As a Project Manager, my favorite tool to use when planning a new web development project is a fully functional wireframe. At its core a wireframe is a blueprint of a website that shows its skeletal framework.
Many clients say that creating a wireframe is unnecessary and opt out of us providing them in an effort to save time and money. However this is a vital milestone that should never be skipped as it benefits the client, the lead designer and the lead web developer of the project.
- The client is able to see the layout and overall navigation and functionality of the site before it is built. Visualizing Excel sheets and Word documents can be difficult so this step is essential to making sure that our vision matches our client's. Our wireframes are fully functional and clickable so it gives our client a chance to see how a visitor will use the new site and how each page will be laid out so that there aren't any surprises when they see their fully developed site.
- The designer has an idea of where different components need to be. This way the first round of design can be focused on different design elements, not the actual layout of the page. It's similar to giving an interior decorator a chance to see the room, make a note of the dimensions, placement of the doors and windows and see if there are any angles that need to be addressed before having him/her bring in furniture or wall decorations that don't fit.
- The developer is given an outline of how the website should function and where various features should appear. Having a wireframe provides developers with an idea of what they should actually be building and working towards. It also lets the developer see the client's vision and expectations.
Helping the client watch their vision come to life, providing the designer with a canvas to work with and the lead developer with a framework to begin working on is a huge part of my job. Wireframes make the transition between planning and design and development smooth and easy.