Using wireframing to cut costs and improve processes

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This is a surprisingly contentious debate, and an important one that determines where the development budget gets spent. Nonetheless, let’s take a few moments to make sure we’re all on the same page before we get into the ‘meat’ of it.

What is wireframing?

A wireframe is a sketch or visual depiction of what a web page or mobile app will look like. They are sometimes called ‘screen blueprints’ or ‘page schematics’ as well. They are used to establish the core elements of a web page’s visual design and functionality – to set down what it will look like and what it will do. It can then be passed on to the designers, developers, copy writers, customers and anyone else involved in the project.

Wireframing, then, is the process of building your wireframe. It means establishing the core functions of your website, the way these functions will be displayed, and the basics of how the user will interact with the site in general. It is (or rather it can be) the first step in virtually all the core processes of website design – visual design, UE, SEO and even organising the actual text.

What does wireframing achieve?

At its core, the process of wireframing is about saving time, effort and expense.

As they say, a picture is worth 1000 words. What wireframes really achieve is getting all of your creative and business stakeholders ‘on the same page’ at the very beginning of a project.

Whether this is achieved by getting them all together to produce the initial wireframe (preferable) or simply having a meeting where they are presented with a completed wireframe before they begin thinking about the project in detail (still quite useful), the process can virtually eliminate the wasted effort that results when your ‘UE guy’ starts working on something inherently incompatible with the template your web designer is producing, and neither of their concepts support the text your marketing team wrote.

It is always worth a small investment of time and effort to get everyone in the same room and brainstorming together, even if you can only spare a few hours. Then they are all actually working on the same project, rather than 4 different, incompatible visions.

When is the right time to wireframe?

Simply put, the sooner the better. Every project should start with a low resolution wire frame, even if it is drawn on the proverbial ‘back of a serviette’. As soon as you get the idea for an app, web page or just about anything else that is both visual and interactive, you need to start wireframing. It will not only help to ‘ground’ your ideas in practical, visual terms, it will establish a core idea which all other work can be made in accordance with, or which can be changed to fit necessity in a way that all the other stakeholders can quickly be made aware of.


When is the right time to stop wireframing?

Here there are 2 schools of thought. Some processes stop wireframing as soon as the coders or UE specialists start producing prototypes and mock-ups. Others keep making updated wireframes to distribute to the rest of the team all the way up until the site or app is coded and put to bed. In either case, keep using wireframes until the issues they represent are decided and finalised.

Who needs to have access to (and input on) these wireframes?

Just about everyone on your project!

Access to the latest wireframe is vital to anyone working on the project, so they can avoid wasting time on features that won’t work, or won’t work the way they had envisioned.

As to the ability to modify wireframes, if you have very large teams, you might do better to only give specific team leaders the ability to alter wireframes or generate new versions. Even then, consider having all modification be made in a meeting with all available stakeholders, so as not to ruin the work of an entire team by making changes they were not aware of.

The more the individuals or teams involved in different aspects of your project actively collaborate, the more efficient your project will become. The more you test, review feedback and make iterations as a group, the better the final product.


How do wireframes impact your process?

Wireframes serve to focus all of your efforts on the same deliverables. They let you test different approaches rapidly, and generate nearly immediate feedback. In the end, the time and effort you invest in wireframing will be repaid several times, especially on larger or more involved projects.

What could skipping wireframes entirely cost you?

The short answer is, as always, ‘that depends on what you are working on’. Realistically, though, we’ve been in the business long enough to give you a real answer, based on averaging the various projects we’ve been involved with over the years.

Wireframing is typically 5-6% of your total development budget. However, it enhances the effectiveness of almost every other aspect of your work. For example: On average the final costs for coding are 60% less for well wireframed projects. RFC (Request For Change) costs typically drop by 80%.

What that means for you is that even if it were to cost 3-4 TIMES what it really does to wireframe, you’d be saving time and money by doing it.

Making the most of a limited wireframe budget

There are a few tips and tricks we can present for doing good wireframing, even if the bean-counters don’t appreciate its real importance:

  • Choose a wireframe tool that is easy to use, or one that you already know how to use well. This will save you time getting up to speed.
  • Create multiple variations, especially early on. This will let you eliminate unworkable arrangements quickly.
  • Get key stakeholders involved early, and incorporate their feedback into new versions.
  • Conduct user testing to determine if your wireframe will be usable by your intended audience or market.
  • Generate new iterations for the wireframe until all key stakeholders are satisfied (or resigned to compromise).
  • Make sure you won’t have to go ‘back to the drawing board’ after design or coding has started.

 

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NinjaMock. Most interesting features

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In this article we describe the most interesting features and what makes NinjaMock better than other applications for wireframing and prototyping.

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Full free version

We all love free apps, especially if they are good free apps 😉 So we decided to make NinjaMock free for non-commercial use, forever. This distinguishes us positively compared to competitors who limit their free versions or only supply time limited trials. We decided not to impose any restrictions on the functionality of our editor. The free version is available for all: an unlimited number of pages in the projects, export to PDF, HTML and PNG, support comments, use master pages, full real time collaboration, etc.

We can afford the luxury for two reasons. Firstly, we don’t have an investor and therefore we have the freedom to decide what to do. Secondly, thanks to a competent approach of building applications that support our infrastructure, our project costs are low.

Paper style

Paper style

We believe that efficient prototyping must be done as wireframes.  It’s inefficient to begin prototyping with realistic elements and high-fidelity design. Having years of design and development experience, we’ve handcrafted the most optimal and efficient prototyping process for you.

We master the intricacies of the process – from sketchy prototyping to the final design. As a result, we have reached a zen-perfection in creating to-the-point “paper” prototypes.

Elements

We support the following platforms:

Wireframe platforms

Custom controls used in the creation of prototypes are done as vectors, but this is not a surprise these days. But there is an interesting feature: All items are made in NinjaMock. We provide basic vector tools needed when prototyping, such as a rectangle, ellipse, line, polygon, polyline, Bezier curves, and a pencil to draw by hand.

What this means for you is that if you are missing an item or icons, you can easily draw it yourself.

 

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Change zoom

We have implemented a unique technology for rendering using HTML5 canvas, which allows us to make fully functional zoom.

Real time collaboration

Collaboration is natural when you work with wireframes. And this has always been a part of NinjaMock. Now we have upgraded this feature so you can share the canvas and in real time add, change and review your project in your group.

So invite people to you project and get rid of emails, screenshots and a lot of waiting. As you see, collaboration in real time is made Ninja easy. You will benefit by completing your work even faster.

Comments

Google Docs has, in particular, a great function – Comment. Therefore, when developing similar functionality in NinjaMock, we learned by example from Google Docs. As a result, we now have an intuitive and familiar way of commenting in all prototypes – with support to responses of comments, comments status changes, as well as e-mail notifications.

Additionally, we added the ability to attach status of individual pages in your project (In progress, Completed, Approved). This allows you to easily determine how close to completion your design is.

Wireframes

And on the project overview page you can see the status of each of your projects:

Mockup overview

Sharing

In NinjaMock you can send your prototype to your client (or somebody else) to get review and feedback. You only need to open access of you the project (by clicking on the share) and send a link. And then we went a little further, with the generated QR-code, you can run the prototype application directly on your device and see how it will work.

Share your mockup
Scan the QR code – it’s real 😉

The important point is that you can choose status, and which pages that will be available for viewing. For example, you can send only completed, but yet approved pages.

Exports and navigation on paper

We noticed that many design teams had their office walls covered with printed pages and prototypes of the final design. Some teams use them for inspiration, and some discuss and write notes directly on the wall.

Real life wireframing

NinjaMock have the ability to export to PDF and PNG, with the ability to print the comments and links on the page. We call it “paper navigation” including a footnote, with the page number on which the link leads to:

 

Grouping wireframes

Organization of pages and projects

In complex projects, there is a need for streamlining pages – for example, group them logically (registration page, edit the profile page of the village, etc.), or simply to display a set of states of a page (the normal state, the same page, second stage with a dialogue dialog box, etc.).

Many of our competitors allow you to create a page tree. We talked with many designers and few were able to explain what it meant when one page is a subsidiary of another – everyone understands it differently. Instead, we decided to use a familiar experience of using PowerPoint, showing thumbnails of pages for faster and easier navigation.

You can logically organize your project by creating groups of pages. You can can create an unlimited number of groups.

Rearranging mockups

For projects in NinjaMock we reproduced the experience of working with files on your computer: Projects can be grouped into folders, folders can be dragged to other folders, etc. It is your own file system in the cloud!

Team

NinjaMock has a built team management for organizations. Administrators can add and delete users, and assign them different roles and rights. You can choose one of three roles (Administrator, Designer, Reviewer). As an administrator, you have full control of your projects. They are stored and maintained with the company account and so you never again have to fear losing your projects.

This is just a small list of what can NinjaMock. If you want to know more of the application – go to the site and start prototyping www.ninjamock.com!

Tells us what you think

What do you think of NinjaMock? Leave us a comment, or email us at ninjas@ninjamock.com

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Introducing videos

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One of the most sought-after feature requests in NinjaMock are tutorial videos;  Small videos that show how to use specific features in NinjaMock.

Well, we have listened to your requests – and have started rolling out the first videos.

The videos are available from within the designer (bottom right corner). This makes it easy to access the specific tutorial you need while working on your mockup.

It is also possible to access the videos without logging in to NinjaMock, as we have added a link directly from the top-menu to the video page.

And they can obviously also be found on our YouTube channel (have you subscribed yet?).

We will be bringing out more videos in the near future. If you have a specific feature that you would like us to cover, then please let us know in the comments below.

 

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