How to make great wireframes in Sketch

Alexander Skogberg
Feb 3, 2018 · 8 min read

Organize your screens with Pages and Artboards

As your wireframes grow, keeping all screens organized is essential for staying efficient. Hence, you should make use of Pages and Artboards.

Create a Page for each set of related screens

In Sketch, a Page offers a new blank canvas. There’s no reason to put all of your screens on the same Page. Instead, create a Page for each set of related screens of the app or website your making wireframes for.

  • Assets (for logos, photos and so on)
  • Text Styles (for just my Text Styles)
  • Symbols (automatically created by Sketch)
  • Home page (for latest offers and news)
  • Category page (for different categories of stuffed animals)
  • Product page (for a specific stuffed animal)
  • Checkout page (for entering address and payment information)
  • Confirmation page (for confirming the purchase)
The list of Pages. The Artboards for the Selected Page are listed in the bottom.

On a Page, create one Artboard for each screen variant

Since each screen is likely to have multiple variants, I’d recommend creating one Artboard for each of them. All the Artboards you create are automatically placed on the selected Page.

  • Correctly entered address and payment information (for small and large screens)
  • Incorrectly entered address and payment information (for small and large screens)
The Artboards for the selected Page are placed on the main canvas.
  • checkout-02-delivery-address-search-small.jpg
  • checkout-03-correct-payment-information-small.jpg
  • checkout-04-incorrect-payment-information-small.jpg

Tip: Make sure an exported Artboard is identifiable by its name. A name like checkout-03-correct-payment-information-small.jpg is great, a name like screen21.jpg is terrible.

Make use of Text Styles

You’ll be using text to some extent in you wireframes and when need to adjust the font size or change the typeface altogether, it’s an enormous waste of time and energy having to do it on each and every screen.

  • H2 headline
  • H3 headline
  • Body text
  • Meta text (for dates, timestamps, input hints and so on)
  • Input labels (for input fields and groups of radio buttons and checkboxes)
I always put my Text Styles on a Page of their own so I can see them all at once.

Set up a naming convention

Just like web developers (hopefully) have a set of rules for naming their CSS classes, you should set up a naming convention for the Pages, Artboards, Symbols and Text Styles you’ll be using.

Tip: Imagine that your creating a naming convention for someone else and not just for yourself. Ask someone else if your terminology makes sense.

If you’re looking for a real life example of a naming convention, have a look at the Trello CSS Guide or BEM.

Master the power of Symbols

Symbols is probably the best feature in Sketch. It’s like Text Styles, but for all combinations of shapes and pieces of text. It’s powerful and will save you a lot of time in the long run.

Tip: Save logos and icons as Symbols too.

For example, let’s say you create an input field with a label and an input hint and want to reuse it on more screens. By saving these three elements as one Symbol, it’s now stored in your library and can be used anytime you want.

A Symbol of an input field with a label, input hint and input text. The pieces of text can be overridden for every instance of this Symbol. Tip: Enter a black space to “hide” the Input text string.

Name your Symbols with slashes

Since you probably will create lots of Symbols, you should put slashes (/) in their names for organizing them neatly.

  1. category/type/variation-state

Tip: Stick to a maximum of two slashes so you only have a depth of three layers (that has worked best for me so far).

Here are some examples of named symbols based on these two patterns:

  • button/primary/disabled
  • button/secondary/default
  • button/secondary/disabled
  • input/nolabel/default
  • input/label/default
  • input/label/disabled
  • input/labelandhint/default
  • input/labelandhint/disabled
The subfolders Sketch creates when you put slashes (/) in the names of the Symbols you create.

Create a library of common Symbols

Sketch offers common shapes like rectangles, circles, triangles and arrows. There’s no need to redraw these, but you should use them to create common interface components like buttons, input fields, date pickers and modal windows.

  • Secondary buttons (default and disabled)
  • Checkboxes with text labels (checked and not checked)
  • Radio buttons with text labels (checked and not checked)
  • Expandable blocks (expanded and not expanded)
  • Input fields with a label (default and disabled)
  • Input fields with both a label and an input hint (default and disabled)
The Symbols Page Sketch creates automatically when you start creating and saving Symbols.

Make your symbols responsive

When making wireframes today, you’ll probably need to create different variants of your screens for different screen sizes. One variant for small screens, one for large screens and perhaps one for medium sized screens.

Will stretch in any direction.
Will keep it size, but move with the same proportions to the sides, to the top and to the bottom.
Pinned to the top. Will stretch its width, but keep the same height.
Pinned to the top left corner. Will keep its size.

Presenting the wireframes

When presenting your wireframes to the developers in your team, you have several options.

Tip: Treat the developers in your team like users. Serve them your wireframes the way they prefer.

If inVision sound interesting, please read my post Prototype like a pro with inVision.

Don’t use layers in your Sketch files

Based on my experience working with developers, you shouldn’t use layers on your screens in Sketch. I think this way of working used to be the norm when Photoshop reigned supreme.

Further reading

A lot of great articles have already been written about using Sketch. Here are my favorites:

Design + Sketch

The best collection of articles, tips, tutorials, and stories on designing and prototyping with Sketch and beyond

Alexander Skogberg

Written by

I’m a UX Designer at inUse in Stockholm with vast experience in accessibility and frontend development. I strive to make things simple, fun and time-saving.

Design + Sketch

The best collection of articles, tips, tutorials, and stories on designing and prototyping with Sketch and beyond