Prototypes, Mockups, and Wireframes – Not The Same Thing!
All business website design begins in the same way, regardless of how simple or complicated the final, finished product may be. The planning and visualization process is the same, although individual requirements may differ greatly. Part of that planning includes the use of wireframes, mockups, and prototypes, all different tools that serve individual purposes in the web design process.
What Is A Wireframe?
The simplest of all planning elements used in web design, a wireframe is a basic drawing of a website’s different pages. It is a static roadmap that includes the different functional elements on the different web pages and the pages that will be required to make the site fully functional. A wireframe, whether made on the computer or using sheets of paper, is made with drawn-in labeled boxes to represent the different elements on the page, with a very brief description of what each element must contain or do. This blueprint of the site provides the needed instruction that developers and designers will work from in the construction of any business website design.
What Is A Mockup?
The next step in the process, after a successful wireframe has been built, is to create a mockup. The mockup takes the wireframe and adds a visual aspect. Like the wireframe, the mockup is also a static element; however, it gives a greater appreciation of how the website will look as its design is being developed. Mockups include chosen color palettes, corporate logos, graphic elements, and representative typefaces to build a sample of what the end site will look like.
Its main purpose is to allow clients and designers to work together to make visual decisions. Using a mockup, many visual and even some functional questions can be considered and resolved before actually beginning web design and development work.
What Is A Prototype?
A prototype is a pared-down, yet functional version of a website that is produced after both the wireframe and the mockup have been approved. Prototypes include basic functionality and visual elements, though they are not what the the completed business website design will be at the end of the process.
Built to allow website testing and the study of how specific audiences interact with the site, prototypes are one more tool used to ensure the final site can function as required and achieve its many goals. Prototypes are usually released to a limited audience, then evaluated to determine if there are any changes that should be made to either the base wireframe idea or the visual aspect of the site. Once the prototype is finally approved, it is fully developed into the complete website.
Although they do seem very similar in a number of ways, wireframes, mockups, and prototypes are each critical elements in the web design and development process. Each tool offers all parties involved with the project a chance to consider everything from required functionality to fitting in the right colors and visual elements. Used to gradually fine-tune the development plan, these tools are critical for most efficiently creating an effective business website design!