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Wireframe is a very blurry notion that has been changing over time. We´ll see what it used to mean 10 years ago, what it means today and where it’s going.

Wireframes for specification purpose only, a thing from the past

A few years back, a wireframe was mainly a document cataloguing a long list of page elements… pretty dull to read. Its main goal was to specify a website or a piece of software. This kind of documents was useful to developers but that´s about it! Final users couldn´t get a clear idea of how the final website or app would look & feel like. Of course, here, we´re talking about the pre-historic stage of Information Architecture and UX design.

Wireframes to improve user experience, the new trend

Wireframes thus switched from a purely functional role to a more visual one. This kind of wireframe can be used to convey not only the general architecture of information but also the overall user experience. While before, you created as many detailed wireframes to offer different options to the client, wireframe then changed to be less
static and more fluid. Wireframes now tend to be less detailed and much more evolutive through time.

The Agile approach

With the new Agile methodology, wireframes have switched from being focused on dull specification documents to a more functional prototype actually usable, and focused on users. “Is this right design for users?”, “how to improve the user interface?”, dialogue became essential to change and improve the wireframe. They also tend to be not only focused on specification but also increasingly on the user experience. HTML prototype can thus be used to carry out user tests, and not just as a showreel for clients and stakeholders.

Everybody says “wireframe”

Wireframes and their brother-in-arms prototypes, are now a lot more user-centered. Thus, they shouldn’t be restrained to IA (information Architect) or UX designers. Wireframes belong to everybody. From designers to final users and even stakeholders, everybody should be able to create, test and comment them.

From wireframes to quick prototyping tools

Wireframes and prototypes are increasingly used all along the production process to instantly experience changes operated. Paper wireframe will hence be increasingly combined with more functional prototypes to follow the design and development process up until the very end.

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