Published: January 12, 2017
13 min read
Last updated: May 2, 2022
🤔 What Are Mobile App Wireframes?
🗂 Sketch vs Wireframe vs Mockup vs Prototype: What is the Difference and When Do You Need Them?
👍 Why Is It Important to Create a Wireframe For an App?
📋 Guide: How Do We Create an App Wireframe at Stormotion?
🔎 Wireframe Examples
Wireframing is one of the earliest and most essential activities in your Product Development Lifecycle. Its aim is to provide all stakeholders with a clear vision of how your website or mobile application will be used - no matter whether you’re a Startup or develop a Product for your existing business.
Before you actually make a wireframe for an app, let’s learn what it exactly means and how it’s different from other similar concepts - like Sketch, Mockup, and Prototype. Let’s get it started!
The idea of the app wireframing process originally came from web design. If you check it on Wikipedia, you’ll find the following definition:
A website wireframe, also known as a page schematic or screen blueprint, is a visual guide that represents the skeletal framework of a website.
In general, the whole idea is the same for mobile applications:
An App wireframe is a two-dimensional illustration of a screen’s interface, which shows how people will use the product.
The need to create an app wireframe comes out during the earliest stages when you are already thinking over the idea but the development itself hasn’t started yet.
Wireframe example (image by Leandro Moreno)
Many believe that mobile app wireframes are used to demonstrate how the application will look like. While it’s true in some way, the main aim is to show how your product will work.
The wireframe for a mobile app includes a minimum amount of information needed to solve the following tasks:
Therefore, there’s quite a limited number of elements that are sketched on mobile app wireframes:
✅ App Wireframe Includes:
❌ App Wireframe Doesn't Include:
Conversion and navigation areas
Stylized graphics and images
Think of a Mobile App Wireframe as of a house blueprint: it shows how rooms, doors, and windows are placed as well as some in-house infrastructure (like plumbing and electricity) but don’t show furniture and flower pots on window sills.
At the same time, there are a few related concepts that may also come in handy during the early stages. I’m talking about sketches, mockups, and prototypes.
In a nutshell, all these terms describe different stages of web/mobile blueprinting:
Sketch ➡️ Wireframe ➡️ Mockup ➡️ Prototype
The key idea of this scale is simple as that: the closer the concept to the right side, the more detailed and definite result you may expect.
A Sketch is the simplest form of project visualization. It’s just a hand drawing of your app/website interface that was born as a result of sudden inspiration or brainstorming with your team.
When may you need a Sketch? The most typical situation is when you caught the idea and need to rapidly draw it so you wouldn’t forget it later.
The Sketch (image by Yuriy Zavodnyy)
Mobile app Wireframe is something more serious. It’s a result of deep thinking process which ends up with quite an accurate illustration of your digital product structure and functionality. We’ve already reviewed its core qualities so let’s not spend too much of our time here.
A bit later you may need the fullest and most accurate perspective of your product, including UI details. It’s something called Mockup. To put it short and simple, this is a wireframe which includes all previously avoided design features: logos, UI elements, colors, fonts etc.
However, while wireframes are usually presented as a mindmap and include all possible screens in the app as well as connections between them (since your main aim is to show the structure and functionality), mockups are usually created for 1-2 screens with core features.
Mockups are needed to get a close-to-final vision of your mobile product, test visual details and facilitate design implementation in the future. Of course, they can be also presented to investors during pitching.
Mockups usually have colors, logos, custom fonts and other design elements (image by Nasir Uddin)
What is common between sketches, wireframes, and mockups? These all are static illustrations that more or less show you the structure and functionality of your Product but don’t let you interact with it. Want to get close to the real-life experience? That’s when prototypes come into the game.
A Prototype is a clickable blueprint of your product that provides you with an idea and perspective of how your app or website may feel to users. As a rule of thumb, it includes clickable buttons and allows you to move from screen to screen just like your future users will do. By the way, you can find an example of the app prototype in our Pocket Promoter Case Study.
Pocket Promoter: Case Study
Yet, since our article is dedicated to wireframes, we’ll focus on its features:
What are the other reasons to create an app wireframe? Let’s review them right now!
The most important reason to make a wireframe for an app is that it provides you with a clear vision of how your customers will use your Product. Without knowing how you’re going to solve their pain-points you can hardly achieve any success.
Wireframing helps to answer the core question: “Can my Product solve the problems of my customers?”.
Having an app idea is good. It’s even better if it’s a good idea. However, there probably wasn’t any product that made its way from the small idea to a successful market break-through without any changes. And that’s when it will be quite useful to create an app wireframe.
Actually, the app wireframing process provides you with an answer to the core question: how exactly does my product solve the problem of my customers? Without answering this question you can’t know whether your product is really needed and likely to be used by your target audience.
Wireframes show that you have made some steps from the idea itself to actions (image by Kishore)
Thus, you’re able to share this vision with other stakeholders - for example, show wireframes to investors during your pitch and receive funding or get approval from a decision-making person within your organization.
Garry Tan, the co-founder of Initialized Capital and a design expert, puts it as follows:
*Once you have the wireframe you can start doing usability testing. You can print it out and sit down with people who have never seen it before and just walk them through it. Or even better: just ask open-ended questions. Like “what are we looking at?”, “what are you going to click next?”.
Before you even write a line of code you can do a lot to test whether this thing is going to work. And it’s way cheaper to do it at this stage than fix this as a bug in code later.*
When you create an app wireframe, your main goal is to ensure the pain-point of your users is solved and also map out a great UX for them. However, you may not reach the perfect result from the first shot.
What is great about the app wireframing process is that it doesn’t take much time. Therefore, wireframes are perfect for fast iterations. The whole cycle looks as follows:
If you need to involve investors in your project, you will have a nice visual material you can use for presentations and pitches right away.
It’s much easier to execute iterations at this stages than face this need later when the development will be already in progress.
Another good reason to make a wireframe for an iOS app (or Android, it doesn’t actually matter) is that it helps to lay out the functionality of each screen.
What features should go first? Is there enough space on the screen N to place everything you want to see there? Wouldn’t it look too tacky? With a mobile app wireframe, you can easily answer these and many other similar questions.
Wireframing helps to spot mistakes early (image by Xavi Nadal)
They also allow you to play a bit with content prioritization. By designing the hierarchy of elements on each screen you’re able to check whether your content guides users in the right direction or, on the other hand, distracts them from moving along the buyer’s journey.
Once you have finished the wireframes, you can show them to your potential users, gather feedback and improve your wireframes. Also, you can iterate in such a way, till you start receiving positive feedback - this will help you to avoid expensive mistakes.
As we’ve figured it out earlier, wireframing allows you to pinpoint mistakes and fix them before they’re converted into code. In the long-term run, you can get even more benefits.
For example, it saves a lot of time during the following development stages. Here are just a few examples:
Early preparations and flaws spotting will also save you a lot of money that otherwise would be spent on applying changes during the development process or even after the release.
So, these were benefits that you can get after you build a wireframe for an Android app (or iOS). How to organize this process so it flows smoothly? Here’s our own experience!
Wireframing is an essential part of the Discovery Stage that we hold with every new client at Stormotion. It’s a part of our long-term cooperation strategy, which helps us to understand what and for whom we’re building.
Project Discovery: What is it and Why Do You Need it?
In a nutshell, wireframes are usually prepared together with other essential product-related data during the Discovery stage: user stories, use cases, a UX-mindmap etc. It helps to get a better perspective of your target audience, their needs and ways your Product can help them.
What about the cost?
To build a wireframe for an Android app (or iOS) usually requires from us between 40 and 70 hours. Multiply this number by the hourly rate of your Development Partner and you’ll get an approximate cost of an app wireframe.
What do we do during this time? Let’s see our step-by-step guide on how to wireframe an app!
The app wireframing process at Stormotion starts with a thoughtful immersion in our client’s project idea. Before drawing any blueprints we need to understand what are we going to work on. The best way to do this is to answer a few following questions:
Only after we gather this data, we move to the next stage.
With a clear vision of your project in our minds, we start to look for the best and shortest way to your goals.
During Step 2, our UX-magicians create a spreadsheet where all the expected features and pieces of content are listed. It helps us in a few ways:
For the maximum effectiveness we arrange this process as follows:
The Spreadsheet may look like this (image by Josh Clark)
When the logical structure of your future product is cleared out, it’s time to turn it into some nice-looking blueprints!
During this wireframing stage, we mark up the screens with specific content blocks. The key aim here is to define the best spot for different elements: for example, what should be placed on top of the screen or what is the best area for video content. This process is based around the Visual Hierarchy concept.
Visual Hierarchy refers to the arrangement of elements that matches the order in which users process information on a screen.
At this stage, we intentionally use zoning as the main approach instead of designing all elements at once. Why? Because laying everything out often leads to wasted time and backtracking since you have to subtract something later.
After we make up the general layout, we start adding more details.
During this step, we finish creating a wireframe for an app. Previously marked up zones are detailed with buttons, icons, placeholders for images and videos, text boxes, spacing and so on.
Image by Kristie Clementine
A few tips that are used by our UX-rockstars as well:
Let’s explore some great mobile app wireframe examples and shots to see how the mentioned above tips can be implemented.
Wireframe example # 1 (image by Stephanie Jin)
This shot from Dribbble perfectly illustrates how a good wireframe for a mobile app looks like. Pay attention to these details:
Wireframe example # 2 (image by Kishore)
This shot can also supplement the collection of mobile app wireframe examples. So as not to repeat ourselves, let’s pay attention to details that weren’t mentioned in the previous example:
It seems we’ve shared everything you need to get a clear picture of how to wireframe an app. As you could see, wireframing can contribute a lot to the success of your project. Let’s briefly recall a few key ideas highlighted in this article:
Are you looking for a skillful and reliable partner in crime to make a wireframe for your iOS, Android or Web-App? Just reach out using the button below and we’ll get the ball rolling.
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