What are Application Wireframes?

What wireframes are.

Wireframes represent the transition point between planning for your application, and actually building it. Essentially, the wireframes are like a grayscale blueprint of the functional and design components to be included in the application. They leverage the application requirements you’ve defined to create the skeleton or framework for the application.

Ryan Frederick, Partner & VP of Marketing & Sales at AWH.

Wireframes can be sketched by hand or created using computer software. Either way, wireframes should show:

  • • The location of all the functional, design and content elements to be included on every screen or page of the application, including toolbars, buttons, icons, text and video boxes.
  • • The hierarchy, scale and priority of each of the elements and their relationship to each other.
  • • The workflow of the application, or how a user can move through the application from beginning to end to accomplish tasks or activities.

What wireframes are not.

Wireframes are not design. They don’t show what the components of the application and user interface are actually going to look like.

And therein lies the challenge of wireframes within the context of a project.

The reality is that wireframes are exciting and anticlimactic at the same time. On one hand, your application starts to take shape on paper for the first time, and you will be excited to see this initial representation of your application. On the other hand, wireframes lack the wow-factor that only color, font, graphics and imagery can bring. Seeing the black and white abstracts and the placeholder text and images can be a bit of a letdown when you are anxious to see your application come to life.

Why wireframes matter.

Lackluster as they may appear, wireframes are arguably one of—if not the most—critical milestones in the application creation process. For one thing, the wireframes will validate your requirements by mapping them out. They show you whether or not the functionality and workflow you’re planning actually make sense.

Even more important, wireframes bring any functional or design gaps to light. Nine times out of 10, people will find one or more ‘holes’ in the wireframes. Identifying and correcting these misses during the wireframing step is much easier and much more cost-effective then making additions, moves and changes after the actual design and development work begin.

Closing thoughts.

Though they are far from glamorous, wireframes are a key step in the application creation process. By understanding what wireframes are and why they are important, you can give them the time and attention they deserve. And by making sure your wireframes are spot-on before production work on your application begins, you gain peace of mind that you are investing in the application you want to create. And you can save yourself a lot of time, money and headaches down the road.

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Ryan Frederick is a Founder and product person at heart. Ryan has had the privilege of being part of starting and growing several software and service companies. He has helped companies grow from inception to viability, through to sustainability. During the evolution of these companies, Ryan has served on company boards and been instrumental in capitalization activities. He has also helped companies to expand to international markets. Ryan combines a unique blend of business acumen and technical knowledge having originally been a developer who migrated to the business side. He now helps companies build great software products and solve data challenges for competitive advantage as a Principal at the product and data consulting firm, AWH. Ryan is an active angel investor, mentors and advises entrepreneurs and startups, as well as corporate innovation leaders. He launched a non-profit workforce development program to train under-employed adults on digital skills called i.c.stars. Ryan has authored a book on increasing the odds of success in creating products, being a Founder and starting companies by achieving FLOW that is to be released in the next few months. Ryan speaks frequently about the product, Founder, and startup journeys.