The Value of Low- , mid- and High-Fidelity Wireframing

low fidelity data titan


Albert Einstein once said: “If I can’t picture it, I can’t understand it”, and who are we to disagree. People ask me all the time why I’m so adamant about wireframing all the software components (screens) before any programming work begins, and I always reply with my standard three reasons.

Adding low-fidelity wireframes to a software development plan produces a well-documented set of business and programming requirements, requirements that once established, produce a road map for all future efforts of the application.

We have watched first-hand what happens when wireframing is bypassed or ignored. Nothing hurts more than receiving first-time calls from business owners who tell us they’ve been working with another developer for the past six months, and have zero source code to show for it.

Unless your company can absorb time and often lengthy production delays, it is impossible to adequately predict costs and programming time without developing a complete Statement of Work (SOW), and complete SOW’s include wireframes. This is also why development quotes for RFQ’s RFP’s are never accurate, and often times are incorrect by 100% or more. If your goal is to develop a custom solution, and you solicit bids for development, even the two closest bids could still be 100% too low. Wireframes may not catch every single programming nuance of a sprint, but in our experience, they’ve reduced risk and can reduce cost overruns (scope creep as we call it in the business) by as much as 98%.

Generally speaking, the problem with software development is not whether the project developers understand what needs to be developed. Assuming you have a well-planned SOW, that’s usually the easy part. The problem is the hidden requirements that will not (or cannot) reveal themselves without a complete Statement of Work (SOW), along with the programming, business, and algorithm requirements that accompany the SOW. Skipping this process and going straight to coding derails a project every time, has a tremendous negative impact on development efforts, forces development to stop until new requirements are fully identified, piling on changes and development costs, all resulting in long delays and skyrocketing cost overruns.

You wouldn’t dream of building a custom home without an architect to design a complete of blue-prints, yet for many small businesses attempting to develop custom software, that’s exactly what they do.

Failing to invest the time and resources needed to develop wireframes up-front adds time and cost overruns to a project – costs that are often unrecoverable without wireframing, and costs that often derail even the best of efforts. That said, here are our top 5 reasons for creating low-fidelity wireframes.

It is estimated that “Scope Creep” is responsible for as much as 50% of all software project failures. On the opposite of that spectrum is wireframing, and when executed correctly, reduces “Scope Creep” by as much as 99%. This lowers programming time and keeps costs from skyrocketing out of control.

Programmers can start coding as soon as stakeholders approve wireframes, often the same day of sign-off. Programmers can also work with minimal supervision, reducing meeting times around the conference table, and recapturing otherwise lost programming time.

Stakeholders and users can easily view and approve wireframes before any programming begins. Nothing is more powerful than sitting around a conference table, projecting wireframes onto a wall or online, and listening to stakeholders and users debate and improve the software in real-time.

Some believe that wireframing is not cost-efficient, but the exact opposite is the truth. With wireframes at their side, programmers can immediately begin programming – ask any programmer. This helps increase ROI while simultaneously producing far superior software.

“Technical Debt” is broadly defined as taking the QUICKEST path to develop software– not the BEST path. Low-Fidelity wireframing drastically reduces “Technical Debt”, one of the costliest long-term project killers of custom software development.

To learn more or to schedule an introductory meeting to discuss your upcoming project, contact our Sofvue office at (623) 322-1417.