How to Wireframe a Website
A wireframe is like a sketched or digital blueprint of a webpage. Several wireframes together could make a plan for an entire website. As you sketch and design the wireframes for each page of a website, you should keep these principles in mind:
- Make It Clear: Communicate clearly to your stakeholders or testers what the webpage will do and the user need(s) it will fulfill. Answer the questions they will have about the page without placing complex design elements yet.
- Make It User-Friendly: Design each page to be easy to use. It should be evident to a user where they can click to get the results they want. Study menus, processes, buttons, and other elements from successful past pages.
- Make It Simple: Show a clear and simple path to the user’s goal without distracting or unnecessary elements in the way. Place users’ top needs first, and show them how to achieve them.
Applying these principles to every page, you can then go through the steps of actually working on your website’s wireframe.
1. Start with Strong Research
The first step in wireframing is not the wireframing itself. It’s the UX research and insights that will power your design. You should know what your target customers need, along with what your industry and competition are doing for those customers. Build multiple personas for a variety of customers, and research the best UX design techniques, as well as emerging trends.
2. Organize the Research
While drawing your wireframes, you could forget a crucial element of your research and have to go back and redraw a section—or scrap a whole page. Avoid this by placing your research in front of you on cards or lists. Include user personas and their top needs, user quotes from research and past testing, your business objectives, exciting website features, and anything else you deem relevant.
3. Map the User Flow
Find out exactly how users will arrive on each page and the possible ways they can leave. Learn the marketing messages and channels that may cause them to land on certain pages. Decide what web pages are an ultimate goal, if any. You may need to sketch these flows on a large piece of paper, representing each page as a rectangle and navigate between them as arrows.
4. Sketch and Draft the Wireframes
Only after proper preparation should you wireframe your website. As you do, remember that you are sketching. You are only representing the elements that will be present, not drawing them yourself at this stage. You are creating the instructions for the UI designer and coder (even if you yourself will follow these instructions later). Just think about how to:
- Organize each page to meet users’ needs
- Showcase the most important elements and message on each page
- Fulfill users’ expectations
- Communicate the primary navigation elements users most need on each page
If you keep these wireframes simple, you can also make multiple versions for certain important pages, testing different ideas with stakeholders and testers. This can save a lot of time and help you improve your final product. You can also collaborate with other team members to improve your ideas.
5. Add Details to Test the Site
When you’re ready to create a mid- or high-fidelity wireframe, you can add:
- Navigation elements websites commonly include to make them more usable, such as a search bar
- Short calls to action or instructions
- Elements that help users to trust your organization and website
You can use online tools to quickly add buttons to your wireframes so team members can test them. Allow them to give you honest feedback now, when minimal time has been put into the wireframes. When you know how to wireframe a website, you and your whole team can try multiple designs quickly and make a stronger website in the end