Wireframes, Mockups and Prototypes. What is the Difference?

The design creation is always a multilayered process. Especially, when you are designing an application or website. In order to ensure that you all details are taken into account, it is important to follow basic stages of the web/mobile development process. These stages are wireframing, creating mockups, and prototyping. Each of them is an important part of the development flow. So if you want to find out what is the difference between them, grab a cup of coffee and go read this article.

Many people use terms Wireframes, Mockups and Prototypes as synonyms to each other. This fact causes confusion among newcomers in design, customers, and everyone involved. As you’ve probably guessed, they cannot be used as synonyms. And here is why:

Wireframes

What should an app/website do and how it should be done? This question is probably the 1st which comes into a person’s mind after he/she decides to build an app/website. Creating a wireframe is aimed to answer it.

What does a wireframe do?

  • It serves as a basic document for further cooperation both for the customer and web design agency
  • It describes user’s interaction with the website/app
  • It comes with conceptual image of the future website/app

A proper wireframe 1) contains the main data, 2) draws the outline of layout and structure, and 3) provides the description of the user interface.

A wireframe is a blueprint for the customer and designer. It is a rough draft of the future product. To keep it simple and clear, the main elements are outlined in shapes and boxes only in black/white. Before any development takes place, a wireframe serves as a backbone of the future app/website.

Before creating a wireframe, it is recommended to answer the following questions:

  • What kind of content should a website/app contain?
  • What kind of layout do you want it to have?
  • Which elements of interface are the most important?

In simple words, wireframes are sketches of the future design. They provide a general understanding of its concept and do not distract with unnecessary content.

Creating Mockups

Mockups represent the final look of the app/website. Within this stage, a blueprint gets a personal touch. A mockup answers the question how exactly everything will look. Usually, mockups have different detalization depth. However, the majority of them follow this checklist:

  • a complete identity package: logo, fonts, colors
  • well-detailed UI
  • well-thought-out navigation

A mockup is a skin of an app/website, not necessary to consider the database and server, and no JS/CSS/HTML involved. In simple words, mockups are “dressed” yet static versions of future app/websites. On this stage, all elements in black/white are getting their shape, color, and size. The advantages of creating a mockup are the following:

  • It allows fixing the smallest drawbacks
  • It provides a demo of the future functionality
  • It serves as a design layout

Mockups present the visual design of an app/website.

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Prototypes

Prototypes are detailed dynamic functional models/versions of apps/websites. A prototype answers the question how will the end product work and look. Usually, it is not 100% coincide with the future app/website. However, the similarity is high. A traditional way of the web/mobile development process is when a prototype follows the creation of a wireframe and mockup.

Advantages of prototyping:

  • It allows seeing what should be added, optimised, or deleted
  • It allows checking whether or not an app/website is working correctly
  • It demonstrates various user scenarios

A comprehensive overview of the future functionality/design provided by a prototype allows to check everything inside out.

So What’s the Difference?

A wireframe is a basic schema that displays elements without any detalization.

A mockup is a skeleton of the future app/website.

A prototype is a simulation of the future app/website.

Now you have a solid understanding what are prototypes, mockups, and wireframes. They are intended for different goals and look different. In some cases, projects will only need a wireframe, while often they’ll call for a prototype. Basically, you are already standing in front of the UX design world. However, you can always contact us if you have any questions about particular aspects of a web or mobile development.