wireframes and prototypes are a way to jump-start this understanding.
Like Artonic, Site9 started as a development agency. Back in 1999 and 2000, we used to skipstraight to design comps from brainstorming. It was always easier to “wow” a customer with pretty pictures than to do the hard work of figuring out exactly how to best meet a customer’s needs. As we grew more experienced, we added discipline to our process. It started with big specification docs that we forced a customer to approve. Strangely, this didn’t prevent the problem of getting a huge number of last-minute changes after a site was developed.
What was the problem? Engagement. No matter how complete, a big book of dry specs can’t be adequately understood by the customer.
Just as Artonic also discovered, our solution was wireframing and prototyping. We define wireframing as creating very low fidelity conceptual sketches. It lays out the skeletal structure of a website, so you get a better idea of what will go where and how a user will navigate. Wireframing definitely helps make sure you’re on the same page as the creative team. It’s like agreeing on an outline.
But wireframes can still leave too many questions up in the air. At some point, we started increasing the fidelity of our wireframes to interactive prototypes, better simulating a website experience. What we find most valuable about high fidelity prototypes is the level of engagement received from customers like you. We don’t believe teams should prototype every minute detail and expect a prototype to replace a spec, but a highly functional prototype will get customer engagement. And a lot of the ‘last-minute’ questions and rework requests can be extracted by working with a customer engaged in a high fidelity prototype.
Andrew Mottaz is founder, CTO and president of Site9, Inc., developer of ProtoShare collaborative prototyping software for websites and mobile applications. Andrew is based in Portland, Oregon and writes and presents on prototyping, team collaboration, and Agile and Lean UX methodologies.