Wireframing is a process in design where the core components of the design interface are represented by wire-like shapes. Such a visual representation is also called a screen blueprint or a page schematic.
Let’s learn more about wireframes and the best tools to create UI wireframes for app and website designs.
What is a Wireframe?
As we saw, a wireframe is simply a visual representation of a UI design. It is a barebones version of a functional interface. Typically, it doesn’t involve using any design elements, other than wireframe shapes to show the various components of an interface. A wireframe can also be prototyped so testers and other project stakeholders can click through it to see how various interactions work. Such a wireframe is also called a click-through prototype.
Why is a Wireframe Important?
- Wireframes are essentially quick mockups that are created to see the raw functionality of an application or website.
- The fact that there are no rich design elements means there are fewer distractions when stakeholders want to look at pure function versus esthetics.
- This is invaluable when the interactions in a website or application are very complex and need to be validated for logic, redundancy, flaws, and other aspects.
Wireframes are also cost-effective because they allow changes to be made in the early stages of an application’s development cycle before thousands of dollars are spent on the development phase.
They also help determine the layout because the location and space required by a component can be estimated easily when looking at the skeletal structure of a site or application.
Due to these advantages, wireframes are still in use today, but there are also certain minimum criteria that a tool needs to meet in order to be a good wireframing tool. That’s our next consideration.
What Makes a Good Wireframing Utility?
The Right Components – Wireframe components are very different from typical UI design components because they’re normally used to determine the size and space needed. Make sure the platform you choose has adequate wireframe components for their UI design counterparts, such as share buttons, breadcrumbs, body content, footers, contact info, headers, subheaders, navigation systems, etc.
Easy to Use – The best wireframe tools will also make it easy to quickly create wireframes with drag and drop actions. The fewer the steps to add a component or page, the faster you’ll be able to create wireframes.
Ability to Prototype – A simple wireframe is useful, but a clickthrough prototype of the same set of pages and screens can offer a more interactive experience so stakeholders know exactly how the interactions work. The tool you use should have the ability to create a wireframe prototype that is clickable.
Now that we’ve learned the basics of wireframing and what’s required, let’s look at some of the best wireframe tools available in 2021.
Best Wireframe Tools in 2021
Whether you want a simple wireframe or a full-fledged UI design, Wondershare Mockitt can help your project. Apart from its core prototyping capabilities, Mockitt also offers a flow chart tool for creating user flows, a design tool to create custom vector graphics, and several other features and functions to give you a smooth transition from the concept stage to the final developer handoff at the end of the design phase.
- Flow Chart Tool – User flows are a vital part of the design process because they give shape to your wireframes and the components you use. The user flow defines the steps of an interaction, which forms the framework for creating the wireframe. Mockitt offers a robust flow chart tool to create intricate user flows before getting to the wireframing stage.
- Design Tool – The design tool in Mockitt complements the large asset library of UI and wireframing components, allowing you to create your own wireframe components. Although simplicity and defaults are the order of the day for wireframing, this feature gives you a little more flexibility to add branding and other unique elements.
- Prototyping Tool – Rather than simple clickthrough wireframes, Mockitt’s prototyping abilities give you the freedom to add rich interactions and effects triggered by gestures. This helps enhance the functionality of the wireframe, essentially breathing life into it without distracting from the interactivity that it showcases.
For these and other reasons, Mockitt is the preferred wireframe tool for many UI and UX designers. It is also intuitive and user-friendly, not to mention pocket-friendly, which is a major consideration for sat may not have extravagant software budgets. The best part is that it is hosted on the cloud and therefore accessible from anywhere with secure credentials.
Balsamiq is one of the oldest and most well-known wireframing tools in the design industry. It has a rich library of components, it’s easy to use, and it offers desktop and cloud versions to create rich and interactive clickthrough wireframes.
Re-usable Symbols – Create symbols, templates, and other components that can be shared and reused by other designers on the team.
Export Options – Showcase your wireframes on the web or export to PNG or interactive PDF. Flexible ways to share designs and get feedback.
Prototype Building – Enables usability testing by linked pages and screens to create clickthrough prototypes. Simple but functional models can be created quickly and easily.
Figma is a well-known online design platform that’s also great for wireframing. With extensive asset libraries and an expansive ecosystem of third-party design assets, Figma is a compelling choice for UI and UX designers. Although it’s a little more complex to use than Wondershare Mockitt, the vector tools, integrations, and other features make it an attractive option.
- Unique Vector Tools – The Arc Tool is a great example of a unique feature, but Figma also offers standard vector drawing tools to create singular new designs and wireframes.
- Plugin Ecosystem – There are several plugins to explore and use that bring added functionality to the platform, such as the Sketch plugin to import Sketch files.
- Prototyping – Page linking allows designers to build interactive prototypes from their designs and wireframes. This is also an ideal platform for collaborative design and prototyping.
InVision is a professional design tool that is available as a cloud utility as well as a desktop utility. Although the desktop version is more powerful, both versions offer the gamut of design and wireframing tools needed to create intricate process flows and interaction diagrams.
- Prototype Sketch and Photoshop Designs – If you’ve created artboards or screens with wireframe or design components in Sketch or Photoshop, you can use the Craft plugin to integrate and sync with those platforms to leverage InVision’s superior prototyping capabilities.
- Freehand – Freehand is one of InVision’s products that is focused on collaborative brainstorming but is also a very effective low-fidelity wireframe utility. Using this unique platform, designers can quickly convert their ideations into wireframes for functional validation.
- Templates – InVision offers a rich range of wireframe and design templates to help you get started quickly. Based on the goal of your app or website, pick the template that best represents these goals and then customize them to create your own unique wireframes.
Sketch is probably the world’s most popular design tool. Although it’s only available for macOS systems, its popularity and appeal are undeniable. Even Windows users create macOS virtual machines on their PCs just to be able to use Sketch – a testament to how attractive the platform can be.
- Robust Wireframing and Design Tools – With an ample asset library and rich vector tools to create unique designs, Sketch offers the perfect wireframing and design platform. You can use pre-built assets or design your own.
- Grids and Guides – Since one of the goals of wireframing is the placement and size of UI elements, having grids and guides gives you a greater level of precision.
- Plugins – Sketch has numerous plugins that allow you to expand its capabilities, and there are some great wireframe kits such as the Carbon Material Wireframe Kita and Mobile UI Wireframe Kit. There are both free and paid options you can pick from.
Parting Words: Best Wireframe Tools
Wireframing is an essential early-stage design process, but that doesn’t mean you need to use an exclusive wireframing tool such as Balsamiq.
By leveraging the comprehensive features of Mockitt, for instance, you get access to the full range of tools spanning all the various phases of design, from mind-mapping to flowcharting to wireframing to designing to prototyping to sharing to the final developer handoff. The best part is that the designer doesn’t need any coding knowledge and the Wondershare Mockitt platform itself is highly intuitive and requires no special training. But even if you get stuck, there’s a full-fledged customer service team and tons of resource materials at your disposal.
For all these reasons, Mockitt is quickly becoming the preferred online design and prototyping platform for professional designs the world over. It’s free to try or even use for a single project, and all you need to do is head over to the site and create a Wondershare ID for your login.