In software development, almost all projects can benefit from the wireframing process. A wireframe helps to flesh out the functionality requirement of a deliverable. We use Balsamiq here at Gate6, which is different than a lot of wireframe programs because it intentionally looks very elementary. The simplicity of the graphics allows clients to easily distinguish form from function. A series of simple boxes and lines convey the functionality of the interface without any refined design elements, helping clients focus on how the interface will work rather than how it will look.
To create a wireframe, we first run through the system requirements (SRS) and figure out which screens need to be wireframed. For example, if your system needs to take a payment on a certain page, we know we’ll need to create a mechanism that fulfills that requirement. Wireframes allow us to work through several possible scenarios and iterations without spending valuable time and money in design only to find out the functionality is incomplete.
There are two standout benefits of using wireframes in software development:
1. Saves time and money. At the start of a software development project, we’re able to provide a working model of an interface that doesn’t involve hours of design and development. More or less, it allows for a few preliminary rounds of design to happen without having to produce any actual designed artwork. Once the wireframe is complete, designers can use it as the foundation to design the website without thinking about how it will work, which isn’t necessarily their forte.
2. It’s interactive. This is such an awesome feature of Balsamiq. We can actually build screens that perform the basic functions of a website, e.g., clicking through dropdown menus, links, forms, etc. The functionality is able to be prototyped before the design is implemented and well before there is a single line of code written.