Over time I’ve found wireframes to be less and less useful, and I don’t think I’m alone. Because the term is somewhat loosely defined, it’s probably important to be specific. While there are many types of prototypes that examine levels of fidelity across various dimensions, I’d like to focus on the specific variant that most immediately comes to mind when hearing the word wireframe.

It’s not a sketch or a fully realized mockup but rather the typical “middle” state —digital artifacts left intentionally unstyled and made to represent the “skeleton” of a full page in black and white. The prototypical wireframe attempts to be an accurate representation of layout and information architecture while intentionally avoiding high visual fidelity and sometimes high content fidelity as well.

Behold the drab, spindly splendor of a wireframe in it’s natural habitat
In discussions I’ve had and online I’ve been surprised to hear wireframes are still posited as an essential step in the process of design. This attitude seems to be on the decline, but I’ve still heard everyone from early career designers to industry leading agencies insist on the necessity of a “wireframing phase”.

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