For us, the first wireframe is almost always a freehand drawing on a whiteboard or a piece of paper, done during or just after a discussion to capture essential information.
Wireframes are an integral part of our Product Discovery Process; they’re also one of the least abstract deliverables of the process and the ones clients tend to find most helpful when giving feedback.
As a consequence, we pay close attention to how they are made, what they represent and what their drawbacks are.
What wireframes are and are not
Wireframes are visual representations of User Stories & features. Their purpose is to describe general functionality and user flow. They offer little in terms of design & UI, but do paint a clear picture of what information the product’s screens contain and how this information should be structured . A wireframe is a starting stage in the product’s visual design cycle and can vary in complexity.
The concept of “wireframe” is flexible; this is important, because we mold our wireframe output to the client’s expectations and experience. For example, large companies with multiple stakeholders involved in a product typically require detailed wireframes to account for less tech-savvy decision makers; at the other
end of the spectrum, CTOs tend to be fine with basic sketches.
An important distinction to make is the one between Wireframing and UX Sketching. UX Sketching includes Wireframing (sometimes starting from it) and also covers Prototyping, User Testing, adding Animations, and planning out the whole User Flow.
For some projects, the whole UX process might be unnecessary at the outset (think simple corporate websites), whereas for others it should be as important as the design work itself. We include wireframing in all our projects because, regardless of the variation we just described, wireframes are always useful.