The more wireframes I build for projects, the more one thing becomes clear; there is no hard and fast answer as to what level of fidelity is best. This is probably due to the fact that wireframes can serve multiple purposes. That being said, I prefer to develop medium to high fidelity wireframes. They work better for our process here at C360 for several reasons;
1) They keep the client engaged in the process from the very beginning. Particularly on smaller projects, I tend to lean more towards a high fidelity approach. In my experience this alleviates some of the desire from the client to see a design first thing. Provided that it is clearly communicated to them that the wireframe is not the final product, it offers opportunity for the client to give some design feedback without frustrating the designer. This can save valuable time further down the project’s timeline once the research has been done and it IS time to push pixels in Photoshop. That is – if you still do Photoshop mockups – I do.
2) They lend insight to a site’s content structure. Without displaying the complete content of pages, a wireframe can convey a sense of “everything having its place.” To that end, I like to include the titles of subsections of pages so the client – and team – get a better idea of what will live on the page, rather than just the top level category.
3) Higher fidelity wireframes help with estimating the cost of a project. Staring at a sitemap does little to help everyone grasp the enormity of a project, or in some cases, just how simple a solution may be. By expanding upon the sitemap with a high fidelity wireframe, the needs of the project and methods of execution begin to come into focus. This allows our team to have firmer grasp on the tasks at hand and are able to deliver a more accurate estimate.
4) Depending on your weapon of choice, iterating can be much faster. I prefer Illustrator for developing wireframes. Photoshop overly complicates things and distracts from the task at hand. (This is a pretty subjective one, but I personally can work much, much faster in Illustrator than anything else I have come across to date).
So there are a few examples. Opinions vary, which to me says that its a matter of works best for you, your team and – more importantly – your project.
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