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Wireframing is an important step in any screen design process. It primarily allows you to define the information hierarchy of your design, making it easier for you to plan the layout according lớn how you want your user to process the information. If you’ve yet to use wireframing, it’s time to lớn get your feet wet.

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Wireframing UI Kits From Envato

Before we get started though, if you’re happy with the principles of wireframing you might want khổng lồ grab some wireframing UI kits from Envato Elements to bởi vì the heavy lifting. You can download unlimited kits (no matter what your favorite thiết kế tool is) & other items for a single low monthly subscription.

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Choose from 100s of wireframing UI kits on Envato Elements

With that said, let’s get into this tutorial! 

Wireframing for Beginners

Here’s a complete video clip version of this beginner’s guide. Don’t forget lớn subscribe lớn our Envato Tuts+ YouTube channel for tutorials, không tính tiền courses, and more!


A Beginner’s Guide to Wireframing
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What Is a Wireframe?

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Think of a trang web wireframe lượt thích an architectural blueprint; you need khổng lồ see it in two-dimensional black & white diagrams before you understand how to lớn build the actual house. Similarly for a screen design, you can’t start building components in Figma or Sketch, or writing blocks of code, without knowing where the information is going khổng lồ go.

At a deeper level, a wireframe is also very useful in determining how the user interacts with the interface. For example, wireframes can contain various states of button or menu behaviors.

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Wireframing is important because it allows the designer lớn plan the layout & interaction of an interface without being distracted by colors, typeface choices or even copy. I like to explain to my clients that if a user cannot figure out where khổng lồ go on a black và white wireframe, it doesn’t matter what colors you eventually use. A button has to be obvious even if it’s not shiny or brightly colored.

Like the foundation of a building, it has to be fundamentally strong before you decide whether to lớn give it an expensive coat of paint.

Step 1: Getting Inspiration

Before getting into further details, since a picture can paint thousand words, take a look at I ♥ wirefames. You’ll be able lớn get a quick overview và visual understanding of how other designers are handling their wireframing process.

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Perhaps also grab this nifty browser bookmarklet, Wirify which enables you khổng lồ see a "wireframe-d" version of any live site.

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If you continually observe what other designers or sites are doing for their wireframes, you will slowly get a picture in your mind of how a wireframe helps to lớn organize information for the screen.

Step 2: Designing Your Process

Design is an organic process và thus different designers approach wireframing và its translation khổng lồ visuals or code in different ways. You have to lớn find the process that brings out your own strengths and you are most comfortable with. Below is a diagram showing several typical processes:

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37signals is well known for advocating the use of sketches và going straight to code, though it seems some of their designers do involve visual mockups in their process too.

For me, I have gone through enough design-to-code cycles to have a somewhat streamlined process. This is a step some people may not think about, but I also consider any html/css framework that I would use in the project.

For example, I used lớn build a ton of sites in Blueprint, thus I would phối both my wireframes và Blueprint to lớn the same 12-column grid. This speeds up prototyping và development time considerably, as instead of having to lớn write every element’s width into my css stylesheet, they are now pre-defined from one lớn twelve columns wide. I now use cssgrid instead for its responsive design support, but it is still set khổng lồ a 12-column grid which you can tải về as a photoshop template.

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As I’ve said, it’s up to lớn you khổng lồ decide which process you are comfortable with, sometimes you may have try it out several times before realizing which is the most effective process. Some people may be really good at sketching & they may prefer not to use a wireframing tool at all. Other designers may want lớn have as many steps as possible to minimize deviations or allow them to think through every single iteration as the design starts lớn take form and shape.

You’ll eventually develop your own preferred process but for the tutorial’s sake I’ll use my typical process as an example:

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The reason why I use usually Illustrator as my wireframing tool is mainly for three reasons:

Styles – you can save type và object styles và re-use them throughout, just like CSS.It’s easy to modify, move or scale multiple objects.It affords easy transition to other software later.

However, I do use other tools và it depends on the project scenario. I will briefly outline some popular tools, their strengths & their weaknesses in the next section.

Step 3: Pick Your Tools

Here are some popular tools in no particular order:

Balsamiq

Balsamiq became popular as wireframes produced with Balsamiq resemble sketches, making it immediately obvious that the wireframe is not a finished sản phẩm but a work in progress. Balsamiq also has a huge library of reusable components which you can drag & drop very easily khổng lồ design your wireframes.

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You can also use it on almost any platform, with desktop versions available for Mac, Windows và Linux, plus there is a web version if you prefer khổng lồ work in the cloud. Third tiệc ngọt apps like iMockups for the quả táo also support Balsamiq export formats.

Omnigraffle

An old Mac favorite, Omnigraffle also has a widely supported user-contributed library of reusable components; Graffletopia.

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Since it was developed specifically as a diagramming application, Omnigraffle also has complex features lượt thích automatic layout, custom object styles support, smart guides và graph tools. Some of these features are also available in the Adobe CS suite, but if you do not have the CS suite, Omnigraffle is good value (~$100) for producing detailed wireframes.

Axure

Almost like the grandfather of wireframing tools, Axure was one of the first professional-class wireframing/prototyping tools. Until recently, it was only available on Windows. I personally don’t have much experience with it, but it’s known to be a widely-used tool among industry professionals.

Mockplus

Mockplus is an all-in-one hàng hóa design platform for the modern age. It offers tools for prototyping (RP), collaboration (iDoc), và design systems (DS). Get started for free, then use whichever plans suits your needs (individual, team, or enterprise).

Figma

Figma has stormed the design tool landscape in recent years. Built with web and UI designers in mind, it’s very well suited to lớn wireframing–and being browser-based means it’s ideal for collaborating.

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From How to wireframe by Toni Gemayel

Figma is very intuitive to use where wireframing is concerned, but if you need a hand it even has a wireframe template to kick things off.

We have a lot of Figma tutorials & courses on Tuts+ so feel không tính phí to dive in & begin learning:

GoMockingBird 

GoMockingBird is an online wireframing tool,and like Figma it’s ripe for collaboration–just design, drag và drop components, và share the links with your colleagues or clients to lớn team up on the same wireframe.

InVision Freehand

InVision is a super-reliable kiến thiết collaboration tool, having been an industry favourite for years. InVision Freehand is a separate sản phẩm built by the same team & offers a digital interpretation of a whiteboard you can collaborate on. We’ve talked about the merits of using pen và paper for wireframing; this is actually very similar: sketch, doodle, annotate, edit, wipe, wireframe, iterate!

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Flairbuilder

Flairbuilder has very strong support for interactions.

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It also has a huge component library, supports master pages & you can export the prototype to lớn be viewed online.

Other Online Applications

If desktop software is not your cup of tea, there are tools lượt thích mockflow, and hotgloo which are worth looking at.

Keynote/Powerpoint

Keynotopia “transforms your favorite presentation application into the best rapid prototyping tool for creating mobile, web & desktop ứng dụng mockups”. For non-mac users, vị not fret, Keynotopia also offers powerpoint templates.

I personally highly recommend it if you need lớn wireframe or prototype smartphone applications quickly.

Adobe XD

For those already familiar with the Adobe suite, Illustrator and InDesign are very capable wireframing tools with their own individual strengths and weaknesses. But in recent years XD has come into its own as the UI design tool in Adobe’s suite. 

It’s capable of advanced interaction design, hi-fidelity prototyping, và simple wireframing too; define user flowcharts, navigational structure, & information architecture–all in one place.

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Wireframes & beyond, with Adobe XD

Adobe Illustrator

It might not be the strongest wireframing tool from Adobe these days, but Illustrator is one of my favorite tools to lớn use because I am already very familiar with it & I am sure many designers here would be familiar with it too. I use Illustrator when I am trying to do quick, but complex wireframes, with no need for interactivity.

What makes it a winner? The ability to export as a PSD with editable layers, strong copy & paste tư vấn to Photoshop, và strong typography controls with type styles you can save, edit và reuse, almost like CSS.

Adobe InDesign

Similar strengths lớn Illustrator with even stronger typographic styles controls, strong master pages support and the recent ability lớn make interactive prototypes.

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I pick InDesign when I have to lớn make interactive high fidelity multi-page prototypes. The only caveat for me is the weak export support to Photoshop for designing visuals.

ProtoShare

“Powerful Prototyping Made Easy.” Recently released version 9 with a new wysiwyg palette. Interactive website, app và mobile prototypes and wireframes worth checking out.

Step 4: Setting a Grid

There’s a lot of theory with regards khổng lồ grid systems, but without going too much into it, I shall explain it as "a structured & simple way to lớn layout elements".

I’m using Illustrator for this tutorial but the steps can be applied to any of your tools.

Firstly, set a document size. I used 1280 x 900 because I will be using cssgrid which will allow my website lớn scale between thiết bị di động resolutions lớn a maximum of 1140 pixels easily.

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Place the downloaded template from cssgrid into your document.

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Tip:

There are plenty of grid templates available for download, but if you’re interested in customizing your own take a look at responsify.it.

Step 5: Determine Layout With Boxes

Start by drawing boxes on the grid. Think about the order of information you would lượt thích to present to lớn your visitors, top to bottom is the easiest, followed by left khổng lồ right. Below is an example of a wireframe which has a layout commonly used by software companies these days:

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Sometimes, depending on your objective & the entity you are designing for, you can be creative with the layout, though still keeping the hierarchy of the information in mind. This is a real-world example of one of my clients where I was breaking out from conventional công nghệ company trang web layouts:

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Here’s a layout for a blog, with carefully positioned advertising containers & specific instructions for the client:

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Step 6: Define Information Hierarchy With Typography

After you are satisfied with how the boxes are laid out, start dropping in bits và pieces of your content to get a feel of whether the information is being well-structured. The rule of thumb is the same: the information you want lớn deliver lớn your audience has khổng lồ be clear, even in a black & white wireframe.

Simply using different font sizes as a start is a great way lớn differentiate between the different levels of information.

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Don’t be afraid to experiment at this stage. Sometimes, as you fill in more detail, you may realize the original layout is not working well. That’s the whole point of the wireframing process; to lớn make as many iterations as possible in order lớn narrow down the best way of representing the information you are trying to lớn communicate.

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Step 7: Fine-tuning With Grayscale

Using the full spectrum of grayscale can help you determine the visual strength of your elements without having to lớn pick a color palette. In fact, it may help you during the visual kiến thiết process later on.

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Step 8: Hi-definition Wireframe

This is an optional step, but if you like to take things in increments you may want khổng lồ try it out. Making a wireframe high definition means simply adding more details, as much as possible, without going too granular into the visual details. It may mean filling in the actual copy into the wireframe & trying to lớn determine the ideal font-sizes:

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It could also involve colors:

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The general idea is that at visual/code stage you want to be in polishing mode and no longer in drafting or experimenting mode. Perform the iteration cycles (feedback wireframing) as quickly as possible in a wireframing application you are comfortable using, rather than moving layers and pixels in photoshop.

That being said, in certain scenarios it may be more ideal lớn skip defining the details too much and go straight into an interactive prototyping stage (ala 37signals). The argument for this is that certain interaction details cannot be communicated fully on a flat image.

If you work with a team of developers, you may want to lớn hand off the approved wireframes khổng lồ the developers for coding the basic framework while you work on the visual.

Step 9: Translating a Wireframe into a Visual

Mentioned earlier, the reason why I tend khổng lồ prefer using Illustrator for wireframing is because I can export it into a .psd with most of the type layers editable. By the time I am in Photoshop I won’t need khổng lồ edit the type that much (Photoshop has inferior type control tools, though much improved in CS6):

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Here is an example of a wireframe translated into a visual. The backbone of the wireframe is pretty much intact, though there are tweaks made visually. You can also view this website live:

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Wireframing Inspiration và Resources

We have lots of wireframing & prototyping tutorials & roundups on Tuts+. Take a look!

Additional Resources

If you would like to find out even more about wireframing, you may want to check out these resources.

Go Forth và Wireframe

So here we end this tutorial. I hope it’s inspired you to lớn start experimenting! As with any kiến thiết process, vì chưng not be afraid to iterate, iterate và iterate.

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Also, bởi vì spend some time experimenting with different tools and processes. You’ll find the time investment worth it once you find an application that feels intuitive to you.

Please feel không tính phí to ask any questions in the comments, thanks for reading!

Also, if you need ready-made trang web components, we have a ton of beautifully designed website templates on Envato Elements. You can tải về unlimited templates & other items for a single low monthly subscription.