What is mobile app wireframing and why is it useful in development?

Mikhail Shchelkunov ◽ Apr 23, 2022

Every mobile app starts with a clear, well-thought-out structure, and wireframing is a key tool for making that possible.

A wireframe is the simplest possible bare-bones sketch of the layout and content of a future application. It’s an intermediate link between the original sketches, mockups, and the first interactive prototypes. It solidifies the vision of the future product, allows you to structure the User Interface (UI) hierarchy, and serves as a guide for the development team.

We’re going to describe in detail why wireframing is the most important step in creating a mobile application.

Why use wireframes?

A single screen can be developed in a number of different ways. But not all of them will result in a convenient experience for the user. Creating a high-quality, well-developed, framework before the visual design is developed and the code is written will save you a lot of time and effort in the long run that would otherwise be wasted on unnecessary and essentially useless improvements.

Wireframes are used by specialists at various stages of development. Each for their own purposes.

  • UX Designers - Essentially create the framework. They study the user experience and usability to better understand how the user navigates through the application.
  • Graphic Designers - Turn the framework into a finished design.
  • Engineers and Developers - Create the code and handle the servers based on the framework.
  • Product Managers - Interact with the wireframes during development to ensure that the framework meets the needs of stakeholders and the goals of the project when it comes to implementing the app.

The Benefits of Using Wireframing


  • Quick Feedback - The framework is put together, then sent to the team or to the client, subsequent suggestions and comments are processed, corrections are made, and then the final version is presented. It’s that simple.
  • Saves company resources - The development team will have a better understanding of what needs to be done and the number of revisions will be significantly reduced. Wireframing allows you to avoid unnecessary spending to solve problems that can be avoided in the early stages.
  • Visualizes the app’s architecture - The outline that results from a brainstorming session provides an opportunity to see how ideas will look in a digital form that can imitate the finished project. It comes in handy when throwing together a quick prototype.
  • Focuses on the user experience - Wireframes are devoid of logos, colors, text, and other elements that distract from the actual structure of the design. After all, complex and confusing navigation is one of the most commonly reported negative user experiences, which can lead to more users abandoning your product and hurting your app’s reputation in the long term.

The main elements of mobile app wireframing

The framework allows you to concentrate on the three key components of wireframing - navigation, information, and interface - without getting distracted with the design.

Information Design

Proper presentation of information in the app contributes to a more positive user experience. Let's say you create a messenger. Its users can be classified into two categories - new users and those who have been registered for a long time.

After opening the application, new users will want to learn more about the services it provides and then sign up, while old users will simply want to log in. The interests of both groups should be considered when developing the information design. Give both categories of users the right amount of information to achieve the desired result. For example, information on the app’s main page can be presented as buttons for reading about details, logging in or signing up.

Navigation Design

This determines the route that users will take while using the app. There may be many different ways to transition between pages, but without a clear path to follow, the user may not realize it. Drop-down boxes, scrollbars, and clickable links are all visual elements that can serve as a guide, allowing the application's interface to be mastered quickly.

Interface Design

Interface design combines informational and navigational design. It determines how sidebars, text blocks, buttons, headers, menus, and other elements will be laid out. It also influences how they will be built into the overall structure of the mobile app.

Types of Wireframes

The level of detail laid out in a wireframe can vary.

Low-Fidelity (Lo-Fi) Wireframes

This can be the most basic freehand sketch from your first brainstorm session with the team. It’s a starting point for the design. This kind of wireframe should have an accompanying presentation, because without it, only the author knows what it means. A sheet of paper and a pencil is all you need to get started with one of these wireframes. There are also printable templates and online services for low-precision templates.

Medium Precision (Mi-Fi) Wireframes

These provide a more accurate representation of the layout and are the most commonly used. While still free of typography, images, and other distractions, the features are given more pronounced differences and are distinguishable from each other. Specific elements become more detailed. Such wireframes can be created using online tools like Wireframe.cc and Sketch.

High-Fidelity (Hi-Fi) Wireframe

This is a much more detailed plan. Most often used for documentation. It may include images and text content. It provides explanations of what each individual element is for. These can be created in a graphic editor such as Adobe Illustrator, Figma, Sketch, or Wireframe.cc.

Each wireframe level is a continuation of the previous one, but depending on the complexity of the project, development can start with wireframes of both medium and high levels of detail.

The differences between wireframes, prototypes and mockups

The term "wireframe" is often confused with the concepts of "mockup" and "prototype", with the terms erroneously being used as synonyms. The truth is, each serves its own purpose.

A mockup is a design overlaid on an approved structure, i.e. a wireframe. It demonstrates basic functionality and visual content. It allows you to evaluate the app’s design so you can choose the best option.

A prototype is an interactive model of the application. It allows you to test the functionality, evaluate how the user interacts with the interface, and correct errors before development begins. Unlike mockups and wireframes, prototypes are clickable.

The typical app design process looks like this:

Sketch → Wireframe → Model/Prototype → Code.

How to Create a Wireframe

The process of creating a wireframe can be divided into 5 steps:

Step 1. User Flow Development

Mobile app creation starts with a user scenario. At this stage, a schematic for interaction between different screens must be made. A simple scenario ensures that the user can quickly achieve their goals when they launch the app. UX research will help make sure that all of the nuances of the user experience are accounted for in the development.

Step 2: Sketching the Basic Elements

Early low-fidelity wireframes can be created by hand with some paper and a pencil. Further iterations will require software tools. This approach makes it easier to make changes, implement more accurate projects, and coordinate collaboration, which is extremely important when working with remote teams.

Start with the basics - use a shape that looks like a smartphone screen. You are certain to find a suitable template among the various wireframing tools.

Element examples:

  • Rectangles or squares with an X or dark gray fill color - used to display images
  • Lines inside the text field or “lorem ipsum” filler text to visualize text blocks
  • Squares with a cross with or without rounding represent icons.

Images and text are not needed at this stage. Just add the basic shapes to indicate text boxes, headers, sidebars, etc. Various shades of gray can be used to convey differences between elements on the screen.

Step 3: Add buttons and links to navigate to other wireframes

Buttons should be generic shapes with labels such as “Search”, “Home”, etc. Use one font throughout the framework. If your wireframing platform of choice allows you to add links, tie the buttons to the wireframes they lead to.

Connecting screens in the correct sequence makes it possible to analyze the user experience, project a best use case, and reduce the likelihood of errors. For convenience, you can number the screens in ascending order.

Step 4. Responsive Content

Thanks to responsiveness, the same elements can be displayed correctly on smartphones with varying screen sizes. Therefore, it is worth preparing at least a few wireframes for the most common diagonal measurements.

Step 5. Design Testing

The final step involves checking the wireframes for inaccuracies and errors. Collecting and analyzing user feedback makes it possible to improve the product by adapting it to real requirements, thereby saving time and resources.

Repeat testing as often as needed to achieve maximum accuracy before you even start on the visual design.

Tools for Creating Mobile Application Wireframes

These tools make it significantly easier to design wireframes.

Figma

Allows you to create wireframes with varying levels of detail. It has become very popular due to its wide range of possibilities for graphic design, and for its convenient prototyping.

Features:

  • Code generation tools
  • Instant access
  • Seamless integration with plugins
Sketch

Provides you with everything you need to design your project. Allows you to collaborate on wireframes with other team members at the same time.

Features:

  • Exporting of plugins and presets
  • Editing of vector images
  • Grids and Guides
Wireframe.cc

A minimalist tool with intuitive controls and lots of wireframe templates for mobile apps.

Features:

  • You don't need to register to get started
  • Convenient drag and drop feature for objects
  • Project collaboration
  • Interactive elements
Adobe Xd

A program for designing interfaces with web layout and support for vector graphics. Includes the ability to create wireframes as part of a prototyping toolkit.

Features:

  • Collaboration
  • An extensive set of templates and features with a Creative Cloud subscription
  • A simple, uncluttered interface with a low entry threshold

In addition to the above online tools, graphic design programs can also be used for wireframing.

Adobe InDesign

Professional software with a set of ready-made templates and presets that can make your work significantly faster and easier. It allows you to create your own libraries that you can use for future projects.

InDesign supports importing animations and videos from your CC library. You can also give other users access to your projects.

Features:

  • A familiar interface - reminiscent of Illustrator and Photoshop
  • The ability to create interactive PDF-documents
  • Libraries for both paid and free templates and graphics.

Conclusion

The ultimate goal of wireframing is to determine the content schematic to create a solid foundation for the stages of app design and development that follow - layout, prototyping, coding.

Thoughtful, well-designed wireframes can greatly simplify interactive and visual design and provide the app with a proper vector for implementation. Wireframes save time and money by preventing the need to make changes at a later stage.


Share
More from the blog

Create Your App With Flipabit

With nothing but a visual interface, you can create an app in the shortest possible amount of time, leading to faster profits, and potentially, a faster sale of the app itself.

Start Now