Studies show that only 40% of SaaS startups eventually become profitable. One of the reasons why these startups fail is releasing products with user experience or functionality issues. How can your company avoid spending thousands or millions of dollars building a final product that fails? Simple. Don’t skip low-fidelity wireframing during the product design process.
What is low-fidelity wireframing?
Low-fidelity wireframing is a form of low-fidelity prototyping. It involves creating a rough drawing or skeleton of how your digital product (website or app) will look and work. Think of it as sketching a visual representation of your app on paper or a whiteboard.
Low-fidelity wireframes are typically simple and lack details like color, images, or typography. Also, while you can make low-fidelity wireframes with digital tools, the wireframe won’t have clickable components.
You can use low-fidelity wireframing to showcase your planned product’s user flow, visual design, functionality, and basic layout without going into much detail. The sketch will help your development team identify your product’s core functionality and user experience (what works and needs improvement).
Your team can also use lo-fi wireframes to collect feedback from stakeholders during the design process's early stages. Insights from the feedback will facilitate creating a better iteration of your product before moving on to more detailed design work.
What details should be in a low-fidelity wireframe? Elements can vary between wireframes, but below are the most common elements lo-fi wireframes have.
Company logo: Adding your logo signifies your ownership of the product design.
Search field: A search bar or field will simplify navigating your website or mobile app.
Breadcrumbs: Since low-fidelity wireframes do not have clickable elements, you will use breadcrumbs to show the connections between elements. For instance, a breadcrumb will show the page a user will see after clicking a particular element.
Headers: Headers give structure to the content of a wireframe by labeling each element.
Placeholders: You can use shapes to represent buttons and text boxes. You can also use image and text placeholders to represent content on a page.
How is low-fidelity wireframing different from high-fidelity wireframing?
Low-fidelity wireframes are basic sketches that outline the display and navigation of a web or mobile app. You use such wireframes to communicate the general idea of your product without going into details. When ready to go into details, switch to a high-fidelity wireframe.
High-fidelity wireframes are a more comprehensive visual representation of what your final product will look like. Unlike a lo-fi wireframe, it shows more technical details and has clickable and responsive elements. Also, a high-fidelity wireframe’s aesthetics and content are more precise than a lo-fi wireframe’s.
In summary, a high-fidelity wireframe mimics a completed user interface so users and stakeholders can get a clearer picture of how the final product will look and operate. You build high-fidelity wireframes during your design process' later stages, but low-fidelity wireframing occurs during the early stages.
Even though they are different, low and high-fidelity wireframes are equally important, and you should never skip them during product design. The wireframes save time and effort by helping designers and developers verify the viability of a product before building it.
It also helps identify UX, aesthetic, and functionality issues before iterating a product. Skipping the steps could lead to investing in building a subpar version one of your product that costs your brand money, time, and reputation.
4 steps for low-fidelity wireframing
Whether doing low-fidelity wireframing with pen and paper or a digital tool, follow these steps to get the best results:
1. Define your product’s scope and purpose
Before starting your low-fidelity wireframe, clarify your product’s scope and purpose. A clearly defined scope will facilitate wireframing that accurately depicts the product’s intended functionality and user experience.
Also, defining the product scope and purpose will simplify identifying the product features and functionality needed to deliver the stated purpose. Add the listed features and functionality during low-fidelity wireframing to depict your product accurately.
2. Create a basic layout
Draw a basic layout of your digital product by using simple shapes and placeholders to depict various elements. For instance, you can use placeholder text or images for content and boxes to depict tabs.
Next, use a storyboard to present your low-fidelity wireframe and mockup with a sequential flow. The storyboard should depict a user's journey or experience navigating your website or application. The typical storyboard consists of simple sketches showing the steps or interactions a user would take to achieve their goals with your app.
3. Prioritize usability
Your low-fidelity wireframe should be easy to understand at a glance. You can achieve this by prioritizing usability and functionality. Without verbal explanation, stakeholders should be able to see and understand the outcomes of interacting with any elements in the wireframe.
4. Iterate and Refine
Share low-fidelity wireframes with team members, users, and stakeholders so they can provide feedback. You can use the feedback to refine the current wireframe and make other iterations. Feedback from users is crucial because it will provide clear insights into your design’s lacking aspects.
Once you’ve perfected the low-fidelity wireframe, you can make a high-fidelity wireframe. The hi-fi wireframe will provide a clearer picture of how each element of your design looks and works. You will also learn if your current product design can effectively fulfill its intended purpose.
Low-fidelity wireframe example
Below is a low-fidelity wireframe DevSquad built for a client.
As you can see, the wireframe is simple yet comprehensive, showing clearly how the client’s app will look and work. It also has arrows that show user flow – the page a user will see after clicking a button.
At DevSquad, we carry clients along throughout the low-fidelity wireframing process. Clients can contribute to the process by sketching ideas and providing feedback, which we incorporate into the design. Also, while low-fidelity prototypes are typically not interactive, we can link wireframes together to let you see what happens if you click a button.
10 best tools for low-fidelity wireframing
As we’ve mentioned, you can do low-fidelity wireframing with traditional paper and pen. However, this caveman method isn’t the best because it limits your ability to share, edit, test, or collaborate with team members, users, and stakeholders. Fortunately, several digital low-fidelity wireframing tools are available for simplifying the process and getting better results. The best of these tools are:
Figma is a one-in-all tool for creating mockups and conducting user tests. With the platform, your team and clients can collaborate on low-fidelity wireframing to deliver better products faster. Since Figma has everything you need to design, prototype, share, and collect feedback for low-fidelity wireframes, you don’t need to spend extra cash on other tools.
Your team can use the Figma web tool or mobile app to complete and share projects, and making the most of the user-friendly tool requires zero coding skills. Also, you can continue using Figma when ready to progress to high-fidelity wireframing. Lastly, Figma is affordable and even has a free forever plan.
Sketch is another excellent tool for building low-fidelity wireframes. Besides basic wireframes, you can add user flow to depict different paths users can take within your product or website.
You will also love Sketch’s wireframe templates that you can use to make low-fidelity wireframing less time-consuming. On the downside, users can only use Mac systems to access Sketch to create and edit low-fidelity wireframes.
InVision is a digital whiteboard design teams can use to sketch low-fidelity wireframes and add user flows. Teams can use the user-friendly tool to collaborate and add elements to a wireframe or comment.
Also, Invision integrates with many tools your team already uses, such as Google Docs, Asana, Zoom, and Salesforce. Lastly, since the tool supports freehand drawing, you can let your imagination run free while sketching wireframes.
Miro is a visual collaboration platform for low-fidelity wireframing and building other rough prototypes. The platform’s virtual whiteboard is intuitive to simplify drawing out your product exactly as you’ve envisioned it. Remote teams can use the platform to brainstorm with teammates in other locations in real time. You can also have fun sharing feedback or reacting to ideas with emojis and stickers.
Conceptboard is a collaborative online whiteboard for brainstorming and sketching out product ideas. You can create low-fidelity wireframes on a whiteboard and share them with teammates or clients to receive feedback.
Like many competitors, Conceptboard offers hundreds of templates for fast-tracking projects. The platform also offers autosave with cloud storage to prevent progress loss.
Lucidchart is one of the most user-friendly low-fidelity wireframing tools. You can use it to build and customize wireframes and add diagrams that make your lo-fi wireframe more descriptive.
Since Lucidchart easily integrates with tools like Microsoft, Atlassian, and Slack, it simplifies brainstorming or managing a project with your team. A free version of Lucidchart is available, or you can opt for a paid plan to access more templates and features like commenting.
Pencil Project is simplicity at its finest. The open-source tool is excellent for low-fidelity wireframing, mockup creation, and prototyping, and it is 100% free to use. You only need to download it on your Mac or Windows computer, sign up, and you are good to go.
Like the other tools on our list, Pencil Project offers templates for building lo-fi wireframes for mobile and web apps. On the downside, Pencil Project is ideal for only small teams because of its limited collaboration features.
Do you want a collaborative mockup and low-fidelity wireframing application that is super-fast and efficient? If so, you should try NinjaMock. You can use it to design wireframes for mobile apps and web pages and test your creation on your own device.
Within a few minutes of opening NinjaMock, you can make your first wireframe and collaborate with colleagues in real time. The platform also offers advanced features for personalizing wireframes and tracking progress. Since it works on IOS, Android, Windows, and web platforms, anyone can use NinjaMock.
Mockflow is a cloud-based wireframing software that simplifies brainstorming your UI design. The tool’s template library and drag-and-drop editor ease building a low-fidelity wireframe that showcases your proposed web or mobile app’s UI components.
If you are new to low-fidelity wireframing, you will appreciate Mockflow’s beginner-friendly user interface that requires zero special skills. You also get design presets that eliminate the need to build shapes and elements from scratch for your wireframe.
Balsamiq Wireframes offers a simple solution for low-fidelity wireframing during product development brainstorming and ideation. With the tool, you can create the first iterations of your website, app, or desktop software’s user interface. However, unlike comprehensive tools like Figma, you cannot move to high-fidelity wireframing with Balsamiq.
On the upside, Balsamiq is intuitive and fast, thanks to its drag-and-drop interface. Also, since wireframes built with Balsamiq are interactive, you can use them for demos or usability tests to gain user feedback.
How to know when it's time to move on to high fidelity
As we’ve pointed out, low-fidelity wireframes are typically simple, lacking detail and interactivity. Even though it’s simple, a lo-fi wireframe can provide a general picture of how your proposed app or website will operate or look.
Showing lo-fi wireframes to stakeholders at the beginning of the creation process will provide insights into how you can improve your product’s aesthetics and performance. However, due to its lack of interactivity, there is a limit to how much user testing you can do during low-fidelity wireframing.
After you have exhausted low-fidelity wireframe tests and are happy with the design, you can start high-fidelity wireframing. Hi-fi wireframing provides a prototype that closely resembles your proposed product’s final look and performance. It will have color, fonts, images, clickable buttons, and other details your final product will have.
Low-fidelity vs. high-fidelity wireframe
Since a hi-fi wireframe is interactive and more detailed, it is better for gathering feedback regarding user experience. You can also use it to identify and fix interface problems or other issues that users can only spot while using your digital product. After perfecting your high-fidelity prototype, you can develop a version one of your product for the market.
In summary, move to hi-fi wireframing when you need to:
Gather real-world user feedback and validation
Simulate system responses
Find and fix interface problems
Progress your design and figure out the technical details
When you are ready to start developing your product, talk to DevSquad. We are a full-service product design and development team that helps SaaS businesses design, validate, and launch products. We will start with low-fidelity wireframing and continue iterating your product until you are happy enough with the design to build version one.
Click here to learn more about how DevSquad can help you strategize and launch your SaaS product.