How should product managers use wireframes?

Product managers are not product designers. But you do play a significant role during the design process by defining feature requirements. Although you are not responsible for designing new features, wireframes can help you translate these feature requirements into a sketch that illustrates what the product or feature will do.

Typically product managers use wireframes to communicate with user experience (UX) or user interface (UI) designers during exploratory phases of product or feature definition. But anyone on the cross-functional product team can benefit from a visual that shows how a feature or component might be displayed.

Even if you are not expected to create your own wireframes, it is important for you to be involved and conversant in these visual guides. You need to understand any potential design issues — while also advocating for customers and the user experience. Staying involved during the design process ensures that requirements are being translated accurately.

Create your own wireframe →

What is a wireframe?

A wireframe is a rough sketch that conveys high-level functionality, page or site layout, and user experience. It is typically used during ideation or brainstorming to show the potential direction of a page or feature to your product, design, and engineering teams.

Wireframes are conceptual and low fidelity — black and white, without logos and other design elements. They should clearly communicate what the different components of the page or feature should do without proposing specific design details, which will come later.

The goal of a wireframe is to provide a basic representation that the team can react to and discuss. Creating wireframes allows you to collect early internal feedback and gain consensus.

Here is an example of a wireframe created using the mockup tool in Aha! Roadmaps.

Wireframes, mockups, and prototypes are common terms used by product teams. Teams often build mockups and even prototypes based on wireframes. Here is a quick breakdown of the terms:


Definition

Purpose

Wireframe

A sketch that shows what a product or feature will do at a high level

To collect early internal feedback and reach a consensus

Mockup

A static visual of how a product or feature will work and how it will be used

To analyze visual elements and functionality in a more detailed way

Prototype

An interactive representation that demonstrates how users will interact with a product or feature

To gather user feedback through testing and actual experience

Who views wireframes?

Wireframes can be used to collaborate with several teams throughout your company. At a high level, product managers typically use wireframes with two types of audiences:

Non-technical

On the non-technical side, wireframes help frame a feature's story to key stakeholders in:

  • Senior management

  • Marketing

  • Sales

  • Customer support

  • Operations, etc.

Perhaps you are launching a new feature in the coming weeks and you want to give your marketing and support teams a head start creating customer communications. Sharing wireframes with these teams will help them understand the customer journey and how the functionality works prior to the product launch. It can also help inform go-to-market activities and support documentation so your teams are ready to support customers and the new functionality.

Technical

From a technical standpoint, wireframes can be used to clearly explain page layout and the user experience you wish to accomplish to the following groups:

  • Product

  • UX

  • Engineering

If you have separate conversations with design and engineering without any visual references, you might leave room for error or misinterpretation. Wireframes can minimize confusion and provide everyone with a shared direction to work towards. Some UX teams may then turn wireframes into mockups or prototypes.

What are common wireframe tools?

Some product managers still create analog wireframes using paper and pencil or a whiteboard. Design and wireframing tools are also popular. Wireframing tools give you a variety of ready-made elements to sketch a design quickly. Whichever method you choose, you will want the ability to share your wireframe with others.

Many product teams use dedicated product management software like Aha! Roadmaps that includes wireframe capabilities. With Aha! Roadmaps, you can create and comment on wireframes right within your product management workflows — attaching them to product ideas, requirements, and features. You can easily save versions and share wireframes within presentations and among teammates.

Use wireframes to gain alignment across cross-functional teams — ensuring that what you build serves your customers well. Try Aha! Roadmaps for free for 30 days.

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