Are Wireframes same as Mockups or Prototypes?
These three terms are often jumbled together when you have a conversation with a team of developers or clients requesting for a programming project. They are casually interchanged by mistake, and it cannot be helped. They all seem similar.
To prevent yourself from being humiliated just because you used the wrong term, read this guide.
Wireframes are like sketches of your project. You use your pencil first—nothing is permanent yet. Once you get the perfect outline, then you start on inking, which equates to prototyping.
It basically provides you with the big picture. You get to see the whole project in its most basic form. Think about it as a stickman drawing before you draw some flesh on those skeletons, which will essentially act as your guide later on.
You have four options to create a wire frame. They are:
- Sketching – This is literally done using pencil/pen and paper.
- Using a graphic design program – You can design a wireframe using a popular graphics program like Photoshop and GIMP.
- Using a presentation application – If you want to show a wireframe to your boss or client, using a PowerPoint or Google Slides presentation to embed your wireframe will do the trick.
- Using design software – There are dedicated programs that are meant for creating wireframes. Some are free while some will require a fee.
A wireframe is for functionality design while a mockup is for aesthetics. A mockup can be based on a wireframe and vice versa. It is often considered optional by developers. However, clients love to see them instead of wireframes.
It acts as a guide during the designing phase and it is much easier to present to clients or stakeholders. Usually, the design of the mockup is always close to the appearance of the final product or the materialization of the client’s order.
You can either use a dedicated mockup tool or a graphic design program to create a mockup. Another option is to code the mockup itself, which will basically make it an early design prototype. The method you choose depends on your resources.
The wireframe is the bones of your sketch. The mockup is the skin and clothes. The prototype, on the other hand, is the materialization of the whole. Its main purpose is to showcase the appearance, structure, and functionality of the project.
The main benefit of creating a prototype is to allow you to have a testing ground for your project. With a prototype, you can check if the structure of your project is solid. Also, you will know if the design that you created jibes with the purpose and features of the project.
It also provides stakeholders with assurance and tangible proof of your work. If you work under an AGILE or SCRUM management, prototyping is a must. This allows your team to have a feedback loop with the stakeholders, thus preventing any wasted time and overhead cost caused by disagreements regarding the content of the final product.
Typically, prototypes are coded, but you can still make one using sketches, presentations, and other digital media.