Paper prototyping and wireframing are probably the best design tools used in enhancing user experiences.
These UX/UI tools allow web application owners and developers to consider user experience during the design stage of any website or app development.
It’s kinda like an architectural drawing for your dream home.
When you create a wireframe or prototype of your design, you can see clearly how your website or app will work.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
With a prototype or wireframe, you can identify flaws in your design easily. This is because the visual nature of your wireframe will show you where some features overlap.
It will also show you where some elements might impede the functionalities of the application.
This is a great way to analyse your development plan, even before writing the first code.
So why are some design teams overlooking this very crucial work flow?
There are many free wireframing tools online so cost cannot be the problem. As a developer or innovator, you can use a free online mockup generator or create a basic paper prototype by hand.
Benefits of Free Prototyping Tools For Web Applications
Prototyping and wireframing tools are not all easy to use. Infact, most of them are downright difficult for beginners to understand.
Learning how to create a wireframe for your website or app will get easier after some practice, so don’t be discouraged the first time you try it.
Instead, focus on the positives. Like the reasons why paper prototyping and wireframing are important. Here are 4 major reasons:
1. Discover design issues early
Finding web design issues is the main reason a prototype or wireframe should be created from the start.
During development, the main focus is on the code and adhering to web development best practices. Without a visual design to guide you, important infrastructural issues might be overlooked.
For instance, after developing a website, it might be discovered that the navigation is confusing and that users get stuck or lost.
There is so much that can go wrong, but this could be avoided if a prototype or wire-frame was used to test the functionalities of the app.
2. Revise designs faster
Wireframes and prototypes allow you to improve your design concepts quickly.
Yep! You can revise and refine your idea multiple times.
If you discover a problem with your design and make the necessary changes, you can re-evaluate your changes and decide whether or not you want to keep them.
So if you realize later that your new changes create more problems, prototyping makes it easy to delete these new changes with no stress at all.
3. Compare several designs
Comparing different designs at once has never been easier. You can create several variations of one idea and choose the one that creates a better design flow.
For example, you could have a dilemma between a tabbed navigation menu or a list of links arranged vertically. This problem is easy to solve if you have prototypes with different variations of your design.
4. Collaborate with your team
During the design stage, multiple ideas are used to get a final prototype or wireframe. A web application with a specific design idea can easily evolve into the finished product.
Collaborating with team members is a huge plus because once they have a go at it, ideas will birth new ideas.
Simply describing your plan during team meetings will only result in bad feedback when the development is complete.
If you work with other developers and engineers, they’ll point out prototyping issues and offer alternative solutions based on their professional experiences.
Paper prototyping and wireframing a web application is a must for website development. It’s a cheap way of reducing rework.
Best of all, you can show the best features of your application with ease. This will reduce wasted time and money, making your finished product user-centric.
Most people assume that developers spend more time developing applications than they do making code corrections.
This isn’t true. The reality is that more time is spent on rework.
Rework and corrections can be avoided if web development best practices are followed in the first place.
It does not matter how you create a prototype or wire-frame.
Seriously it dosen’t!
You can use a pen or pencil, a quick sketch on a notepad or a post-it note, or even a high-priced application. The idea is simply to create a workflow that a developer will understand.
There are some free prototyping tools for web applications that can help you create more professional and easy-to-understand prototypes. Below are 7 free tools.
- Balsamiq Wireframe Tool
- Pencil Project
- iPhone Mockup
- Wireframe. cc ( My number one fav tool)
I’ll do my best to keep this list updated, but if you discover that any of these tools are no longer free, or if you have a really good one that you want to recommend, please leave a comment below.