Wireframes: sketching? Low fidelity? High fidelity? Does it matter?


I’m at the stage in a project that requires some basic wire framing to be done.

Can someone explain the differences and or pros and cons or needs of hand sketched, low fidelity and high fidelity wire frames are?


In deciding which is right for your project there’s a number of considerations

  • How concrete is the solution you’re wireframing? If its early days in your project and you want to rapidly iterate and test ideas with end users, then sketching on paper and using a tool like POP can be a quick way to validate an idea through user testing and feedback. This will enable you to improve the flow and structure of content quickly without wasting too much effort.
  • How much time is available to you? If you haven’t got a lot of time on your hands and you don’t think there will be too much change, then you could jump straight to high fidelity wireframes - creating something closer to what the developers will be building.
  • Are there defined design guidelines? If your organisation/client has a style guide that defines standards for user interface design - and this is something the development team are using, then the fidelity of the wireframes isn’t so important. The developers can apply the design standards to build the interface without you having to produce pixel-perfect high fidelity wireframes.
  • Do you need stakeholder buy-in? If you’re trying to “sell” the concept to a client or business stakholders, high-fidelity designs will be far more useful in engaging those stakeholders and giving them a more accurate view of what the final product might look like.

Pros - quick, easy, cheap (you can even use paper), alllows rapid iteration through user testing
Cons - harder for users and stakeholders to visualise the end solution, if there’s no design standards in place there isn’t enough direction for developers to build

Pros - closer to the end product both in design and interaction
Cons - requires time, change becomes harder, people can get caught up in what the product looks like rather than focussing on content, structure and flow.

There’s probably more I could add, but these are the key things that come to mind. Hope this helps


Hi jrfdiaz01,

as a UX Designer, I always suggest, to pay attention to your stakeholders as users.
I decide which type of deliverable I will deliver according the knowledge and experience of my stakeholders.

In a nutshell I can give you a couple of scenariosas examples:

  • If I will show and explain my work to project managers and business analysts - I will provide them low-fidelity wireframes, due to the fact they know very well the topic. Afterwards, according the analysis and the prioritisation, I will deliver some mid-fi wireframes with basic interactions

  • If my stakeholders is the final client - I usually skip the wireframe presentation. According my experience it’s not easy to find people with knowledge about the UX process (ex. card-sorting, personas). In this case I try to show them a fully-working prototype. Afterwards, if they key findings are severe I try to set-up a shared design sessions to define guidelines and patterns to apply.

I hope it will help you


An interesting insight that I never thought of before. If you use high-fidelity or clickable mock-ups your testers are going to focus on different aspects than they would if you test the same layouts on paper. Paper will give you insights into content preferences and such where hi-fi wireframes are going to get comments about fonts and colour, etc. There’s an article somewhere that I was reading about it. I’ll try to dig it up.

Not the articles I was talking about but here’s a couple that talk about the benefits of doing both.



This is a very old post, but still relevant: http://userpathways.com/2008/06/the-what-when-and-why-of-wireframes/.


Excellent feedback.


This article was just published. Some good stuff here, too. https://www.smashingmagazine.com/2016/06/picking-the-best-prototyping-software-for-your-project/


I agree about thinking about who you are presenting to. I went from a product owner and business manager who got low fi wireframes, and understood that they would get more refined as time went on, to a product owner and business manager who didn’t understand them at all. They almost couldn’t see the design without colour, pictures, and content. I’ve learned to adapt for their brains, but it was hard at first.


This article is pretty in-depth and kinda philosophical, but good: https://uxplanet.org/prototype-for-a-story-of-use-not-fidelity-f931bf8ceab1#.774w2db35


thank you so much for all the replies in the thread. i am in the same boat as the OP and couldn’t decide what to do. this is wonderful :grin:


Yep :grinning: