Why Product Managers Should Use Wireframes To Communicate Across Teams

07/21/2016 01:43 pm ET Updated Jul 21, 2017

Wireframes are often very bare-boned. This is because they are created before front-end development or design is implemented -- the wireframe captures only the most essential elements. Because of this, product managers can use wireframes to spur meaningful discussion among the product team at an early stage.

But some product managers may wonder which teams benefit from seeing and discussing wireframes. Others may wonder why they should share them with the wider team at all.

For product managers, the key goal of using wireframes is to make sure that everyone is on the same page. You want to eliminate confusion and avoid miscommunication.

Product managers can use wireframes to drive value with different groups. For the sake of this post, I will break the groups into two camps: technical and non-technical.

How product managers use wireframes with technical teams:

Technical teams include colleagues from user experience and engineering, as well as other product managers. With these groups, wireframes are used to clearly explain the page/site layout and user experience -- and to ignite discussion about any key hurdles or requirements.

How product managers use wireframes with non-technical teams:

On the non-technical side, wireframes help frame a feature's story to key teams who may have varying levels of technical expertise, from marketing to sales to customer support. Even senior management teams can benefit.

Wireframes can be used to communicate new features and how users will interact with them. For example, let's say you are launching a new feature in the coming weeks. You want to help your customer support team get a head start, so that they can anticipate customer queries. Wireframes will help them understand the customer journey prior to the product launch.

Or, perhaps you are working with your marketing team to create a new landing page for a campaign related to a new feature. You can use a wireframe to help your marketing colleagues shape messaging elements. This helps you all collaborate to build a landing page that converts.

How product managers bridge the gap between technical and non-technical teams:

You could have separate conversations with your design, marketing, sales, and engineering teams to verbally describe the different parts of a feature and what it should do. But this method leaves a lot of room for error and misinterpretation. Confusion is at odds with the core job of a product manager -- to champion a cohesive product vision.

Wireframes erase that confusion. They make it possible to clearly communicate across a wide audience what different components should do. This helps cross-functional product teams work towards the same shared goals -- and to build a successful product.