Wireframe vs Mockup vs Prototype: What are the Differences?

calender May 4, 2023
user_icon AiloitteAdmin

Many people in the digital design field use the terms ‘wireframe’, ‘prototype,’ and ‘mockup’ interchangeably. When designing a product for a business, the design team may use these terms to illustrate how the product looks to the business owners or stakeholders, gather feedback, and design the final product design.

The words may sound similar but are intended for completely different purposes when a website or app is being developed. Sometimes a project will only need a wireframe or a mockup, while at other times, it may need a wireframe and prototype or all three.

In this article today, we will explore each of them in detail, wireframe vs mockup vs prototype, the purpose they serve, and how they fit into the UI/UX design process.

What is a Wireframe

A wireframe is a visual blueprint of the system that shows the key elements of a user interface, the intended layout, and the functionality of the system. Typically, they are made of simple shapes used for creating the visual representation of the page layout and give importance to the layout and not the exact design.

They are the most relevant in the initial stages of the product design process for the main purpose is problem-solving and communicating the design decisions to the development team, in terms of what would be in the app or website screen.

It also acts as a reference for project documentation. Businesses can test overall creative strategy and usability without getting bogged down in the details of creative designs.

Wireframing can be done using tools such as Framer, Zapier, UXpin, Balsamiq, etc.

What is a Mockup

UI UX Mockups is a detailed visual design representation of the pages or screen of the final application. It includes typography, iconography, color, and overall style and is used to show what the finalized website or app looks like, and offers a realistic perspective to stakeholders.

Businesses can use product design mockups before they start a project and test different approaches to the potential product. It can keep everyone aligned on the finished product and impress potential investors.

User interface(UI) Mockups are an important part of the product development cycle as it reveals problems that are not apparent in the wireframe and prototype stage such as color or typography issues. In short, mockups help the business explore the brand’s visual identity before decisions are made through coding while being quicker than creating prototypes.

UI/UX Mockups can be done using Mockflow, Figma, Marvel, InVision, or Moqups.

What is a Prototype

It is the final part of the app’s design, which acts as a bridge to the final product. An app prototype includes the app’s functionality and is built with a more polished UI. It may not have every interaction and animation of the final product but has key interactions that give us an idea of how the end app will function.

A good working prototype can be interactive and gives business stakeholders a feel of the future app. In addition, it can be used for user testing, and feedback can be worked upon and corrected, thus saving the development budget. It also helps identify and eliminate potential UI/UX issues that may crop up later on.

Unlike wireframing and mockup, designing a prototype can be a time and money-consuming process. You can use Invision Studio, Origami Studio, Mockplus, Adobe XD, etc., as prototyping tools for your project.

Let us now understand the difference between wireframes and prototypes and mockups.

Differences between Wireframe, Mockup, and Prototype

Wireframe vs App Prototype vs Mockup: What they are and the key differences

wireframe vs mockup vs prototype
DefinitionA quick sketch to convey product functionality. Blueprint of the product functionalityA realistic visual representation that shows how the product functionality looks likeInteractive simulation of the new product functionality
LayoutSimpleEarly design modelFinal design model
PurposeGet consensus and collect internal feedbackTo facilitate detailed feedback on visual elements and functionalityTo collect feedback by user testing the real experience
Included elementsStructure and format  of contentVisual elements such as logos, icons and colorsInteractive elements and navigation
DesignCan be designed on paper or diagrammatically using online toolsDesigner needs to use mockup toolsProduct is designed by the developers as it is a partially working product
TimeCan be designed quicklyTakes more time than wireframe but lesser than prototypeNeeds more time to develop
CreatorsDesigned by business analystsDesigned by UX design team, and created by development teamDesigned by UX design team, and created by the development team
WhereDeveloped in every projectCan be developed in projectsNot required for all projects

Why Wireframe, Mockup & prototype are needed?

Wireframes, mockups, and prototypes are indispensable parts of mobile app development so no matter what type of mobile app you’re planning to develop, you need them to capture the whole concept of a product, test the flow before implementation, and make changes quickly. This is what these design elements promise.

Other reasons why a business needs these visual methods in a project are what we will explore here.

  • Save development costs

Wireframing, Mockup, and Prototyping UX/UI help businesses capture what requirements are needed the most, and stakeholders can explain their expectations and give feedback accordingly.

Once Wireframing, Mockup, and Prototyping are done, the development team can just develop the system quickly as the changes to post-development design get eliminated, saving costs and time.

  • Pitch new clients

An attractive and smartly built prototype can help you demonstrate the product to potential new clients. They can get a feel of the product with a proper pitch, thus enabling them to make a decision quickly.

  • Lowers requirement gathering efforts

Sometimes, businesses or clients are unclear about the requirements and expectations of the future product.

As a result, they may use different requirement-gathering techniques such as brainstorming to discover the requirements.

Seeing a mobile app design can help businesses explain their expectations, and designers can understand them quickly and efficiently, reducing overall requirement gathering time and effort.

Summing up

If you’re creating a project from scratch, there’s no way you can skip Wireframing, Mockup & Prototyping. Including all three in a design process is good practice. However, take time to figure out what your business needs, and the chance of developing a high-quality product will rise if you find the right combination.

Generating user, and client feedback early in the design process can lead to developing good software while saving time and money.

Contact us today if you plan to have your mobile application, website, or custom web app designed by a professional design team.


What is the difference between wireframe and/vs mockup?

A wireframe represents a product’s structure, whereas a mockup shows how the product will look like.

What is the difference between a wireframe, mockup, and prototype?

Wireframes communicate structure to get early feedback. Mockup showcases design and prototype showcases both design and functionality.

What is the difference between a mockup and prototype?

A mockup is a visual way of representing a product. A prototype is a fully functional mockup with clickable features that look similar to the final product.

What is a UI mockup?

A UI mockup helps visualize the final app or website, including layout, color, typography, icons, and other UI elements.

Wireframing vs prototyping, what is the difference?

A wireframe is a representation of the digital product. A prototype is a simulation of the final product that is used for testing with users to check the interface and functionality.

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