How to Create a Mobile App Wireframe

Wireframing is a crucial step in the mobile app development process. It helps provide a clear vision for stakeholders, development teams, designers, and everyone else associated with the project.

An app wireframe is a backbone for creating a successful design and building an app that users will love.

This in-depth guide explains everything you need to know about app wireframes, including how to make an app wireframe and best practices to follow.

What is a Mobile App Wireframe?

An app wireframe is a two-dimensional blueprint and visual guide that represents the skeletal framework of a mobile application. 

The wireframe stage takes place early on in the product life cycle before any actual development or design begins. This initial stage of an app project helps demonstrate how the app will work and what it will look like.

Wireframes should visually illustrate different steps in the user journey as a way to identify potential pain points before the dev team starts building. It should include all of your page elements, navigation screens, content, and main objectives. 

An app wireframe gets everyone on the same page, so the team knows what they’re building, and stakeholders know what to expect as the final product. 

Wireframes do not include any colors, stylized graphics, images, logos, fonts, or mobile app design elements. They’re simply early sketches that show how the app will be used.

You can think of a wireframe as the blueprint of a house. It contains all of the rooms, doors, windows, electrical infrastructure, and plumbing but does not include any furniture or decorations.

Why Are Mobile App Wireframes Important?

App wireframes are a crucial part of the mobile app development and design process.

Wireframing helps provide a clear picture of how end-users will interact with your app. If you can’t explain how your app idea solves the problems of your customers, then you might need to go back to the drawing board. 

Let’s take a closer look at the reasons why it’s so important to create an app wireframe.

Visual Blueprint of the App

Having an idea is great, and having a good idea is even better. But even the best ideas are useless if you don’t have a clear plan and vision.

Verbally conveying your idea to a development team and assuming they’re going to deliver what you want is unrealistic. 

But a wireframe gets your point across and makes it easier to share your vision with project teams, investors, and stakeholders.

You can’t think about funding, user testing, or other business-related decisions without a wireframe. Putting these ideas into a wireframe first will make your life much easier. 

Faster Iterations

An app wireframe helps simplify an otherwise large or intimidating development process. Breaking your project into smaller, attainable tasks is a much easier way to achieve success. 

The great part about building a wireframe is that it doesn’t take a ton of time. This helps you build momentum and get the ball rolling as you’re assembling your team, giving presentations, and pitching investors. 

Executing these iterations in the early stages of development is much easier, and you can continue building on these steps. 

Avoid Mistakes

Your app wireframe should lay out the different screen functions. 

It helps you determine where certain app features should be placed and if there’s enough room on the screen to accommodate those functions. 

An app wireframe helps you establish a hierarchy of elements before you implement the design. It’s much easier to do this on paper than after you’ve committed any code. 

Mistakes here are really easy to fix. But fixing mistakes post-development is much more challenging.

Saves Time and Money

As previously mentioned, an app wireframe helps you identify potential flaws and pain points before anything has been coded. This saves you a ton of time and money on development costs. 

Wireframes also provide your developers and designers with a clear picture of what they’re building. So starting with a wireframe can actually speed up the development process and shorten your overall timeline. 

Even things like content creation will be streamlined since the structure of your app’s screens has already been organized. Content creators and designers won’t have to ask any questions about where certain elements should be placed.

An app wireframe makes it easier to estimate costs as well. For example, if you’re outsourcing a UX/UI design team, they’ll likely provide you with a more accurate estimate since they know exactly what you’re looking for. So the chances of running over budget are reduced.

How to Wireframe Mobile Apps in 5 Simple Steps

Creating a wireframe is easy when you follow the step-by-step guide below:

  1. Map Out the App’s User Flow
  2. Organize the Mobile App Content
  3. Determine the Layout
  4. Create a Detailed Wireframe
  5. Integrate the Design Elements

Step #1 — Map Out the App’s User Flow

User flows are the backbone of wireframes for mobile applications. 

A user flow is a visual guide that showcases the series of actions a user must take to reach a specific goal. Not all user flows are linear—meaning there might be multiple paths to achieve a goal within your app.  

You can start creating a user flow by sketching your idea on a piece of paper. Eventually, you can take this sketch to the next level with a digital version of the flow.

Remember, an app wireframe does not contain design elements just yet. So you can use simple rectangle boxes as image placeholders with arrows to showcase the flow. 

You can start to think about dropdown menus or the bottom tab bar of each screen, but these won’t necessarily be included in the early sketches of UX flows. 

After you’ve visualized the flow, you can share your early concepts with others. This allows you to get feedback from your team and other people. It forces you to create each screen with a clear purpose for achieving the end goal.

If a screen does not help a user do something related to the app’s purpose, then it can be removed from the flow. 

For example, let’s say you’re designing a food delivery app. The app’s goal is to get food in the hands of users who can order from different restaurants. 

After selecting a restaurant, should the user be brought to an “Our Story” screen for that particular establishment? No. That would disrupt the flow of ordering. 

These are the types of things you need to take into consideration when you’re going through this process. 

Step #2 — Organize the Mobile App Content

Now that you have a clear vision of your wireframe design, you can start to think about the actual copy and content that you’ll use in the app. 

What is going to appear on different mobile screens? How will that content integrate with the user flow?

Using a simple spreadsheet or reusable content blocks is an effective way to organize your content. You can start to list things like headers, images, links, and anything else that will appear in your mobile frame.

For example, let’s say you’re creating a fitness app to expand your personal training business. You could put together a spreadsheet with your main app content that includes training videos, meal prep instructions, and fitness guides. 

Then you could organize that content even further by segmenting cardio exercises from weight lifting. Within a weight lifting category, you can have sub-segments for arms, legs, back, etc. 

It’s much easier to organize your content now, as opposed to later on when you’re mapping out the screen layouts. You can refer to your content list as you plug things in during the next steps.

Step #3 — Determine the Layout

Next, you can establish the visual hierarchy and interface elements of your key screens. This will eventually set up the interaction design. 

Your app layout is essentially a combination of the first two steps we’ve already gone through. You’re going to take the content from step two and integrate it with the user flows in step one. 

You can still use basic shapes and tab bar placeholders instead of using any actual copy. But you can eliminate at least some of the placeholder text or screens with headers.

For example, your home screen layout might initially include Lorem ipsum placeholder text. Now you can get rid of those placeholder headers and add the main headers from your content list. 

You can establish the hierarchy of screen elements using size as a point of reference. 

Larger buttons, text, and CTAs are more important than smaller text located at the bottom of the screen. You can play around with different variations of the screen layouts as you’re going through this process. 

I strongly recommend using easily recognizable design patterns when you’re thinking about the screen layouts. 

For example, let’s say you’re going to include a bottom tab bar navigation on each screen of your app that includes the app’s most important screens. Having a house icon for a home screen makes more sense than a random shape or icon. This is something that users are already familiar with, and they understand exactly where that button is going to take them. A smiley face icon is not appropriate for your settings page. 

Look at the example above. You know exactly where the home button and settings button are, even without any text on the page.

Similarly, these icons would not fit in the middle of the screen, but they make sense placed at the bottom navigation. 

These are the types of things you’ll have to consider when you’re mapping out the screen layouts. 

Step #4 — Create a Detailed Wireframe

Detailed wireframes go beyond a basic sketch or hand-written notes. They are often high-fidelity versions of what your app will look like, including ready-made templates for your screens. 

You don’t have to put in real images, videos, or anything like that just yet. But the wireframes should be digitalized and include the real spacing between buttons and content. 

A detailed wireframe does not need to include any logos, custom fonts, or specialty UI elements. But they are a bit more formal for sharing with stakeholders and other team members. To make something stand out, you can use bold text, sizing, or spacing. 

As you can see, there is still some Lorem ipsum placeholder text in the author bio section of that particular screen. But the sign-up screen has been replaced with the actual text.

The screen in the middle of this example shows how different book topics will be displayed on the screen, but it doesn’t actually go into detail about the genres. 

Step #5 — Integrate the Design Elements

Technically, design elements are not part of the actual process for wireframing. Design is a completely different stage in the development process. 

However, wireframing and design are so closely related that it makes sense to start thinking about it now. 

If the design isn’t your strength, you can consult with multiple designers to show you different design patterns and ideas. 

The responsive design development stages and other design elements will be implemented later on, but you can still add some of them now, depending on your goals. 

For example, let’s say you need to raise money to fund your app. Pitching the app to investors is probably better if the wireframe includes more than just black and white placeholder text. Even some design elements can make the wireframe a bit more visually appealing.

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