Mobile Wireframes: What They Are and How to Create Them

Mobile App Wireframing: An Essential Guide

Apps may look simple, but creating them is a complex and time-consuming process. There are a lot of decisions, issues, and solutions that go into what you see on screen.

One of the critical ways to make development easier is to use wireframes. For mobile apps, it’s akin to having a building blueprint – a layout of what the final thing looks like so that everyone is aligned towards a single vision.

In this article, we’ll reveal a step-by-step guide on creating wireframes for app development. But first, let’s find out what it is and why it’s so important.

What is a Mobile App Wire Frame?

In a nutshell, a wireframe is a digital sketch or blueprint of your mobile app. It tells developers and stakeholders the number of screens on your app and the purpose of each one.

Wireframes also give an idea of where key UI elements like buttons and media placeholders should be. It defines the content hierarchy and how the elements are laid out, including components unique to the core app idea. For example, if it’s a navigation app like Waze, the wireframe should include a rough sketch of a map.

Most importantly, a wireframe describes the transition between app screens. In this way, a person looking at a good wireframe design can instantly tell the concrete steps the users take to perform actions in-app.

A wireframe shouldn’t be confused with a prototype. Much like a blueprint doesn’t contain the colors and material of the building’s walls and floors, a wireframe doesn’t specify the fonts, colors, and logos used in the final app.

Mobile App Wireframing: Why Is It Important?

With a wireframe, app development can become simpler and more streamlined. In addition, it steers the entire team to work on a singular look and feel for your app, much like a business plan.

It can also help you identify fundamental UI problems early on, thereby preventing costly redesigns in later development stages. For example, wireframing can help you determine the optimal number of screens to use, saving you unnecessary design work on extra app pages.

Wireframing also helps refine the app idea itself. That’s because the process forces you to think about how your end-user will use the app. Thus, you can discover use cases or develop new ways to help solve the user’s pain points much more efficiently.

But most of all, wireframing is vital for ensuring the best user experience (UX) for your app. You can test it with your end-users to gauge how user-friendly your app is.

Creating a Wireframe for Mobile Apps: a Step-by-Step Guide

Now, we come to the actual mobile app wireframing process. Here’s what it looks like:

Step 1: User Flow Diagram

Before you begin to draw out your mobile app wireframes, it’s helpful to create a user flow diagram first. This is a visual representation of the ideal path your users take while in your app. Doing this step is essential because it ensures that you stay on track while designing the wireframes themselves.

Start by listing down the keys steps your users need to take to go through the ideal path on your app. For example, if you’re designing a ride-hailing app, what steps are necessary to book and pay for a ride?

Once these steps are outlined, you can begin drawing rough “screens.” Often, each step would correspond to an app screen. However, you should look for opportunities to combine multiple steps into a single screen. But don’t stress yourself out at this point yet – you have plenty of time to refine your designs later on.

Lastly, with the rough draft of each screen, you can then begin to connect them using arrows to depict how a user “flows” from one to the other. Note that flows don’t have to be linear.

Once you’re done with the user flow diagram, you should have a clearer idea of how your app works. It also defines more or less the number of screens your app requires, which can streamline the design process later on.

We recommend doing user flow diagrams with crucial stakeholders present, including the client if it’s an agency project. This ensures you get their input early on in the process and prevents unnecessary revisions.

Step 2: Sketches

With your user flow diagram on hand, you can now begin sketching the UI elements of your app screen. You can use design software like Adobe Photoshop or XD to create the sketch. However, you can also complete this step on paper, as it’s faster and more flexible.

At this point, you should get into more detailed UI questions. For example, is the button best placed in the upper right corner or the middle of the screen? Does a specific function warrant its own screen, or can it be combined with another? What’s the best layout to use?

During sketching, you should begin evaluating each app screen and surmise its purpose. If it’s not contributing to the overall user experience, cut it out. Remember, good UX often means the shortest and most efficient path from A to B.

Getting feedback is also vital while sketching. Doing this gives you insights and perspectives to refine your sketches and arrive at the best design possible. And this is where the value of paper sketching is most evident because you can easily edit your drawing.

Step 3: App Wireframe

Now that you have a refined sketch in place, you have a pretty good idea of how your app will look. The next step is to do the actual app wireframing.

As mentioned above, a wireframe is a further detailed drawing of your app sketch but is generally less complicated than a prototype. Here, you use wireframing tools like Adobe XD, InVision Studio, or Balsamiq to create a low-quality version of your app.

Begin by choosing your app screen dimensions. This gives you size constraints that help you make smart decisions on your app design and proportion so that it looks great on mobile screens.

However, since there are various mobile phone screen sizes, this can be tricky. Ideally, it’s best to go with the device that your target market is using more often. Otherwise, you can use an “average” dimension that works well for most iOS and Android phones. Based on experience, this is around 375 x 667 pixels.

After you’ve decided on screen dimensions, the next step is to block out your layout using boxes. Each box represents a particular area of your app screens, such as the dashboard, navigation buttons, or main content sections.

Ideally, your layout boxes should follow a visual hierarchy, depending on the priority of the content it contains. So, for example, more critical sections like content are represented with larger boxes nearer the top, while less important ones are in smaller boxes further down the screen.

Once you’ve blocked out the general sections of each app page, add more details with UI elements. Buttons, picture holders, navigation bars, and text holders are crucial components to put at this point. It’s also advisable to use iOS or Android design patterns to speed up the process and introduce familiar UI elements for users.

Fortunately, most wireframing tools have almost all the UI elements you need. You simply drag and drop them to use.

It’s also prudent to use real copy instead of “Lorem Ipsum” dummy text. Not only will this give you a better feel for the app’s look, but it will also tell you whether some text sections need more space. Nothing’s worse than finding out in development that you don’t have sufficient space for the necessary copy in your app.

Lastly, don’t forget to note how each screen connects with one another. You can note these with simple arrows. However, some wireframing tools allow you to add clickable elements to turn your mobile wireframes into interactive prototypes.

Step 4: High-Level Prototype

The last step is to turn a wireframe into a high-level prototype. Prototypes look and work as close to the final app as possible, just less the core functionality. Users can tap on elements like buttons and menu bars, and it will respond accordingly.

When creating a high-level prototype, you should now decide on design elements like font, color, and photos. If you’re working for an established company, you’ll use branding elements in the high-level prototype as well.

And that’s it! Your app wireframe is done. It will now be sent to the development team to be used in the final app or possibly passed to the QA team for usability testing.

What’s Next?

Having an app wireframe is just half the story. Properly executing that wireframe into a working app is the other equally important half. To do that, you need a seasoned mobile app development agency like Expedition Co for support.

Got an app wireframe (or even an idea!) that you want to bring to life? Contact us today, and let’s start a conversation about your project.