Why You Should Never Develop an App Without Wireframes

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Why You Should Never Develop an App Without Wireframes

A wireframe is like a blueprint for the app you're designing before you develop it. See why it's important not to skip this step.

· Mobile Zone ·
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“Never develop an app without wireframes,” says an old developers’ adage. And there is certainly truth behind this sentence.

Although you may think that you know ins and outs of your app idea and drawing it is a waste of time, thinking that the wireframes phase of the development process is unnecessary can be a huge mistake. After all, your wireframes are like an architectural blueprint for your project and it wouldn’t be smart to build anything without blueprints, right?

Check how one of our clients benefited from the wireframes stage and learn why wireframes are so important.

What Are Wireframes?

Wireframes are often confused with mockups or prototypes. So just to briefly define what we are talking about, here’s a definition: "A wireframe is a low fidelity representation of a design which shows the main groups of content, the structure of information and a description and basic visualization of the user – interface interaction. Wireframes should contain a representation of every important piece of the final product as they are basically a blueprint for your app."

You shouldn’t confuse wireframes with mockups, which focus mainly on the graphic design, not the structure and architecture of the app.

Comparing to a wireframe, a mockup is a static design representation which represents the structure of information, visualizes the content and demonstrates the basic functionalities in a static way. So mockups basically show what will your app look like visually, while wireframes are more about the structure, the architecture of your app.

App's Background

How important are wireframes in app development? The story of one of our clients can tell. The client had a great idea for a veterinary app helping pet owners to initially diagnose their cats and dogs and find the local vet practices which were able to conduct a further medical examination.

The goal was to create a hub of veterinary surgeons which were able to conduct specialistic veterinary examination and to promote their services among pet owners.

Veterinary app 1 Veterinary app 2
The main planned functionalities included:

  • A search engine which allows to quickly choose the part of a body which an animal has problems with and to get an initial diagnose,
  • A set of possible medical examination needed to further diagnose the animal,
  • A map showing the user and veterinary surgeons located nearby.

Why Are Wireframes So Important?

So what exactly wireframes do and how they help in the development process? Here are five main functions.

1. Display App Architecture Visually

Have you already thought your app through and know exactly what you need? Good for you! Then it’s time to show everything you thought of in a simple and understandable way so that every person in your team gets to know the app as well as you do.

Wireframes are an obvious method to do that. It is the time you work very closely with your team, letting a software architect and a UX designer understand and draw your idea. In the end, you get not only a detailed graph of all important screens and functions, but your software house also gets a plan which shows them what to do next in the development phase.

For example, our veterinary app client came to us with a well-thought app idea and a lot of useful materials. Thanks to them, creating wireframes were easier and after the wireframe phase, both the client and our developers could see exactly how the app would work.
Veterinary app

2. Help to Focus and Define the App’s Goals

Although our client came to us with a lot of materials, it is not uncommon that app owners come to a software house with a great idea and… nothing more. And even if they have a detailed idea, some aspects may need clarification.

Skipping the wireframe phase wouldn’t be advisable here. Why? Because drawing the whole idea is the best way to focus. While working on it, you have to define what your app is and what it is not. You have to decide what is the main functionality and what is just an addition. And this way, you clarify what your idea is all about – which is the best way to offer your end users fabulous experience and UVP (Unique Value Proposition).

The veterinary app also took advantage of this stage. Although they knew what they wanted, after the wireframe phase, they could see their idea’s structure and verify their ideas of what their app offers to their users.

3. Clarify the Features

If it is your first mobile app project, you may have problems with defining the most important functions of your app. Many app owners just want to include all they’ve read about: from logging in with Google+ to ratings and stats.

Alright, you can have them all in your app. But it is much better to start from the very beginning – your app’s main function or functions. They will be the core of your app – and the center of your wireframe design. Then, of course, you can add other functionalities, and the wireframes will help you decide whether they are truly important or your app is just overcomplicated with them.

Take the veterinary app as an example. Thanks to wireframes, our client could see what is the core of his app and what are some additional features and decide whether app functionalities suit the target group and give them value.
Veterinary app 6 Veterinary app 5 Veterinary app 3

4. Verify Your Idea

You have a great idea, but sometimes, after seeing the architecture of your product and trying to define your goals, you just can’t see the future of it on the market. It may not resonate well with your target group, you can’t find a good way to monetize it, or the number of functionalities is so big that you decide to build three separate apps instead of one.

The veterinary app was never completed. We finished the work on the wireframes phase because the client made a decision that a mobile app is not what they really need for their veterinary practice’s marketing strategy. But we don’t take it as a failure because we know that wireframes are the best way to verify whether app idea can really achieve success on the market.

5. Save You Time and Money

The veterinary app idea was a huge project. Apart from a pet owner’s panel, it included a vets’ panel and a guests’ panel, all in four different language versions. Additionally, an administrative panel was needed to collect and manage users data. The app also required a GPS and advanced search engine. No wonder our client needed to test his app idea on the market before he invested a lot of money in the project.

The wireframes phase offers such a chance. Once you design the app’s architecture, certain things become clear and you are able to conduct tests on your idea. Wireframes also help to focus on the app’s main functionality, so after this phase, you may decide to create an MVP first and save up to 60% of the time and 70% of your initial budget.

app design, mobile, mobile app development, wireframes

Published at DZone with permission of Katarzyna Lorenc , DZone MVB. See the original article here.

Opinions expressed by DZone contributors are their own.

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