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In Defense of Wireframes

I recently found an article titled, “Why wireframes can hurt your project“. Written by Sacha Greif, I explain why I disagree with his reasoning.

First off, he states that there are new technologies and movements that push wireframes into irrelevancy. He explains that with jQuery, the lean startup movement, and 37Signals, it isn’t necessary anymore to wireframe. What this means is, you should jump into developing and worry about problems when they arise, because you can’t predict how people will be using your website or app. Greif’s wireframe alternative is to create a bulleted site map. I think this is an O.K. idea, but the depth we put into the functionality, page-flow and navigation is worth the extra hours.

When you wireframe before delving into the design, you can quickly map out your website, pages, and pieces of functionality, providing a concrete blueprint. At Use All Five, every project begins with building wireframes because it’s the easiest way to set expectations with the client. Wireframes also allow our development team to commence work before a design is put into place. On the other hand, if we were to jump into the design phase immediately, trivial things such as color can hold up the entire process from being signed off by the client. The wireframe brings focus to the functionality, without having to worry about design.

Most importantly, wireframes give you a clear vision as they are a manifesto and to-do list. It can be tempting to dive into a project immediately, but without determining what the website is, it can end up in production purgatory—with no end in sight.

Your site should also be designed around an idea and not a specific technology. For example, if you use JQuery or Rails without any sort of plan, you’re going to work your design around what the technologies can do, rather than finding what will work best for your idea.

To sum it up, he states that not only do wireframes waste time, they can also negatively affect the designer’s ability to make revisions, therefore, hurting the website.

My advice? Don’t be lazy, plan your website out, wireframe, and then get to the fun stuff.


Jason Farrell is the CTO/Co-founder of Use All Five.
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