How to communicate visual hierarchy on wireframes

Dec 7, 2020 • 1 min read

Many designers think they need to use color on a wireframe to communicate hierarchy. If you’re doing so, you’re totally wrong. The use of color is the best way to add emphasis to a specific element on visual design. But on a wireframe, it’s the worst.

Color breaks conversation

Wireframes purpose is to keep focus on structure and hierarchy, excluding any visual discussion to a next phase. It’s function is to display necessary page elements in an orderly arrangement. Adding colors and visual details will break the conversation with stakeholders. You’ll find yourself discussing abount tint, shades or personal color preferences.

Alternatives to colors

The design should have a clear hierarchy without colors. You could include other visual elements to add hierarchy.


size-visual-hierarchy Using different sizes for blocks

The bigger an element is the more attention it’ll draw. Not every element should have the same size.

Placement and Space

space-placement-hierarchy Add white space to separate content areas

Users scan a page in a particular pattern. You can place important content in high attention areas using space to separate those, driving attention to the relevant one.


space-visual-hierarchy Using different shapes to highlight content

You’re not limited to colors and size. If you want to highlight content on a page you could use shape. Rectangles, lines, rounded or squared shaped. Use anything you want to show that area is important.

Visual hierarchy without color

The best wireframe style is no style. Match form with function using a monochrome style — one color against white.

In a monochrome wireframe everything is equal weight. Users can focus on the whole user experience not arguing why something has a particular color. This will enable a right design conversation.

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