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What is the difference between a Wireframe, Mockup, Prototype?

What is the difference between a Wireframe, Mockup, Prototype?

What is the difference between a Wireframe, Mockup, Prototype? 


We might have heard the terms like wireframe, mockup, prototype while sitting next to developers. But do we really know what these terms actually mean?

Non- IT might find wireframe, mockup and prototype as the same thing, but they are not. Technically the three terms, Wireframe - Mockup - Prototype all together represent the different stages of a design flow.

The reasons why the UI/UX design agency use Wireframe, Mockup and Prototype can be briefed quickly:

  • To create an idea of what the design will be. 

  • The money could be saved on the developers and decided what you need to get build.

How do you see the process of designing an app?

Wireframe, mockup and prototype are associated and have significant differences between them. They look different, they communicate different things and they serve different purposes. 

To understand the difference between Wireframe, Mockup, Prototype. Let us try to interpret the three terms individually first. Then we need to focus on the wireframe, mockup and prototype tools.

The Wireframes

Wireframe is a static, low fidelity representation of different layouts of how a product would look like. Wireframe looks like it was designed from wires and that is where the name comes from.  

Wireframes create a base for the designers from where to start and gives a setup to work on to the creative team. 

In layman language, wireframes are simple black and white layouts that trace the outline to the specific placement of your website. 

As in, when someone has to build a building, they don't right away start with the work. But first draw out a sketch of what they have in their mind. 

Similarly, a wireframe works as a draft to your website. 

Why should Wireframe be used?

  • Static and simple and provides with the base of your website.

  • Interaction of technical documentation. 

  • Gives the most basic UI

When should Wireframes be created?

Wireframing is the first step towards the designing of an application. A wireframe is created even before the team starts with the visual details. At the initial stage it is easier for the designer to experiment with the moving content and objects, group the components together, add or remove elements. 

However, wireframes lack typographic style, color or graphics. It is just a basic structure to the website before the visual design and content is added to the website. 


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The Mockups

The high-fidelity display of design is a mockup that demonstrates information frames and presents the contents of the website. 

Mockup adds skin to the bones, it fills the structure that wireframe produces. 

Why should Mockups be used? 

  • Looks more like a finished product, thus more comprehensible. 

  • Graphic representation of the design proves to be more helpful to an investor. 

When should Mockup be created?

Before arriving at the final step, mockups are created to uncover the visual elements. Mockups are created when it is time to translate the ideas into the stakeholder language. 

Since it is a task for the client to understand the product from just a flat graphic design, this is where mockup takes one step ahead of wireframe. 

However, a mockup is not clickable, it is just a picturization of how the final product would look like. 

The decisions regarding the color, graphics, typography are finalized in reference with a mockup.  Necessary changes can be made in a mockup after asking the potential users and needed experiments can be made. 

For looking out at some mockups, one can go through dribble. 

The Prototypes

The highest fidelity design, a prototype is closest to the final finished product. Prototype actually makes you interact with your creation. It is of course not the final product! Because the interface and the backend are not connected. 

Why should Prototypes be used?

  • Prototype is clickable, thus user gets to experience the content. 

  • Allows user to interact with the interface. 

  • To reduce the development costs until the UI is approved. 


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When should Prototype be created?

Actually you can not move forward without a prototype. A prototype is created when the final product has to be interacted for the best usability research. Usually the creative team needs the prototype when they want to tie the interaction and visual design together, right before the actual development begins. 

The Noticeable fact is that unlike a Wireframe or a Mockup, a Prototype is clickable and allows the user to experience the content. Prototype is the best medium through which the product can be tested.

Wireframe, Mockup, Prototype Tools 

What do we want from a mockup generator? That the wireframe we structure should be of quality. You would want to choose the app that will make your design stand out and here we talk about the tools that help in the designing of an application. 

  1. Cacoo

The easy to use online diagramming, mockup and wireframe tool has a strong editor, user friendly interface and templates. The ideas are visualized in wireframes, flowcharts, mind maps. The app is not just for designers and developers, Cacoo aims at enhancing collaboration via gathering information and feedback.  Also Cacoo offers a 14-day free trial and education plans. 

  1. Omnigraffle 

Mouseless editing, non-destructive shape ideas, combinations, diagramming subgraphs, keyboard shortcuts and more are part of Omnigraffle where you can make your perfect intuitive wireframing software. For any window user it is a disadvantage since the excelling usability tool that is Omnigraffle is available only on Apple OS. 

  1. Axure

Axure lets us create you your own diagram by easily arranging the widgets and provides tools for understanding customer journeys. For an experienced UX designer, Axure is a blessing for it has a lot to offer. 

  1. Adobe 

Nothing gets much more functional and well designed than the Adobe software. Adobe XD is a Nifty toolkit helps to clearly understand how can you create layouts and design creative prototypes. Not only Adobe has a steep learning curve but also provide with the best training videos and tutorials. 

Though just a minor critique, animation and auto-animation features are not as reliable and functional as the could be. 

  1. Miro 

Miro has it all. Canvas, robust set of widgets, prefabricated templates, roadmaps, sprint planning. One Drive, DropBox, Google Suite, JIRA, etc are the integrations listed on their site. Miro platform can be expanded by working on vaster colors and typography and UML diagramming templates. 

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Similarly, we have more tools that validate the app is designed well, is offering a clear display.



Each one of them have their own significant importance as an individual step in the process of product design. Still Wireframe, Mockup and Prototype stand differently on the purpose of reaching the same goal of product design. 

As a blueprint of an infrastructure, wireframe is just a visual representation of how the final product would be built. Later the mockups are created which are not devoid of graphics and yet the trials can be taken out till the final product is reached. Then the clickable prototype which is close enough to the final product is designed and this definitely saves a lot of development costs. 

Concluding, a wireframe is a visual way of representing the product, the product’s structure , a mockup shows how the product would look like but is not clickable in nature. Prototype, a highly interactive tool gives a clear picture of how would the final design be operated. 

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Author Biography.

Prince Pal
Prince Pal

UI UX Consultant Helping Digital Startups & Stakeholders Grow Their Business at Think 360 Studio
For 15+ years I have designed, developed and marketed websites/apps startups in New York, California, Florida and in India. Always focused on great User Interface is key.

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