Sometimes it’s confusing, which terminology to use when speaking about web design or prototyping or its steps of development. That’s why this article is dedicated to explain what’s the difference between wireframing and prototyping and what these both terms actually mean. Thus, let’s figure it all out!
In short, wireframes can be called a basic layout of your web product, where the prototype is kind of an advanced wireframe with more visual interaction. If you need more detailed explanations, please, don’t stop reading.
What is a wireframe?
A wireframe is a static, low-fidelity representation of your product, and in the world of the web and mobile design, a basic guideline of your website or app – the skeletal framework – for designers and developers to follow.
For a better explanation, you must know that wireframing doesn’t provide a detailed art and its visual characteristics are typically limited, there are no animated design interactions. It is a core structure of your design.
Sometimes, when speaking to designer or developers about what the wireframe is, you may get different answers. For instance, developers tend to use wireframes to better understand the core functionality of a website or app, whereas designers may use this term to show the navigation flow between site screens.
Still, when planning a new product design, creating the wireframes is the best and cheapest way to clarify if you like it or not and what should be changed to get approved. Wireframing lets you visualize your product core structure to get an idea of what it’s going to be.
It’s a simple way of not getting the work redone, so this is a great benefit.
The main disadvantage is that it doesn’t contain the real content, so the final layout cannot be established.
What is a prototype?
The prototype is a mid-to-high-fidelity design model of the final UI of your website or mobile product. Prototypes usually include the first user interaction with the added animations, events, advanced interactions. It lets you illustrate the complete functionality and validate it. Working prototypes always let you test your product on real users, so at this stage, the usability and preferences can be tested. So it not only gives you an idea of the final product, but also lets you get the appropriate feedback on how it works.
Opposite to wireframes, the prototypes are more time consuming and costly. But still, prototypes are essential in a workflow and an integral step in web or mobile project development. Even spending more time on developing a prototype will give you many benefits when you proceed with testing.
What to consider before you start
When you start planning the design for your new web or mobile project, you’d better consider the budget, complexity, and don’t forget about the users and the corresponding UI. End users experience is very important, so think well when deciding who is going to perform the usability test for you to make a better evaluation. And never underestimate the importance of wireframe, so at the end, you don’t start all over again.