What's with all the wireframe hate?

Seeing more articles around with people hatin' on wireframes.

Why I don't wireframe much, by Cennydd Bowles

It's not that I think they're wrong, there just should be some clarity on when wireframes are useful and when they aren't. Here's what I've uncovered from my experience.

Why wireframes are useful

The main purpose of wireframes is to be a communication tool. Stripped of theme, colour and flair, stakeholders/clients/team members are forced to only look at the layout and the content, without the obligatory "I don't like that orange" that so often comes out. It acts as a sanity check to see if you've made the right assumptions and are headed towards the right design decisions. It also covers your ass in the event that you go ahead and build the whole thing and are told you got it wrong.

Balsamiq... meh

Personally, I find out of the box wireframing tools too limiting. Photoshop is the next best thing to paper and pen for me to get my ideas out in a coherent way. My sketching style looks something like this:

Not so useful to people outside my brain, so I clean it up in Photoshop.

Are wireframes necessary?

Not really. If there are no external parties, or you're working with a small team who are on the same page as you, then sometimes an extra step is excessive. What I generally do is prototype in HTML/CSS, which can be a lot more compelling than a flat wireframe, especially for developers. For the designers who have greater confidence in producing mockups/wireframes, sticking to those is also fine if it's going to help you communicate your designs better.


Wireframes are useful as communication tools, but no, they are not always necessary. Use your judgement and wireframe when it feels right.