Wireframes and their importance in Mobile App Development
If you built a time machine 20 years ago and travelled to the present, one thing that would stick out is the ubiquity of the smartphone. From the premium iDevices to the budget smartphones available at one-tenth the price, there seems to be a phone made for everyone. It has evolved from being a status symbol to an absolute necessity to access the internet and the various services that run on it.
With a userbase that large, it is understandable that many companies would want their app to reserve a seat in their customer’s smartphone, and maybe occupy a special place in its notification drawer.
The advantage that companies like Ideas2IT have, is that we have been developing mobile apps from the very beginning, and have served such companies for a while now. From simple and elegant fitness apps to complex team communication and meeting apps, we have a wide range of development experience behind us. With this experience comes a certain level of understanding and a healthy amount of respect for the various steps involved in the process.
We can broadly divide the process of creating an app into three steps – gathering requirements (which may or may not be included in the brief), UI design, and then development. While each step is important, we noticed very early on that there is a hidden step, one that bridges the gap between the list of requirements on paper, to the polished UI. (Note: some readers might object to the omission of UX or User Experience. That is because UX design is intimately involved in every step of the process.)
That hidden step? Creating the Wireframes.
We often faced a problem after the requirements stage. Getting all the project members on the same page regarding how the various functionalities tied into the UI, process flows etc., was tricky at best. A list of functionalities can be envisioned as a working app in a multitude of ways by the client, the designer and the developer. And all of them could be right. Validating these ideas at the UI design stage can be disastrous because
- Creating a polished UI design is time consuming
- Multiple revisions of said design, even more so
Wireframes meanwhile allow anyone to quickly mock up what a screen would contain from a functional perspective, while leaving the aesthetics aside. This allows for rapid fire iterations that quickly molds together the best ideas of the stakeholders. They are built in a quick and dirty manner, and don’t need elaborate tools. A wireframe sketched out on a napkin is just as valid as one built in Balsamiq (a wireframing tool). Comfortable with MS Office? Build them out on Powerpoint! The freedom is endless, and so are the benefits. Once the all stakeholders are happy with the wireframes, the designer can build out the UI using them as a base. We can say from experience that wireframes have saved us (and our clients) a ton of grief.
Wireframes are of course not just useful in mobile app development. They can be used for web and software development as well, but considering the tight timelines usually required for mobile app development and support, we have found them especially useful here. They are an invaluable tool in any team’s toolbox – versatile, effective, efficient, and without any downsides whatsoever.