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Wireframe vs Mockup vs Prototype: What's the Difference

Prototypes, wireframes, and mockups can sometimes be confusing, especially for people who are not well versed in the design industry. Wireframes are the simplest form of design that contains a basic and clear layout of the end product.

On the other hand, a mockup is an advanced form of wireframes that comprises images. Prototypes are almost similar to the final product.

What is a Prototype?

A prototype is a High Fidelity model or wireframe sample that depicts the actual product, how it will appear and how it will function. They have a lot of animations and interactions that usually appear if you press on a button. The main difference between a prototype and the actual product is the lack of functionality in the wireframe model.

There are various types of prototypes that are classified according to what they are used and what they represent. Below are some of the common prototypes:

  • Functionality prototypes
  • Display prototypes
  • Throwaway prototypes
  • Miniature prototypes
  • Evolutionary prototypes

What is Wireframe?

A wireframe is a model showcasing the structure of the page, functionality, layout, and the desired behavior of an app or webpage. It is the most basic website prototyping tool. Designs of a wireframe can either be manually drawn or created digitally. But this will depend on the type of details needed on the wireframe.

There are three major types of wireframes. What differentiates them is them is the number of details contained: They include:

  • Low Fidelity wireframes
  • Mid-Fidelity wireframes
  • High Fidelity wireframes

What is Mockup?

A mockup closely resembles mid and high-fidelity wireframes. Mockups show the general environment of the product being developed. It displays things such as navigation visuals, color schemes, topography, and the layout of the product.

There are three different categories of mockups:

  • Mockup apps
  • Graphic design software
  • Coded mockups

Difference Between Wireframes, Mockups, and Prototypes

One of the easiest ways to distinguish between mockups, wireframes, and prototypes is to look at their visual displays. A wireframe has low fidelity with simple boxes that depict a specific concept. It is actually the simplest form of a design idea that has just taken off.

Mockups can be described as an advanced level of wireframes. They increase design choices like color schemes, icons, navigation elements, and fonts.

Designers usually create several mockups to give them and other stakeholders an opportunity to make informed decisions. Mockups also give stakeholders a chance to critique an idea and recommend necessary changes.

Last but not least, prototypes are normally created when there is usability testing and feedback from users is required. A prototype appears almost the same as a mockup but interactivity elements are added with the help of UX tools. After creation, prototypes play a big role in the user testing process.

Bottom line

Mockups, wireframes, and prototypes are crucial in the whole design process. They help in creating a clear picture of what customers want. This makes it easy for developers to come up with designs best suit the needs of each client.

Although they are similar in several ways, wireframes, mockups, and prototypes also have significant differences.

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