Wireframes are not enough

14 June, 2011

Wireframes are not enough

As at most web agencies here at Evoluted wireframing is an integral part of our design process. Every project first goes through a wireframing process to ensure that we build a robust, easy to use website that includes all the features and elements required. The final wireframes are used as a starting point by our designers and throughout the project life these are referenced by designers and developers alike.

I'm not going to talk about why wireframes are good because they are. Ian Brennan has covered the basics well in The Wireframe – All You Need To Know and Paul Boag covers it well in The 7 Wonders of Wireframes and Quick and Dirty Wireframes.

However we're increasingly finding that issues which should be identified during the wireframing process are not, instead we are catching them on the first or second revision of the site mock-ups.

This wastes time, resources and causes some furrowed brows from the designers who have to work out how to insert or remove elements within a carefully crafted design.

The problem we found was that clients just didn't understand the wireframes, they'd either transfix on the minute detail or didn't study the detail enough and signed the wireframes off without really understanding them.

A pattern soon became clear when we sat down and looked more closely at the wireframes we'd had issues with. The problem wireframes either hadn't been created in a client facing meeting or the client hadn't been taken through the wireframes in person or over the phone. It seems (understandably) that when clients are left on their own with a set of wireframes they shut down and approve what they don't understand (and are probably afraid to ask).

Since we identified this issue we've gone to great lengths to always take clients through wireframes, addressing any questions or concerns verbally. And the result? Fewer issues are creeping through the wireframing process and we have happier clients (and designers).

Wireframes aren't enough; they need to be used in conjunction with explanation and discussion of the issues. Don't just rely on email, do it over the phone or in person, you'll be better off for it.

Written by Ash

Having co-founded Evoluted in 2006, Ash’s passion for the digital world and obsession with client satisfaction has since helped the company grow into one of Yorkshire’s leading digital agencies. An advocate of ROI-focused delivery and a firm believer in the use of bespoke technology, he was nominated for ‘Business Person of the Year’ at the 2017 Sheffield Business Awards.

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16th October 2017 at 9:16am

This would be just one of the tasks of a decent UX designer. Not the commonly mistaken UX designer, that of a graphical designer with web experience, but a proper UX designer.

One who can profile the user and deliver to each an interface that intuitively responds to the users tasks. One that understand how the data priorities are met through UI elements. One that can reason why and how both to the client and the technical teams, so that both know exactly what is being delivered.

A client relationship where their requirement is fully understood and the solution is clearly explained, creates a road map for the project that will result in painless deliveries that meet all expectations.

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16th October 2017 at 9:16am

Very good short read that, we've experienced the very same and wholeheartedly agree with what you say.

Good article that man.

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Russell Bishop
16th October 2017 at 9:16am

Just another hat-tip to the importance of communication in what we do. The thinking and justification behind the work we produce should always be communicated to the client in order to properly receive considered feedback and/or sign-off.

Thanks Ash!

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16th October 2017 at 9:16am

We've had similar issues and have actually started producing different 'styles' of wireframes for different clients - some being typical techy wireframes and others more hand-drawn in feel. I'm finding that if the style of the wireframe is more closely aligned to the client, then they're much more willing (and able) to properly understand it and engage with the wireframing process. It's a practice that's working really well....

Agreed though, a bit of human contact goes a long way!

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