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Before any development process begins, there is a pre-development design phase that every project undergoes. This is the phase where prototypes, mockups and wireframes are created. All the non-technical people use these terms synonymously, but there are some significant differences between them.
A client and designer looks at these things from a different perspective. Therefore, it is a topic that needs clarification. People often believe that they can design their mobile apps by skipping a stage or two.
So, let’s elaborate on the difference between wireframe, mockup and prototype to help you understand their importance individually!
In simple terms, wireframe is a draft or sketch by a designer. The purpose of a wireframe is to show the structure of an application with basic elements and content placement. Wireframes help developers see the functional side of an app. Basically, wireframes act as a foundation for a website/app.
What does a Wireframe consist of?
Wireframes represent the product at its inception stage. It consists of:
- Boxes or circles
Why is a Wireframe needed?
They help organize the data and clearly show a content to be portrayed on an app screen or website page. You may omit wireframing stage if you are working on a very simple or short term project. If that’s not the case, then you will gain the following advantages:
Clarity, since you will know which elements are placed on the defined screens or pages.
Adjusting, as you easily control the placement of elements. Also, move or delete them if needed.
Connection, as your client will be involved in the app design process.
Protection because with wireframes you will minimize the possibility to redo the entire thing from scratch.
The next step after wireframes is to create a mockup. A mockup will transform the schematic layout to a colorful and static representation of the future product. With mockups you can see the shapes, fonts and color palette. You may also be able to see content instead of dummy text.
The main difference between a wireframe and mockup is that mockups don’t skip the details. In fact, they are all about the details. Mockups give the feel of an actual app and show how the different elements will go together.
What does a Mockup consist of?
A mockup will enable you to shape the way your app will look like. It includes:
- Text bars
- Content layout
- Colors and graphics
- Spacing around components
- Navigation graphics
- Other visual elements
Why is a Mockup needed?
Mockups can help you decide between the alternatives of final product representation. Creating a mockup is not the final stage of the product design process as it is a static picture without any motion parts. Following are the advantages of using a mockup:
- Specification, as your team will get a detailed description of the product.
- Understanding, because you will see the product just like the users are going to see.
- Perfection, since you can work on every minute detail.
- Confidence, as you will know that are going in the right direction.
The word “prototype” comes from the Latin language. Proto means origin and the meaning of typus is form or model. Beyond the UI/UX design theory, prototype stands for a typical example of specific category. If we talk about the prototype of mobile app/website, it is not just a static picture but an interactive model which shows particular results depending on the action.
Thus, it can be said that a prototype is an imitation of the end product that demonstrates the interaction of audience with user interface. The prototype may not be the exact same at real app/site but it is pretty close.
What are the main features of a prototype?
A prototype needs to be as similar as possible to the final product so as to model the user experience. So, a prototype should:
- Connect all the elements in an interactive flow.
- Be a basis for new insights.
- Encourage further development.
- Be a testing and learning tool.
Why is a prototype needed?
It is the best way to show your client how the final product will look and function. A prototype will completely display all the vital options and demonstrate visual representation.
Also, it serves the development team as it is widely used for testing. Critical bugs and minor issues can be identified before the implementation of real product begins. In such a way, the advantages of a prototype are:
- Quality, as you can try the product before launching a live version.
- Confirmation, because you can know whether your client agrees or not to a given copy.
- Profit, since you will be cutting down on the costs for redesigning a final product.
- Time, because you won’t be working on the unnecessary elements.
Wireframes, mockups and prototypes are the successive steps of designing. Wireframe stands for a simple design, mockup for its colorful version and prototype is the final view of the product.
Some stages of this process can be eliminated depending on the project requirements. However, for complex projects it is recommended to follow each step as it will save you from unbudgeted expenses.