Traditionally, wireframes have been a dominant tool in the planning and execution of a website. Rapid iteration paired with the ability to showcase initial ideas to stakeholders cemented them as the go-to choice for mapping out a website.
However, now that the web has evolved into something much more fluid and dynamic, wireframes are weighing down the creative process and even becoming actively problematic.
Wireframes Are Static, Lifeless Things
Webpages are dynamic, interactive assets. As users click around and browse your content, webpages react and shift. Rigidly formatting content to look a specific way isn’t possible (and that’s okay).
A wireframe may perfectly balance a content block sized for a big widescreen monitor, but what happens when that content is viewed on an iPhone? Between screen resolutions, text settings, and data strength, your webpage could load 100 different ways. Wireframes only show you a rough idea of one.
Wireframes Can Be Hard to Understand
Historically, the intention of wireframes has been to abstract design language and interactions to their simplest form, allowing meaningful conversations without getting derailed with insignificant details e.g., shades of blue.
However, in practical application, what usually happens is the recipient is confused–and worse, underwhelmed–by the low fidelity.
Compounding this, we often find the absence of detail invites the viewer to fill “blank” sections with ideas we weren’t considering. This often leads to conflicts and disappointment when the final web design doesn’t reflect a pre-conceived notion.
Wireframes Limit Creativity
Once web designers have an approved set of wireframes, it’s easy for them to suddenly feel trapped [in a featureless grey box] with no way out.
For instance, if you demand a finished testimonial feature to look identical to the wireframe, our team’s original ideas may be suppressed or executed at a lower creative level.
You may get caught up in a single image and its design aesthetic when the page’s messaging should be the focus. Or you may forget the importance of mobile-friendliness.
What To Do Instead – Priority Guides
Content placeholders are essential to any website, and wireframes can certainly help visualize them. But content placeholders aren’t going to make your website successful. Success lies within the priorities and goals of each page and the design’s ability to achieve those goals.
Enter priority guides.
Priority guides distill down each page’s purpose, goal, and desired next step in the funnel. They are strictly text-based so the web designer can freely design around the most pertinent information. Here’s an example of a priority guide we did recently:
Purpose: Provide the elevator pitch for what you solve and the highest-level overview of the platform. Establish trust by displaying companies that are clients and their positive reactions/results.
Primary CTA: Product page / Request a demo
Main Product Page
Purpose: Provide a high-level overview of the product with a shallow listing of the most important features, grouped by the agreed-upon buckets/categories. Features will include context about how they’re used to solve real problems, and not just technical specs. This page speaks to upper-level management and decision-makers by staying broad and interactive.
Primary CTA: Each sub-page / feature to find out how it works for their specific needs.
Priority guides are easier to understand than wireframes, especially for top-level executives who may not care about the nitty-gritty. They allow web designers to come up with a design that actually solves your business or marketing challenges in a creative way. And they help everyone on the project understand the “why” behind the design.
As an agency that has been designing websites for over 20 years, we have seen firsthand the benefits of priority guides over wireframes, and have officially made the switch.
If priority guides sound as good to you as they do to us, contact us. We can help you create a website that achieves your most challenging business goals.