Why You Should Never Build Apps Without Wireframes

The question in the title immediately suggests that, in fact, you can build an application without wireframes but should not. Sure enough, why do we need wireframes when we already have mockups and prototypes? Well, we do, as this is a textbook case of «buy nice or buy twice», and by buying we mean the dearest thing of all – time.

But let's start from the very beginning. What are wireframes and why is it so important to create a wireframe for an app?

Wireframes and Their Role in App Development

The nature of wireframes is clear from their name – they are just simple drawings representing the design of user interface. These are rough images usually done in black and white with the single purpose – to show how the interface elements will be arranged and how they will interact.


Wireframes are created during the project planning stage: after the functionality scope has been defined and before the actual development starts. We can define them as the skeleton, which the flesh of the application will be grafting on.

A very good practice is discussing app wireframes with the client at the planning phase. This is a perfect chance to show what the application will look like and how its elements will interact. At the same time, while you are not too deep in the project, you can make all sorts of changes and updates, finally coming to the version that both fits the project and suits the client.

Goals of Wireframing

Wireframing an app allows achieving several important goals that can help you save time and money for the project.

Verify that the entire scope is implemented

Creating wireframes for your apps is a great way to make sure that all features, which have been scheduled, will be implemented. When you lay your app down in graphic images, it is easier to see if anything is left out. At the same time, while wireframing you can add some features that have not been included before, to make switching between screens smooth and more organic.

Show user experience

As we've said already, wireframes are totally devoid of color and fancy graphics. Graphical elements are unnecessary at this stage and may distract the attention from a more important point – the user experience.

With wireframes, your app first comes to life and takes its first shape, even if it's somewhat fuzzy and fragile. At this stage, you can already see whether the sequence of screens is logical, whether the UI elements are located conveniently, whether the flows are straightforward and include no unnecessary steps.


Image credit: ThinkApps

Show app architecture and features

As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. When you want a new hairstyle, it's better to bring a picture of your desired look, as you and your stylist may have different ideas of “honey-colored” or “two-fingers' breadth”.

It is the same in app development, as it may happen that you and your client visualize “sticky bars” or “carousel” in a different way. Use wireframes to make sure that you are on the same page with the client, that they understand the overall app architecture and that all features are what they are supposed to be. Later, it may be too late.

Validate functionality

The wireframing stage also gives a great opportunity to check whether all the scheduled features are actually needed. It may happen that as soon as you lay out the app structure you will realize that, for example, map integration brings no value to the application and can be easily removed.

Besides, wireframing can help you verify and rearrange the feature hierarchy. Sometimes, the feature that was expected to become the headliner of the whole application suddenly looks secondary in the graphic layout. On the contrary, another feature may look «just right» to become the core of the application.


Iterate development

In Agile development, the entire project scope is built in iterations – time intervals during which a certain block of functionality is completed. The scope for each iteration is defined so that to show something at the end of each sprint. Ideally, iteration should end with a new feature or a function that is completely developed and tested.

Building wireframes can help iterating the development flow. When you can literally «click» your app through with wireframes, you will clearly see where one feature ends and the next one begins. Wireframes will show all minor and not-so-minor UI elements, which should be implemented for each functional module. Thus, it will be easier to break the scope into logical chunks.

Provide for Updates

Wireframes can also help you see whether the suspected UI is enough to scale your application later. For example, e-commerce apps should have room for more goods in a product catalog. The business is supposed to grow, isn't it?

With wireframes, you can build an interface to be easily scaled, with no need to redesign half the UI to add new items or options. A little effort at the planning stage can save you from tremendous job afterward.

Verify responsiveness

A good idea is to create a mobile wireframe, too. With the growing popularity of mobile devices, users are sure to access your app via their smartphones or tablets. Wireframing will help to see whether your application is easily usable on mobile devices.

Of course, if you are developing both desktop and mobile versions (while we believe that most business owners understand that smartphone applications are in the category of “must have” nowadays), you will need another set of wireframes to lay down your mobile app functionality.


Who Should Participate in Wireframing

Everyone. Seriously, everyone. We've already mentioned that wireframing is a part of project planning, and project planning involves quite a lot of people.

Wireframes are created by a web designer or UX designer on the basis of the functionality scope approved by a client together with a project manager. In the process of app wireframes' development, the UX designer works closely with the client to make sure that the proposed design meets their expectations.

Before the wireframes are actually approved, they should be also reviewed by the marketing team. They need to verify that the application flows match the marketing concepts and strategies; that the conversion areas are where they are supposed to be; that their marketing techniques actually work. A fancy working application that is poorly structured from the marketing point of view will be a waste of time and effort.

After the wireframes are approved, they are passed on to visual designers, UI developers, and copywriters to build the actual application on their basis.

Wireframing Tools

How to wireframe an app? Wireframes are rather approximate and, basically, can be drawn with a pen and paper. Even in this case, they will still serve their purpose.

However, there are quite a lot of tools on the market that can help you create wireframes for your project.



Wireframe.cc is one of the simplest wireframing tools. With its very basic set of features and a “what you see is what you get” interface, Wireframe.cc is a great tool for creating simple application designs with no special skills. Just drag and drop interface elements and watch your application taking shape. Wireframe.cc has a free version and can be used even without creating an account.



Axure is a whole suite of tools, from wireframing to project management. With Axure, you can not only build wireframes but also develop them into prototypes by adding colors, fonts, animations and other interface elements.

Axure subscription starts at $29 per month which includes most wireframing and prototyping options. At the same time, there is a 30-day free trial to get a taste of what Axure offers.



Another convenient wireframing tool, Balsamiq, can be used for easy mobile app wireframing. Of course, it also supports desktop applications and websites, too. According to the Balsamiq team, its usability helps you forget that you are working with software and not drawing with a pen on a piece of paper.

Balsamiq pricing plans start with $9 per month – a subscription suitable for solo developers as it supports only two projects. However, other pricing options, such as a 30-day free trial, are also available.



Mockplus is your tool of choice if you want to create mobile app wireframes. It is a user-friendly environment for building wireframes for iOS apps and Android apps. A large selection of icons and UI components allows building various feature-rich interfaces. You can even test your wireframes on a native device simply by scanning a QR code.

You can subscribe for Mockplus at $199 per year and get most of the features including team collaboration. Naturally, there is also a 30-day free trial if you want to see whether Mockplus is good for your tasks.

Wireframing is Fun!

No matter how you create your wireframes – with an online tool or on paper – it is going to be exciting. In this way, you get a chance to “breathe life” into that formless set of features and see the first rough outline of your future product.

However, wireframing, when done right, is going to save a lot of time and effort for the entire project team. When your UI exists only in the form of a black-and-white drawing, it can be easily changed and optimized. Later, changes can be much more time-consuming. Thus, whatever wireframing method you opt for – do it!
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