High fidelity vs. low fidelity designs for client feedback

July 22, 2020

Feedback is crucial to the good progress of projects. It’s important to provide the right deliverables at every phase of a project to get the necessary feedback to know that we’re going on the right direction and also help the client detect any further requirements or needs they might have. 

Low fidelity wireframes

Wireframes are low-level blueprints used to communicate the overall structure of the website or product we’re building. They show placeholders for the different content elements that will make up the final designs. They can be as abstract as a 10 min paper sketch (yes, good old pencil-paper-combo is still alive) to a more detailed monochromatic digital wireframe using placeholder boxes and generic text.  

Paper wireframes

Why use them?

  • Wireframes are not time consuming.
  • They bring to light any gap in specifications.
  • They visualise objectives and specifications to avoid any misunderstandings with the client and within the team.
  • They allow developers to better estimate efforts needed, which can be a crucial variable for the client to decide on features. 
  • They help get client approval early on in the project.
  • You can try out different ideas easily without fully designing each. Even when the deliverables are digital wireframes, many designers would still use paper wireframes first as way to think through their ideas. 
  • They help focus on the functionality and structure without worrying about the visual aspect too much.

High fidelity screendesigns

Screendesigns are a static rending of the designed website or product. It shows every element as it will be implemented by the developers. It also provides all visual details such as colors, visuals and typography. 

Screendesign and prototype

Why use them?

  • They give the most realistic preview of the website or product, which is very useful to try out different versions or detect errors without spending development efforts.
  • They are easier to give feedback about as what you see is what you get, so no imagination is needed.
  • They are even better for developers to estimate efforts needed, especially when micro-animations and transitions are included.
  • They get client’s final approval for the design.
  • You can judge the visual aesthetics and how all visual elements fit together and with the brand.
  • They can be used to create prototypes/click dummies and get a realistic usage experience to test out and interact with. (This can of course be done with wireframes as well, though it would require them to have a higher fidelity level for it to be useful)

So, wireframes or screendesigns?

Both low-fidelity and high-fidelity designs are very important elements in the overall UX process. They each contribute to the progress towards the optimal solutions in their own way. However, when it comes to getting client feedback, sometimes preferences might differ. 

Getting feedback based on wireframes can sometimes turn out to be more challenging than planned. Wireframes do require a certain level of imagination to visualize the product hiding beyond the grey boxes staring at you, which can come more or less easy to some. It can also be challenging for clients to give feedback on low-fidelity designs that are missing branded characteristics such as colors and imagery.

Getting feedback on screendesign is of course very practical in the sense that the client is not required to be imaginative and make abstraction of placeholders. However, screen designs do not offer the time advantage of wireframes for faster iterations and deliverables. Screen designs can also foster discussion about content, such as a picture used, which might not be helpful. 

So which ones is best to get client feedback? It depends on the project’s complexity and on the client. At SnipClip, we believe in the benefits of being transparent and including our clients in every step of the project. Of course, this does not mean that our wireframes are always successful in getting the feedback we need. But even then, we learn more about what our clients expect and know how to adapt our next deliverables to them. Just like every project is different in its own way, the feedback process can also differ from one client to another. It’s important to be flexible and adapt as needed. At the end, what matters is to design and develop the best digital solutions.