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Wireframes vs. Mockups

wireframes vs mockup

What is Wireframe?

What is Wireframe ?

Wireframes are low-fidelity outlines. You can see it as the skeleton of visual hierarchy that allows to plan and define the information layout for a product. Based on the user research earlier, this process helps stakeholders understand how the user would process the information.

So, what is wireframing in ux? Wireframing is the most basic visual representation of your design and a great way to understand how the user will go about using the product at the very first stage of designing. It is done mostly with the help of outline without the usage of any colours. In wireframe, there is no need to worry about the choice of font or colour, as the user does not know where to go. Designing a wireframe aims to represent all content that goes into the interface. The use of colours and text is restricted to avoid any distraction. The complete layout should be in black and white on paper.

wireframes showing enough information

So, we can say that wireframes provide just enough information instead of full details. This information will be used as a reference in the later stages to come up with the visual design.

Pros and Cons of Designing a wireframe

Pros

  • Wireframes give an overall picture of the general layout of the product. It helps us to envision how the future design could be. Therefore, wireframe provides a sense of clarity before we start with using colours, forms and images. In the simplest terms, wireframe helps us arrange and share ideas so that there isn’t any misunderstanding amongst the stakeholders.
  • A wireframe is easy to create. It is designed using simple shapes and lines without any styling or formatting. It is a cheaper and faster way to showcase your ideas onto a sheet of paper.
  • Wireframing done in the initial stage of the design process can help save time during the development process. It also provides less work to be done. If the wireframe is accessible through the internet, then it can be shared quickly to receive feedback.
  • Wireframes are simple and easy to understand. The developers and the different stakeholders can understand without learning the ins and outs of wireframing.
  • During the process of wireframing, there is no coding required. You only need a drawing tool to design the wireframes.
  • Inline annotations are providing a specification of the different design elements present in the wireframe that helps any person to understand it.

Cons

  • Wireframes do not describe pivotal design elements. Black and white layout cannot influence the content the way colours and contrast can. Therefore, with the visual identity of the brand hidden, it is less impactful.
  • In many cases, the stakeholders might not fully understand the different annotation points of the wireframe and as such, do not agree with the prime objective.
  • During the initial stage of the design process, a lot of iterations of the user interfaces will happen. It may be sometimes daunting as a process and quite confusing for everyone, as they have to choose from a lot of options.
  • Sometimes during the process of designing a wireframe, it might get a little boring. If you hit this threshold mark of boredom, your interest in creating wireframes might plummet, therefore breaking the process workflow for some time.

What is Mockup?

What is Mockup?

Unlike wireframe, mockups are static or dynamic, high-fidelity visual design which provides us with graphic details such as colours, pictures and typography. It is used to represent the information structure, helps us visualize the content and demonstrates some of the basic functionality of the product statically.

Mockup gives a realistic view of how the end product would be. It helps you to decide on the final colour scheme, the layout of the different visual graphic user interface (GUIs) elements and helps understand the mood and vibe of the design.  A mockup is a version of the final design, in terms of appearance. It acts as a bridge between a wireframe and a prototype. It is a great tool to start with discussion, collaboration as well as sharing of ideas as it gives a clear picture of the visual appearance of the user interface.

typical mockup

A typical mockup consists of visual details such as colours, style, typography and graphics. There are also different style buttons as well as text added to it. They have both navigation graphics as well as the component spacing.

Whether mockups are static or dynamic?

This question has led to confusion quite often – Whether mockups are static or dynamic? The answer is – mockups are static. As I said, a mockup is the representation of an idea of what the product would look like after completion.

As compared to wireframes and a prototype, mockups are much easier for planning out how the final product would look. Also, a mockup is more efficient because it takes a shorter time instead of drawing it. For the last time, both mockup and wireframes are static, whereas a prototype is dynamic.

Just a point to remember, that great developers would not create mockups but designers will. It is imperative to turn to an expert in UI/UX design service, to get an elegant and usable interface. Always remember that wireframes are designed by the designers after which, these become proper mockup. The process cannot and should not be reversed.

Pros and Cons of using mockups

Pros

  • Mockups are realistic in their visual appearance. A mockup is all about how you organize the product’s information, also called Information Architecture. It is very close to the final design that will eventually be developed into a functional product prototype.
  • Mockups are easy to revise. It is this stage where one can make changes with proper user testing as it is time savvy and lighter on the pockets of the organization. The developers also appreciate it as they do not have to revise the work after coding.
  • Unlike wireframes, mockups are much more convincing to all the stakeholders. It is a better option to win the trust of the client and make them intuitively understand how the final product will look like in terms of usability.
  • Designing mockups give a golden opportunity for the design team to study and analyze the results. Once the phase of mockups designing starts, web designers have to decide on whether they would start with a mobile-first or prefer a desktop-first approach.
  • Mockups help the individual and the team by making the layout of the product scannable. It also helps to highlight important content and make them better placed hierarchically.
  • Mockups can help assess user experience for the interaction with the product. It helps us to understand how the user feels and what are their key considerations to accomplish the desired task.

Cons

  • Does not show functionality which is the most pivotal factor while you are testing your user interfaces.
  • Designing a mockup is also a complicated task.
  • It is expensive and time-consuming to create one, making mockup designs is a little heavy on the pocket.
  • Mockups are complicated for the stakeholders to understand the workflow from one page to the other. Someone from the design department has to be present who would make him fathom how one interface switches on to the next one.

Tools for designing a wireframes and mockups

Below I have mentioned a few paid and free mockup tools or applications that are currently popular in the industry –

Mockflow

Mockflow tools for design wireframes and mockup

Mockflow is a free wireframing tool that helps you iterate on the UI design while quickly drawing. It is a full-featured editor and with its build components and layouts that bring the concept to life. It also has auto-generated design specifications and documentation that helps you to come off with brand UI guidelines from wireframes.

Figma

Figma tools for design wireframes and mockup

Figma is one of the best and most used design software. It is an easy-going software that helps you to create user-interfaces which you maintain, share, enhance and collaborate with the different team members in real-time. The design tool is especially helpful when you are working in a team alongside multiple contributors. Figma is compatible with both Windows and macOS. Depending on your objective and your usage, it comes in both a free version and a paid version. In recent industry trends, Figma is popular amongst big players like Uber, Microsoft, Blackberry etc. and has already replaced Invision, Sketch and Zeplin. It has cloud-based storage and can integrate with Zeplin. It is a little heavy on the desktop or laptop RAM and sometimes freezes during medium to heavy tasks.

Adobe XD

adobe xd tools for wireframe and mockup

Adobe XD is developed and published by Adobe Inc. It is a free tool with the primary features which can be upgraded. This tool can be easily compatible with macOS and Windows. It helps in creating basic wireframes but also turns those wireframes into beautiful designs. It is vector-based design software, used in large numbers as an industry standard. This software can be used to design wireframe, mockups and prototype and convert to animated prototype in less time. There are many other features in Adobe XD, such as being editable in Adobe Photoshop without losing layers,

responsive resize, asset export and repeat grid.

Pencil Project

Pencil-Project tools for wireframes and mockup

Pencil Project is an inbuilt free to use, open-source software that is compatible with both macOS and Windows. It is utilized for low-fidelity wireframing. It is a quick wireframing and prototyping tool that focuses on diagrams and graphic user interface (GUI). It supports a compact layout, optimizers in the output file by removing unused resources, implement quick canvas resizing using corner resizer, change the default page size so that the new page fits best, screen-capture and colour picker. It also helps to export HTML templates for clickable prototypes.

Wireframe CC

wireframes cc tools for design wireframes and mockups

Wireframe CC is a free online wireframing tool that quickly designs wireframes. It provides three design patterns which include web, mobile and vertical screen mode. Designers can share the file via a simple URL. It is easy to use software but is somewhat limited.

Balsamiq mockups

balsamiq tools for design wireframes and mockups

Balsamiq mockup is a very famous design tool to create quick wireframe design within a short amount of time. Though it is a low-fidelity wireframing tool that is compatible with macOS and Windows, it too has its restrictions- It starts with a free trial for 30 days after which you would have to purchase the pro-version. Balsamiq mockups are easy to work with during the designing process, as everything is available to drag and drop including button and list. It has a library full of UI elements which are a great convenience for a designer to do a quick wireframe. But it is not suitable for designing large prototypes with animation. Using Balsamiq, wireframes are made.

Justinmind

Justinmind tools for design wireframes and mockup

Justinmind is another free mockup tools online for both web and mobile applications. This software does not have any restriction because you can build as many app wireframes, mockups and prototypes as you wish. As a designer, you can also validate the complete experience, with the help of any browser and without coding. Justinmind has many readymade UI templates, and they frequently update their UI libraries. You can use any of the preloaded UI elements which are interactive through easy drag and drop. It also gives you the freedom to help me make mobile gestures. Justinmind supports SVG as well as vector files and can import embedded or linked any of these without losing quality.

So now that an in-depth description of wireframe and mockups is complete, I hope that you will be able to remember the pros and cons of using them. Not to say,  wireframe and mockups are a part of the design process and, come what may, any one of them can not be skipped. It is quite imperative to keep in mind that only after sufficient wireframing, should a designer or his/her team go forward to create mockups and then, finally do the prototyping. If at any stage, any one of the processes is skipped, then the stakeholders involved would have to face losses.

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References

  1. https://www.mockplus.com/blog/post/wireframe-mockup-prototype-selection-of-prototyping-tools
  2. https://uiux.blog/wireframe-vs-mockup-vs-prototype-selection-of-prototyping-tools-d803c4fd031d
  3. https://www.uxpin.com/studio/ui-design/what-is-a-wireframe-designing-your-ux-backbone/
  4. https://brainhub.eu/blog/difference-between-wireframe-mockup-prototype/
  5. https://www.mockflow.com/explore/
  6. https://balsamiq.com/wireframes/
  7. https://www.justinmind.com/blog/website-mockup/
  8. https://pencil.evolus.vn/
  9. https://www.adobe.com/in/products/xd/details.html
  10. https://thedigitalprojectmanager.com/wireframe-tools/
  11. https://www.visual-paradigm.com/guide/ux-design/wireframe-vs-storyboard-vs-wireflow-vs-mockup-vs-prototyping/
  12. https://www.mockplus.com/blog/post/wireframe-mockup-prototype-selection-of-prototyping-tools
  13. https://articles.centennialarts.com/why-mock-ups-for-custom-design-are-bad-for-a-business/
  14. https://keenethics.com/blog/1521631041972-the-importance-of-mockups
  15. https://www.lucidchart.com/blog/wireframes-vs-mockups
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