When it comes to creating a design for your business, you will surely stumble upon the terms wireframe, mockup, and prototype. These are often used as synonyms and might be confusing for a non-designer. Therefore, today we will guide you through the meaning of all three of these, explain the difference between them and why they are important.
Let’s start with wireframes. A wireframe is a blueprint or even skeleton for your design. Wireframes can be defined as a visual representation of your design, the layout of where your UI elements will be placed, but without going into details with any elements of visual design and branding.
A wireframe is a blueprint or even skeleton for your design.
They are typically used at the beginning of your design process after you’ve completed your discovery stage. Meaning you’ve defined user persona, user journey, sitemap, etc. This is needed to understand users’ motivations, needs, and pain points, as well as the structure of your product’s design and where its content will be placed.
Wireframes are important to define the hierarchy of interface elements and to understand how they’ll look on the actual product. They also can be used to create global and secondary navigation. All of this is important to get the green light from stakeholders and the team that works on your projects before going to the next step of your product design. Also, wireframes help you to see whether the product’s interface meets user’s expectations and needs.
Next, let’s take a look at the mockup. Mockup definition is that it’s a realistic representation of the final product that includes visual design elements but is still not functional. It is a wireframe with an additional layer that will show you the visual design part of your future product like colors, typography, images, etc.
Mockup is a realistic representation of the final product that includes visual design elements but is still not functional.
The purpose of the mockup is to bring life to the wireframe and see how visual elements of design come together. Mockups allow stakeholders to see how it will look. They can then make suggestions for changes in the visual elements mentioned before.
Finally, let’s find out what is prototype. Prototyping can be defined as a process where design teams implement ideas into tangible forms from paper to digital. In other words, it’s a sample version of the final product. It is fully interactive, with high-fidelity UI elements and animations.
Prototype is a sample version of the final product that is fully interactive, with high-fidelity UI elements and animations.
The beauty of a prototype is that it gives you an idea of how your final product will look like. From this point, you can iterate it until you feel it is ready for a launch. Moreover, this is the version of your product that you can confidently give users to test. You then find bugs and fix issues to receive a great product at the end of this process.
Ok, now that we’ve defined what wireframe, mockup, and prototype are, it’s time to find out how they’re different. To do that, let’s start with the similarities between them. Wireframes, prototypes, and mockups are three of the earlier steps of the product design process.
Each of them offers UX designers a possibility to see which of their design solutions work and which don’t by not risking too much and fix issues at the earliest stage possible. Also, they help to get the stakeholders and design team on the same page and get approval for new ideas.
When we’re talking about the differences between these three, they essentially lie in that each of them is just a different stage of product design. For example, wireframe is just a scheme of your product’s UI and doesn’t have any elements of visual design. Mockup is the next step as you add visual design elements, color, style, etc. And, finally, unlike the previous two, the prototype is interactive and all features in the design are functional but it’s still not a ready product yet.
Wireframe, mockup, and prototype – all three will save you a considerable amount of time and budget as you fix issues, validate ideas, and introduce changes without additional risk. Besides, each of these has its benefits when it comes to designing a digital product for your business.
Wireframes help to clarify your projects and give you an understanding of the product’s UI. Also, they will help you to define your project goals and priorities. Wireframes make it easier to communicate your ideas to the design team and explain your vision of the project in general.
Mockups allow you to understand what your product will look like in terms of visual design. It is much easier for you to understand whether it reflects your vision of the product’s design and decide what changes you’d like to make. It’s a perfect transition from wireframes and you don’t have to rely on your imagination anymore to understand the visual design of your product.
Prototypes will give you the clearest understanding of how your final product will look like. Regardless of whether it’s a website or an app, you’ll be able to make your final iterations and solve any problems you might have with your product’s design. Moreover, besides helping to evaluate your final design, the prototype allows you to get users’ feedback, create your marketing strategy for the future product, and get the support to receive investment (if you need one).
All three steps allow you to generate ideas for your design to come up with new ways of solving your users’ problems. However, besides the conventional wireframes, mockups, and prototypes, you can try out some new methods.
Wireflow is athe younger brother of wireframe – while wireframes are mostly used for the completely new product design, wireflows are more suitable for introducing changes or altering existing elements of the previously created design.
Wireflows are a format of design specification that combines the style of wireframe page layout designs with a simpler flowchart-like way of representing changes made into a design. Wireflows can be described as user flow but without full-page wireframes.
Sitemaps aren’t new, but they’re still an effective method to get ideas for your design. They allow you to structure your product’s design and make sure that you didn’t forget anything. Also, it’s easier for you as a stakeholder to see the structure of your design in a clear and legible way.
Wireframes, mockups, and prototypes are extremely useful tools in the UX design process. Each of them is an essential step for validating your ideas, see what’s working and what’s not, and fix possible issues as early as possible to minimize risks and save time and budget. The difference between them is that they are simply different stages of your product design and from wireframe and mockup to prototype, you’ll get a ready-to-launch product.
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