Both wireframing and prototypes are the building blocks of great product design. It's often confusing for designers to understand the difference between wireframe and prototype. These two words are often used interchangeably, although they are quite different from each other. This article aims to clear all doubts related to wireframes vs. prototypes, their importance, and their role in the product design process.
What is a wireframe?
A wireframe is a basic layout of what a website or an application will look like with all of the content and features included. A wireframe is a low-fidelity sketch of a design. Wireframes are used to communicate the structure of a page or app without getting bogged down in the details. They are sometimes called "blueprints," "schematics," "mockups," or "UI sketches."
Wireframes are not pixel-perfect, but they are exact enough to convey what is needed. People use wireframes to mock up websites and apps. They provide a base for designers to build upon and give developers something concrete to code against.
A wireframe is an important tool in the UX process because it helps define how the information will be organized on each page. A wireframe shows where buttons, text, images, and other elements will go on the web page or mobile app. It also helps determine how users navigate through the content on each page or screen by providing large clickable areas for menus and buttons (for example).
If you're designing a website from scratch, it's best to create wireframes before moving into high-fidelity designs because they're much faster to iterate upon than high-fidelity designs are.
At what stage of product design wireframing occurs?
Wireframing is the first stepping stone toward product development. It's like how an architect would first make a blueprint and then start building; wireframing lays the backbone of your design process before you actually start developing the product.
What are the benefits of Wireframing?
It's fast and easy to create wireframes to get feedback quickly. This helps keep your team on track and save time on something that could work better.
Wireframes are low fidelity — they don't require a lot of detail or polish to communicate design ideas effectively to others (and yourself). This makes them easier to change as needed without having to start over from scratch every time something needs tweaking or changing.
They're cheap and quick to make, so there's less risk involved with trying out new ideas before committing them to higher-fidelity prototypes or designs that may be harder for stakeholders to accept or understand until they've been tested with real users firsthand (or at least internally by other members of your team).
Wireframes can save money and time because once you know what works, you don’t have to make multiple versions or spend more money than necessary creating them.
Best tools to create wireframes
MockFlow is a popular choice for wireframing. With a low learning curve, a highly intuitive editor, and real-time collaboration, MockFlow has the edge over its competitors. Whether you want to create a low-fidelity sketch or a pixel-perfect high-fidelity mockup, MockFlow is the tool for you. It provides ready-to-use UI packs and templates that you can simply drag and drop to your editor to kick-start your work. It comes with a generous, forever-free plan for you to get hands-on experience with the tool before upgrading to its entire product design suite.
Pricing: Starts at $0, with two design spaces, one UI project, and ten reviewers. Upgraded wireframing and product design plans (with unlimited UI drawings) are $19 and $25, respectively. You can save 25% on all the annual plans. Get started for free here and upgrade as and when needed.
Balsamiq makes creating basic, low-fidelity wireframes for your web layouts easy, even if you have never used wireframing software before. The software's drag-and-drop interface can be used to create buttons, lists, and other common elements, each styled as a hand-drawn sketch. By resizing the window, you can see what your wireframe will look like across various screen sizes.
Pricing: Balsamiq pricings come as per the project count, which may not be suitable for small teams. They start at a 30 free trial followed by $9 per month for two projects and $49 per month for 20 projects.
What is a prototype?
The prototype is a practice where the idea or product is simulated before turning it into a real product or service. This can also be used to evaluate how well the final design works or interacts with customers. To be precise, it represents the final product, letting you interact with a website or app before it’s built, making it easier to fine-tune the user experience. It also plays a key role in user testing, where you validate your design decisions with real users before you start the development process. Since prototypes are high fidelity, they require much more attention and time. As a result, any changes done at this stage can cost your team more.
At what stage of product design prototyping occurs?
Prototyping is a technique that allows you to actually see and interact with the elements of your design. This process can be applied at any stage of your design process, but it's most commonly used once the UI designs are finalized and ready to be shown to users. This allows users to get a feel for how they'll interact with your product as they use it, which is especially helpful if you're trying to figure out how someone might navigate through different parts of your site or app. With interactions and animations, prototypes take you one step closer to your final product.
The benefits of prototyping
Prototypes allow you to test your hypothesis before you build the final product. It will help you find out if your idea works or not. If it doesn’t work, you can change it and make the design better based on real user feedback.
Prototypes help users understand how the product works by showing them what they can expect when they use the final product. Users can get a clear picture of what they will see on the screen when using an app or website, which helps them understand how to use it better.
Prototypes bring everyone on the same page. At this stage, you will know if your product’s goals, stakeholders' objectives, and users’ expectations are aligned or need any change.
Prototypes help designers create something quickly so that designers can iterate over their designs quickly and make changes as needed without spending too much time on each iteration of their ideas. This allows them to spend more time researching and testing with users before fully building their ideas into products.
Best tools to create prototypes
With internal and external links, you can do basic prototyping inside your MockFlow editor itself. There is also a UI prototyper Power Up, that lets you do advanced prototyping with features Like Support for standard device resolutions, adding events and gestures, transitioning between screens, and hotspot highlighting.
InVision is a powerful prototyping tool for designing interactive web pages. It allows designers to create clickable, interactive prototypes that can be shared with others for feedback. Some of its most outstanding features include a handy drawing tool, repeatable components that can be changed sitewide, and tools for creating animations and other dynamic visual effects.
Figma is a great tool for prototyping user experience and interface designs. With it, you can create interactive flows directly in the design file with advanced features that are easy to use. You can transform your static designs into a realistic version of your website or product in just a few minutes.
Difference between wireframes and prototypes
When you're designing a product, it's important to go through both the wireframing and prototyping stages. The two stages are crucial to your design process, but not all wireframes are created equal. Low-fidelity wireframes help you get started with rough sketches of your designs, whereas high-fidelity prototypes will give your users an idea of what your final product will actually look like. MockFlow has free plans for individuals and teams that allow you to create both types of wireframes: start yours today!