Wireframe Tools For Designers

There are several wireframe tools a designer can choose to create the layout of their work. If you’re just starting out on wireframing, it might prove to be a difficult task identifying the right tools for you, so you may want to sample one tool after the other, which is a good idea since every designer is unique in their own way. So in this article, we’ll highlight some of the options available for you if you’re not sure.

Getting Inspiration

The first time designers try their hands on wireframes, they get confused along the way. So it’s vital that you check what other designers are doing to have a quick overview and a visual understanding of how things work. Sites such as ”Wirify” let new designers view wireframe dimensions of live websites. These sites let users observe what other designers are doing for their wireframes, consequently getting a clue of how this process helps organize information on a screen.

Designing the Process

You see, designing is usually considered an organic process. That’s the reason why different designers approach the idea of translating to visuals or codes in a variety of ways. Because of this, one has to identify a process they are most comfortable to work with. The following are some commonly used steps in the wireframe process:

  • Sketch-wireframe-high definition wireframe-visual and then code
  • Sketch-wireframe-visual-code
  • Wireframe-high definition wireframe-visual-code
  • Sketch-code

It’s usually upon an individual to choose which style they want to use. Sometimes you may want to test different styles before discovering the most effective one. Others may be really good at sketching things, so they may not need these tools at all. On the other hand, some designers prefer doing several steps to minimize deviations or allow them think critically through every iteration as their work begins to take form and shape.

Wireframe Tools For Designers

1. Balsamiq

They first became popular because wireframes produced by Balsamiq mimicked sketches, which made it obvious that the wireframes were not finished work but tasks in progress. Furthermore, Balsamiq has a vast collection of components that designers can reuse as they deem fit. They just need to drag and drop them to design their wireframe.

In addition to this, Balsamiq can be used on any platform. For instance, if you are working with desktop versions, then you can access it in Windows, Mac and Linux versions. There’s also a web version of it, just in case you love working in the cloud. Finally, third-party apps such as iMockups exclusively designed for iOS have support for export components of Balsamiq.

2. Omnigraffle

Omnigraffle also has a vast collection of reusable components to make work easier. This is an application that was specifically designed for diagramming. Furthermore, this application also has complex features such as smart guides, automatic layout, custom-object style support as well as graphic tools. A few of the features incorporated in Omnigraffle are also available in the Adobe CS suite. However, if you don’t have the suite, then you can invest in Omnigraffle, which can be purchased at only $100 and it will still produce detailed wireframes.

3. Axure

This was among the very first wireframe tools to be created for designers. It used to be exclusively available for Windows users only, until recently when it was upgraded for other users as well. It’s widely used among industry professionals, though we can’t say much about it as we don’t have much experience with Axure.

4. Flairbuilder

It’s considered a new tool in the market. The advantage of using it is due to the fact that it has very strong support for interactions, accompanied by a decent library of components to use. It supports master pages, plus users can even export prototypes for online viewing.

Web-based Applications

Some designers love working and storing everything on the web. So if working on the desktop is not your thing, then you might consider checking out sites such as MockFlow, MockingBird, and HotGloo. These sites provide high-quality platforms upon which designers can plan, build and even share their work. They just need to create an account and that’s it. Lastly, the advantage of working on the cloud is that all work is kept save and secure, so chances of losing data is almost non-existence.

Keynote/Powerpoint

Keynotopia is best known for transforming presentation application into rapid prototyping tool that can be used to create mobile, web and even desktop application mockups. As for the non-Mac users, Keynotopia also offers powerpoint templates to make work easier. We recommend it in the event that you need to prototype or wireframe mobile apps quickly. Also, try keynote Kungfu.

Adobe CS tools

If you’re familiar with Adobe tools, Fireworks, Indesign and Illustrator, you can use them for wireframing, though they both come with their individual strengths and weaknesses.

In Fireworks, you can work out the entire process, from wireframing to the final result. You can also create interactive prototypes relatively quickly.

On the other hand, illustrator is also a very familiar tool among designers. You can use it when trying to do quick and complex wireframing tasks, and when interactivity is not the main point of focus. But what makes it a champion in its own right? Well, it’s the ability to let you export PSD with layers that are editable, then copy-paste to Photoshop. It also boasts of strong photography controls with styles you can save, reuse, or edit, quite the same way you work with CSS.

Finally, Indesign is also capable of doing what Illustrator can do, though it puts more emphasis on typographic style control and solid master page support. It was recently upgraded to create interactive prototypes as well.

Useful Tip

Just pick Indesign when your focus is on creating high-fidelity multi page prototype. However, the only setback is the weak export feature to Photoshop when it comes to handling visuals. Otherwise, it’s a perfect tool for the job.

Conclusion

Again it depends on your style of doing things. We are not, by any means, suggesting that the above wireframe tools work just right for every designer. This is a clue to what you should expect when working with any one of the tools above. Only choose to work with wireframe tools that fit your purpose.

 bnr17

Jessica Miller
Jessica is the Lead Author & Editor of UsabilityLab Blog. Jessica writes for the UsabilityLab blog to create a source for news and discussion about some of the issues, challenges, news, and ideas relating to usability.
Jessica Miller on sabtwitterJessica Miller on sablinkedinJessica Miller on sabgoogleJessica Miller on sabfacebook