Wireframes are a waste of time and can hurt your project

If you’re a designer and still using wireframes as part of your design process, I think is time to stop wasting your time and move on to rapid prototyping instead.

This is just my opinion based on my experience and I understand that might not suit every project. Most UX courses and books contain a special section dedicated to wireframes which I think it makes the UX process more complicated than it should be.

 

What’s the purpose of wireframes?

The purpose of wireframes was to give detailed descriptions about interactions and outline the order of components and content placement.

 

What are the downsides of wireframes?

– I’m sure you never saw stakeholders, product owners or clients congratulate a designer on how good the wireframes are. In recent years common design patterns are becoming more and more popular so there is no reason to build wireframes for patterns that already exist.

– Wireframes can take a lot of valuable time and there is not much to show at the end.

– Because wireframes aren’t usually interactive, is hard to show what’s in your mind as a designer. Is a lot harder than you might think to describe the functionality of complex interactions and making sure that designers and developers interpret them the same way.

– Wireframes are supposed to contain lots of details which I think is way too early in the design process. In the end this is what stakeholders will sign off and it will limit the creativity across the team.

– Wireframes will become outdated very fast. After the first round of wireframes are finished, they are passed to graphic designers and then to developers. When the second round of updates begin, that’s when the cycle of never-ending revisions also starts. Designers and developers quickly become out of sync and design updates will be made everywhere. I know the design process is supposed to be iterative but I never saw wireframes making this process easy especially after first iteration.

– I have created many wireframes over the past years and one interesting thing became obvious… Most clients don’t understand wireframes and they don’t want to understand them either. The most important thing they want to know is how much it will cost, what the product will do and what it will look like.

 

Final thoughts

Don’t get me wrong. Wireframes have some good parts aswell and I will create a separate post about that. My main point is that they don’t work for all projects and you should try something else instead. There is nothing wrong with using wireframes for yourself to generate ideas, but they can be counter-productive when they’re submitted to a client (or received from a client) as some kind of blueprint.

Andy

Front-end Engineer & Designer based in Dublin currently working @IBM.
I write about: Javascript, HTML, CSS, React JS, React Native and UI/UX Design.

Add comment