Wireframe vs. Prototype - How They Differ
While design languages can be complicated, there is no reason for design teams to skip important tasks along the way only because of misunderstanding the difference between the wireframe vs prototype.
A website wireframe represents a basic, low-fidelity representation and structural guide for your web product layout. Meanwhile, a prototype is an enhanced frame with more visual attributes and visual details.
Continue reading our article to learn more about wireframes and prototypes and how to incorporate them into your design workflow.
What Is A Wireframe?
In web and mobile design, a wireframe is a static, low-fidelity presentation of your product that serves as the ultimate guide to any website or app development - the basic framework version - for developers and designers to follow.
However, no matter who you ask, such as a designer or a developer, you are bound to get different explanations of what a wireframe is.
Wireframes' visual elements are typically confined to a grayscale color scheme with gray lines and boxes that reflect the design's position and level of visual hierarchy. It often lacks animations that allow real users to interact with their designs.
- It is fast, cheap, simple to build, and quickly authorized, so it is important to conduct adequate baseline planning before proceeding to prevent rework.
- Maintain minimal structure with just the key features and key visual guides to let you focus on the bigger picture.
- Allows participants to visualize and know early without getting bogged down in specifics and clearly understand the result before agreeing to engineers.
- Because there is no actual content, determining the final arrangement for the screen is a challenge.
- When more actual content is required, you may need to rearrange, remove UI elements, or resize.
- Since they are static and have almost no interaction, they are generally not used to test and validate any product concepts.
- The simple wireframe is rarely used in terms of seemingly displaying the Brand.
What Is A Prototype?
A true prototype is a medium to high-fidelity representation mockup for the final user interface of your mobile product and website. Prototypes typically incorporate the first user interaction and represent visual design elements more fully.
In a clickable wireframe, you can add some interactions, if restricted, by clicking elements on the screen. On the other hand, prototypes permit you to illustrate and evaluate the full functionality of your design by including events, variables, animations, and interactions.
- Test your prototype with real consumers on real devices, then repeat as needed.
- Some prototyping tools are now directly integrated with usability engineering and user research platforms, making it easier to integrate testing into the design process.
- Clickable and usable prototype design creates a realistic impression of the finished product.
- There is an element of collaboration in the design process that supports designers to work as a team.
- Prototypes are often more expensive and time-consuming to manufacture than wireframes.
- As consumer requirements change constantly, there is a possibility of missing documentation.
- Customers will sometimes demand that the actual product be delivered when they see the initial prototype.
- Developers can make bad decisions about prototype quality and affect the final product.
Differences Between Wireframes Vs Prototypes
Wireframes and prototypes are the two most commonly created UX products, although they are often confused.
A wireframe is a reduced representation of the basic layout of your website or application. It is a diagram or tree of a website that shows all its pages and how they are connected.
On the other hand, prototypes are mockups of the initial design of your website or mobile app's final user interface, complete with rich interactions and animations. Despite being similar to a complete representation of the future product, a prototype lacks bells and whistles.
A simple textual model structure of an application or web page is what describes a wireframe, akin to a blueprint representing a framework's frame. Wireframes can be hand-drawn or created electronically using wireframing apps like Dia, Microsoft Visio, or Gliffy, but they must combine lines and text. The design is simple, and the wireframe does not depict the nuances.
Prototypes are more adaptable and can include materials or graphics. They can be static, responsive, created on paper or digitally using the most common prototyping app like Axure or Adobe XD.
Essentially, all wireframes represent the low-fidelity prototype with little information. The main focus of wireframes is on the structural aspects that help communicate priority. There are three purposes of a wireframe: present the main page's information, outline the layout and web design, and emphasize basic user interfaces.
Prototyping is useful for various purposes, including visualizing ideas, acting as blueprints for programmers, determining technical feasibility, and testing design usefulness.
If you consider your real product to be the human body, the wireframe and prototype serve related but completely separate functions from each other. In a nutshell, wireframes act as the frame of a digital product, while the other are more visual representations of your product.