A lot of our clients go wiggy when they see a wireframe. Maybe because of how they look: spare, utilitarian … definitely not sexy. But they play a critical role in the web development process. Here are the top four things to know about what wireframes do … and what they don’t.

A wireframe is a blueprint. A wireframe is very simple diagram that lays out the essential elements of your web pages. For example, a wireframe might have placeholders for a header, navigation, body copy, an image, a search bar, a “call to action” box, and “contact us” information. By carefully assessing which elements are needed for each page of your site, we prevent unpleasant “uh-oh, we forgot that piece” moments once we’re into full development.

It’s not a design. People often mistake a wireframe for a design document. They start to panic because they think we’re using Times New Roman for their font, or arranging their content into boring squares and rectangles. To prevent this, when looking at a wireframe, repeat this calmly to yourself: “This is not my design.” Remember, the wireframe does not represent how your page will look. It represents what it will include.

Wireframes are a step in the development process. Wireframes are just one step in a process that takes your website from idea to launch. These steps include creating a sitemap, wireframes, and design for your site, and then undertaking development. Walking through these steps one by one ensures that the basic elements of your site are established before development begins. So there’s much less chance that development will start, stop, and start over from scratch—which can drive up costs and create a clunky product.

Wireframes are not your final product. Once again, when you see a wireframe, close your eyes and take a deep breath. Repeat to yourself: “This is not my website. This is getting me to my website.” Then, open your eyes and take a critical look. Is everything on the page that should be? Are there too many items in the navigation? Too few? Are there images on the right pages? Is the live chat button where you want it? Ignore the aesthetics, think about what your customer will want to see on each page, and make sure it’s there.

Now you’re seeing a wireframe for what it is – a content planning tool that makes sure nothing critical is left out of your site. And you’re using it the way it’s meant to be used: to increase usability while saving time and money.

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