How To Wireframe A Website in 3 Easy Steps

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Wireframing is a fundamental part of every web creator’s design workflow. Learn how to wireframe your entire website from start to finish, and easily recreate it in Elementor.

Design Process 101: Wireframe vs. Mockup vs. Prototype

Design terminology can be confusing, so let’s make sure we clarify all of the terms. Wireframes can be thought of as the architectural blueprint, a mockup as a colored, detailed drawing of the building, and the prototype of the display house. Each one serves a very different purpose, but they all share a common goal: to refine and solidify each stage of the design process.

Wireframe

Like we discussed earlier in the post, a wireframe is a static, low-fidelity, visual representation of an interface using only simple shapes.

Eventually, some placeholders may evolve to real graphic elements or actual text so designers and developers can gain a better feel for how everything fits together.

Because wireframes are composed exclusively of black and white placeholders, they focus on representing the exact format and layout of the webpage, including the spacing, margins, information hierarchy and sizing of elements. It is only after these low-fidelity mockups are finalized that designers proceed to begin choosing a color scheme and the entire visual design process, otherwise known as the user interface. Wireframes are the designer’s opportunity in the design process to perfect the core structure and functionality of each component found on their website or digital screen.

There is also a taxonomy for how to represent different design elements on a page, for example, when illustrating a wireframe element for your navbar, you’ll represent your logo with a simple circle. You won’t show design elements in detail, you’ll just indicate where they are and how they are laid out by drawing a square or circle to represent them.

In addition to shapes outlining your design elements, your wireframe will either include lorem ipsum text as a placeholder, or alternatively the actual text that you’ll write and insert into your website. This includes titles, paragraphs, buttons, etc. which should be shown in the sizing you’ll use in your high-fidelity prototype/final product.

Once the sizing, layout, and spacing of your elements is confirmed, your wireframe is complete and you’re ready to progress to the next stage of designing your website: creating mockups.

Mockup

A mockup is different from a wireframe in that it focuses on what a digital screen will look like, rather than only identifying what its structure will be like. That being said, high-fidelity mockups are usually static representations of the design, unlike prototypes, which are usually interactive representations. We’ll discuss this shortly. Ultimately, this is why mockups are what’s known as a mid or high-fidelity display of design.

Once you’ve begun designing your mockups, it means your branding, logos, typography, and UI elements have been designed (with room for revisions and changes). In comparison to wireframes, mockups actually resemble or at least look like a finished product or website. They indicate a turning point in your design process since your user interface is starting to manifest itself as a tangible, visual asset.

Another key difference between wireframes and mockups is that wireframes are built using either pen or paper, or any tool that lets you create boxes and outlined shapes on a digital screen. That being said, you can also use vector graphic tools and simply use them to draw black, white, and grayscale shapes and boxes.

When it comes to mockups, you’ll need to use a specialized mockup tool such as Figma, Sketch, Axure, InVision, or others. We’ll discuss our recommendations for wireframe and mockup tools later on in the post.

You may find it super helpful to read a previous blog post of ours that addresses how to convert your mockups and prototypes into a WordPress site.

Prototype

Prototypes are a closer representation of what your screens will look like. They can even be considered an early model of your design. Prototypes are almost always an interactive (clickable) simulation of your design that includes every design detail as well as every navigation element. The role of a prototype is to allow you to test your design by seeing what it will look like in real life and even see how users will interact with it on the screen.

Both designers and developers alike find great value in prototypes, as both design flaws and glitches in the user journey can easily be identified in a prototype.

Examples of issues prototypes can reveal are:

  • Realizing that image sizes are too big for a section of the screen
  • Realizing that different headings are not sized consistently
  • Realizing that certain buttons aren’t clickable or link to the wrong screen

Another benefit that developers will gain from testing high-fidelity prototypes is assessing whether they can code each design detail used in the prototype, and if so, how. When developers assess a prototype, they can also be smarter about how they’ll need to budget their time.

Based on the complexity of the prototype, developers can gauge the amount of time and resources they’ll need to code the design. This allows for greater productivity and efficiency.

As for designers, a strong incentive in building high-fidelity prototypes is that it allows them to test the user journey that they are trying to facilitate for every visitor. Now that your prototype is clickable, you can construct the necessary user journey(s).

In addition to checking the functionality of each user flow, making sure that each button or link on each screen leads to the correct screen.

But functionality is only half the battle. Each designer needs to confirm (and this often takes multiple rounds of testing) that their target user will be able to understand the possible actions he can take by using the prototype. In other words, you want to make sure that your user journeys are clear and intuitive to your visitors.

If a button, piece of text, etc. is confusing or unclear, you’ll often be able to identify these loopholes when testing your prototype.

Now that we have a better understanding of the importance of each stage of the design process — both individually and collectively, we can take a deeper look at why wireframes, the most basic and foundational type of prototype, are so worthwhile.

How to Wireframe a Website

Building the bridge between your wireframes and your WordPress site can be quite a complex process. The distance or gap between a PSD or Sketch file and a website builder like Elementor may seem too wide to comprehend. That’s why our Monday Masterclass made sure to cover this exact topic in one of its episodes.

Briefly, let’s review the basic steps involved in creating a prototype that you can easily convert to an Elementor site.

Step 1: Create a Wireframe

One of our methods of creating wireframes is through Sketch. But really, any prototyping tool of your choice will work equally as well. Your most standard wireframe will include the components shown in the image above.

As you see in the image, every design element is in black and white, with no color or design detail. It’s a simple, old-fashioned drawing that focuses solely on structure and layout.

Some rules of thumb that are good to keep in mind when creating your wireframes are:

  • As you create your wireframe, think, and note down which widget you will use in Elementor to create this part of your website.
  • Create an artboard for each screen state. This means that if there is a ‘Sign up’ process, create an individual artboard for each step (Sign up, create a username, create a password, etc.). This way, there will be no confusion or forgotten elements when you’re designing.
  • Decide on dimensions before you start building your assets. Each of your artboards should be a consistent size, and all of the design elements should be scaled accordingly. The best practice for sizing when it comes to UX and Web design is to adjust your artboards to represent real device screen sizes. This setting is available in most modern design tools.
  • Wireframes must not go into too much detail. Think placeholders and only placeholders. Wireframes are the time to design your structure. Once that’s in place, you start thinking about the visuals.
  • Wireframes don’t include color, font choices, logos, or any real design elements that take away from purely focusing on a site’s structure.

Best Wireframe Tools

Some wireframe tools that we like are:

Pen and Paper

Many designers begin their wireframing process with a blank sheet of paper and a pencil or black pen. They then start sketching away and creating what’s known as low-fidelity wireframes. These look just like regular digital wireframes, yet are hand-drawn and even easier to revise and tweak than digital wireframes. Many designers prefer starting out with these hand-drawn sketches as a way to create a foundation for their design layout and get their creative juices flowing.

Adobe XD

Adobe XD is a vector-based UX/UI tool that’s part of the Adobe Creative Cloud Suite. Unlike most other Adobe software, Adobe XD can be used for free with a one-project limit. Designers use Adobe XD to create wireframes, prototypes, and digital screen designs such as websites and desktop or mobile apps.

Sketch

Sketch is another vector-based digital design tool (Mac only) used to design websites and all digital interfaces such as wireframes, prototypes, websites, apps, and so on. Sketch runs on a one-year license-based subscription. It’s a highly popular option for Mac users looking for a cheaper and lighter-weight alternative to Photoshop or Illustrator.

Figma

Slightly newer to the design market, Figma is a browser-based (with a Desktop app option, too) UI design tool. Figma can open .sketch files and is a great option for designers, developers, and colleagues who are looking to work collaboratively as a team.

Adobe Photoshop

Photoshop is a graphics editor that specializes in image editing. Photoshop has many, many use cases, and web design is one of them (and so too, prototyping). Designers often choose to use Photoshop for editing photos, optimizing images, building web assets, and constructing page layouts.

Now that you’re well versed in the importance of wireframing when designing a website, let’s talk about what the next step is once you have your actual wireframe in tow.

The first step when going from wireframe to prototype is duplicating your wireframe. You’ll want to keep an original copy of your wireframe for future reference or future revisions. The file you’ll want to edit is the duplicate and not the original.

Then, we recommend the following steps:

1. Imagery

Replace your image placeholders with the relevant images and illustrations. This includes your logo and any other images, icons, illustrations you plan on using.

2. Text and Font

If you’ve used Lorem ipsum text, replace it with the real text, and apply your font and sizing of choice accordingly. If you’ve used your actual text, then apply your font and sizing directly.

3. Buttons

Apply your button design and sizing to buttons.

4. Visual Design

Apply your color scheme and all other visual design details.

5. Alignment

Adjust the alignment, spacing, margins, minimum height, minimum width, and all details related to symmetry

Identify which Elementor widgets you can use for each element on your prototype.

Step 3: Convert Your High-Fidelity Mockup Into an Interactive Prototype

An interactive prototype is, as the name suggests, an interactive version of your high-fidelity mockup where the designer has added click targets to the design and set response for each possible user interaction on each screen (or art board).

The goal of your interactive prototype is to add clickability to your existing high-fidelity mockup so that you can test the design’s user actions, and overall usability and functionality.

A topic of its own in the world of user experience, user testing is a stage in the design process where designers test the prototype – either by finding users and/or testing the prototype themselves, to confirm their screen designs and see if the clickability and overall UX/UI ‘make sense’ to their target audience. And, of course, to identify any mistakes or unclear design elements that need revision or fine-tuning.

In addition to (or in place of) creating an interactive prototype inside your design tool, you can also opt to create your interactive prototype when building your site directly in Elementor. This could be an interactive version of your high-fidelity mockup, once you integrate the call to actions and buttons throughout your website, but before you choose to publish it — Aka preview mode.

And finally, once you have chosen your interactive prototyping and have made the necessary revisions, it’s time to get your client’s approval for your high-fidelity prototype. Once they test the prototype themselves and provide feedback for any necessary changes, once you’ve done those revisions, it’s time to start working your magic in Elementor.

Wireframing Is the Way to Go

Now that you have a strong understanding of how important wireframing and prototyping are to your design workflow, you can expect great things for your upcoming Elementor projects. Keep in mind that the issue of which widgets you can use to translate your design choices into the Elementor platform is not a ‘black and white’ matter. There are often multiple ways to create one type of design in Elementor; it’s just a matter of creativity, which is something all web creators are well-versed in, to say the least.

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