A wireframe is not the same as the prototype, but sometimes it happens that even design experts get these terms all mixed up, so we will explain the basic difference between wireframe and prototype.
What is wireframe?
Wireframe is a simplified version of the product design, which must contain a clear presentation of the product. It is a simple visual guide to show us what a website would look like. Wireframe is used for:
- Main groups of information
- Appearance/structure of information
- Basic visualization and interaction of user interface
Visual characteristics of wireframe are very limited, and usually are made of boxes, lines and gray color shades to represent different levels of visual design hierarchy. The most of the content that should be used – images, video or text are usually left for the second part of the process.
Because it can be created fast and easily, particularly with the use of special software, it should be used on start of the process and it’s great for getting first impression from clients.
Using wireframe model, we can focus more on information architecture, user experience (UX), functionality, usability, interaction and user flow instead of leaving these basic design aspects stay in the shade of aesthetics. Another advantage is that all changes can be done fast, without too much coding or spending time on adjusting graphic editor.
In case that designers want to rise their project to another level, there are specialized tools such as UXPin which can be used for creating interactive or clickable wireframes and prototypes.
Interactive wireframes can be very useful for first project presentation to your clients or potential customers. And if anyone asks a question like “What will happen when I click this button?”, you will have answers on the interactive wireframe model.
The information that we have provided are important so you can understand the importance of the wireframe in the design process, before you represent it to other people.
What is prototype?
Prototype is medium or high quality presentation of user interface which have simple task, to simulate interaction between user and interface. Whenever a button is clicked, there must be an appropriate reaction, because prototype should create the experience of the final product.
Visual characteristics of the prototype can be very alike with the final version of the product, when it comes to esthetics. Basically, prototypes must look the same as the final product, except having backend logic (database, JS, CSS, HTML,…)
What are benefits of the prototype?
Prototypes are made for early testing with real users, so they can save huge amounts of money and time which could be lost in case development of wrong interface and back-end architecture. According that, prototype is a great tool for design and development validation.
Instead of losing time on coding of prototype, designers can now create “fast prototypes” with small expenses using softwares we mentioned. Any additional adjustments you need to do after testing with users can be completed much faster, without spending time of your developer.
Understanding nature of the design process and knowing the difference between wireframe and prototype, you will have a good starting point for an introduction to UX (user experience) design.
Miracles can happen when you manage to combine many parts of designing process into one efficient and effective workflow.
Tools for creating wireframes and prototypes
Here is the list of the popular software tools that could help you when creating wireframe and prototype.