I often use wireframe tools for my projects and am sometimes amazed at how much time stakeholders spend on the wireframing process. While it’s an important part of the design project, this time can be valuably spend elsewhere, including focus groups, getting feedback from the clients and mapping out user-scenarios. The following is a list of tips I find have helped me save time in my wireframing. These are rules that I try to stick to, certainly for the first iterations of my project, when I’m working with low-fi wireframes.
Don’t wireframe for every page
Imagine you had to create wireframes for Wikipedia. How many pages would you create wireframes for? There are four million articles in English alone. Of course, we know that fortunately these pages will look relatively similar and because this is user-generated content, there are some things the designer cannot control. In that case, I would create wireframes for the home page, the main English page, one or two example articles and then some of the other pages that feature on the navigation on the left. Let’s be honest, there are many pages, excluding articles that we have never been on Wikipedia and it’s one of the sites we visit most often. Should we spend time on these when we do wireframing?
Upload images and screenshots
Reworking an existing website? Take screenshots of your current website, overlay that with some UI elements in your wireframe tool, write comments and even crop or edit the screenshot within the wireframe tool itself. If your wireframe tool doesn’t have the UI elements you are looking for, there is always the possibility to use images instead.
We all have times when we dread looking in our inbox. There are times to use emails to communicate with clients and there are times when this should be avoided at all costs. I recommend investing in a tool where you can collaborate with your team in real time, or can at least send out a link to your prototypes so that your stakeholders can make comments and carry out discussions and this will be kept in one place.
Do you have UI elements that you need to use all the time? See if your wireframe tool will let you create templates by grouping UI elements together and saving these as one element that you can drag and drop onto your canvas. Another tool I like to work with offers layers that are reusable in my prototypes. This saves me a lot of time, particularly on navigations and footer elements, for example. If you have a tool where you can upload image templates, have a look for template libraries across the web. There you will be able to find Twitter Bootstrap templates, or iOS-specific UI elements to include into your wireframes for when you move on to a higher-fidelity look.
Test early on
No one wants to spend time working on a fantastic design, only to have to rework it, because the interactions don’t fit. Find a wireframe tool that allows you to easily add interactions. Then test your prototype with end users and other stakeholders. Often team members will come up with handy suggestions for how you can improve your design. It is much better to find this out at the beginning of your project.
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