3 Common Mistakes Product Managers Make When Wireframing

Wireframing is one of the most important skills a product manager can have. It quickly helps you communicate an idea and start valuable conversations. From the live practice sessions at Product Manager Nation, I’ve picked out 3 common mistakes product managers make when they wireframe.

Wireframing Practice Session on Product Manager Nation

Wireframing Practice Session on Product Manager Nation

The 3 mistakes are:

  1. Not focusing on main use cases
  2. Prematurely using wireframing software tools
  3. Getting held up by visual design details

Not focusing on main use cases

Every great product starts with an intention to solve a specific problem.

This intention sometimes gets lost in the excitement of new feature ideas, new technologies, and competitor products.

These distraction lead to bloated wireframes, unintuitive workflows, and miss the main use cases.

Great products have a focused workflow that help users through their main use cases.

We used a secret technique at Apple that helped us retain focus and create intuitive workflows.

The secret technique was using mental models to organize our feature list before getting to wireframes.

A mental model is a logical arrangement of items that are related to each other.

Mental models are incredibly useful at designing focused workflows.

When you organize an unorganized feature list into an organized feature list using mental models, the layout of the wireframes automatically come to light.

We cover an example of how to start with mental models in our live practice sessions in Product Manager Nation on wireframing.

When you design your wireframes from an organized list of feature, your product will retain focus and end in clarity.

Prematurly using wireframing software tools

A great product manager is an efficient product manager.

When given a wireframing challenge, many product managers make the mistake of using a software wireframing tool right away.

Even though many software tools are easy to use, the actual time cost of using software to wireframe is multiple times higher than using a pen and paper.

Pen and paper are fast, cheap, and portable.

Sketches can quickly be shown and used to gather feedback.

This is why “napkin drawings” are often romanticized as the birth of ideas.

When you’re ready to create wireframes, go for speed.

Start with a pen and paper.

Getting held up by visual design details

One of the my apprentices recently asked me: “How important is it for a product manager to know the amount of padding around a button in a wireframe?”

Answer: “Not important”

A wireframe communicates 3 things:

  • Functionality
  • Layout
  • Data

That’s it.

Don’t worry about the look and feel.

Look and feel will come later.

A wireframe is the skeleton of a product.

Focus on getting its alignment correct and address the main use cases.

Visual design is the skin of the product.

It provides emotional value.

Don’t let the skin drive the functionality of the product.

Focus on getting the wireframes out so you can start conversations.

To recap, these are the 3 common mistakes product managers make when they wireframe.

  1. Not focusing on main use cases
  2. Prematurely using wireframing software tools
  3. Getting held up by visual design details

Don’t make these 3 mistakes when you’re wireframing.

How to wireframe is one of the many live practice sessions in our Product Manager Nation community. You’ll learn how to use mental models and quickly sketch out your ideas.

If you’re interested in joining, apply here.

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