Wireframing is about prototyping 

 April 1, 2013

By  Gavriel Shaw

In UX mag Sergio Nouvel claims wireframing is about prototyping.

Have you ever thought about why are you wireframing? Is it because everyone else out there does it? Or are you just keeping the client entertained while you design the final comp? What are you trying to validate or illustrate when you design wireframes?

All these questions lead to the same place: wireframing is about prototyping.

Sergio continues:

The underlying value of doing wireframes first instead of getting to the construction of the real thing right away is building a prototype, which allows you to test, correct mistakes, and validate the key design decisions with users in the cheapest way possible. Nobody wants to spend thousands of bucks on a product only to realize that their assumptions were wrong. You can fail cheaper. That’s why you prototype.

But then again, what are you trying to validate through testing in a prototype? Think of it as a scientific experiment: you must test one thing at a time to get clear results. The best way of achieving this is by isolating or giving prominence to what you want to test, and then moving on the next variable.

Core design decisions need to be validated first, so the next, more specific decisions have some solid ground to stand on. It’s beyond the scope of this article to thoroughly detail the entire incremental process of validation, but here´s an outline:

  1. Test the general idea and value proposition.
  2. Test the overall content structure and ease of navigation.
  3. Test the content/user interface and ease of completion of the core tasks.
  4. Test look and feel, attractiveness, and branding.

Looking from this perspective, hi-fidelity wireframes don’t make for efficient prototypes, because their complexity makes testing difficult, defeating the very purpose of prototyping.

I agree. Go for low-fidelity prototyping via wireframes and sketches until much later in the design process.

Gavriel Shaw

Gavriel has product and marketing expertise from a variety of roles, including CMO, Head of Growth, Head of Marketing, eCommerce Director, Web Marketing Director, Product Marketing Manager, and Senior Copywriter in various sectors, both B2C and B2B.

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