Christina Wodtke explains in a new blog post what's wrong with wireframes. She contends wireframes are a holdover from when information architects and graphic designers were still learning the Web. Now, they're constricting the design and development process for today's visual and UX designers.
I'm not willing to throw this tool away for myself, but Wodkte's article catalyzed my thoughts on a different problem with using wireframes. First, I wonder, are your project sponsors and stakeholders like mine? Do they have you lay out pages with only a vague notion of the functionality? Do they "sign off," but frequently change their minds after the design is applied? And do the graphics and copy arrive only at the very end of the project?
So stop showing them your wireframes. Think of yourself like an architect (construction, not information). Architects don't show their blueprints or CAD drawings to their customers; instead, they create nice scale models and spiffy computer graphics. For you, interactive prototypes are the way to go.
I know this advice flies in the face of the foundational, iterative process many UX designers have been trained in, but then I step back from the orthodoxy and think about it. Wireframes are a specific stage in the design process, meant to elicit specific feedback. But rarely have I received the stakeholder feedback I needed from them. Instead I get some combination of glassy eyes, requests for flows and mockups, and tentative decisions too often reversed when final mockups are available.
I have another reason too: your portfolio. Wireframes don't look good in it. Showing them communicates that an incomplete, vague site outline is what you're capable of. Hiring managers may care about your process, but you're best off loading a working site for them and letting them play with it while you talk briefly to the process. If you're talking about a print or online portfolio, show final mockups that look great.
If you disagree, let me know your thoughts. Are wireframes a useful communications tool for you?