Wireframes: a thing of the past?

If you work in web design you're probably (hopefully!) familiar with the concept of a wireframe: the piece of paper that you present to your client to show them how you're going to build their website. Just like architectural drawings of a house, the wireframe is designed to give you an idea of the finished result so that a client can be sure they're happy with the direction you're going in before you get busy building it. Whilst wireframes can give a client an idea of what the finished result might be like, a static piece of paper is a far cry from the interactive, dynamic nature of a website. Really, paper isn't sufficient to convey the experience of a website - especially when you start to consider mobile and tablet sizes as well. For us as website developers, and importantly, also for our clients - the wireframe is not an optimal solution.

Death to wireframes... Behold, the responsive prototype!

So with some joy, I am pleased to proclaim the death of wireframes. Make way for the true heir and successor – the responsive prototype! Unlike a printed wireframe - or even worse, a pen and paper mockup - the responsive prototype is a basic webpage which actually allows you to interact with the website and get a feel for the user experience. This baby has all of the bells and whistles of a normal website - excluding a properly styled design - so your user can see how features work and follow a visitor journey. The lack of design actually works in its favour - without the distraction of pretty colours and slick typefaces, you can strip back the prototype to being focused purely on user experience. It also allows you to catch any oddities that look fine on paper but don’t translate well to web - and that goes for desktop, tablet and mobile sizes. It sounds like a lot of work to put into a mockup, but the beauty of responsive prototyping is that this framework will actually be the basis of the finished product - so it gives you a head start on the actual website build. It's a faster and more accurate way to build, and gives your client more control over their final product. Happy clients, happy designers, awesome websites. It's a win, win, win.