ui-ux-design-concept-difference-between-wireframe-and-prototype

Basic UI/UX Design Concept Difference Between Wireframe & Prototype

The terms of ‘wireframe’ and ‘prototype’ are always get confused by designers, despite the experienced designer, possibly due to the misunderstanding or some other reasons. Actually, these two UI/UX design concept difference between wireframe & prototype is quite obvious and different. Now, let’s distinguish the two terms clearly.

What is a Wireframe?

Wireframe is a low fidelity layout of the design which has 3 simple but direct targets:

1. Presents the main information group

2. Draw the outline of structure and layout

3. Vision and description of the user interface

It will be your product’s main structure after you created a wireframe correctly. Just like the blueprint of a building, it describes details clearly and specifically.

Visual features of wireframe

Wireframe exists very obvious visual limitations. In general, designers only need to use lines, boxes, and gray color (different grayscale indicates the different level) to complete.

Simple vector wireframe

The content of a simple wireframe should include pictures, video, and text etc. Thus, the omitted will be replaced by a placeholder, picture be instead by a shaded, and text will be replaced by some symbolic words according to the text layout.

Advantage of wireframe

The building of wireframe is fast and cheap, especially if you use these prototyping tools such as UXPin, Mockplus, Balsamiq, and Axure. Of course, you should use these tools to do it at the very beginning.

Compared with a complete and detailed high fidelity wireframe, gathering feedback is much more important. Why? Because people pay more attention to software functionality, information architecture, user experience, user interaction flowchart, and it’s usability, rather than considering the aesthetic characteristics of these elements. Meanwhile, in this case, you can easily modify it according to demand, but not need to adjust coding and graphic editing.

Interactive wireframe

Sometimes, designers prefer to improve the fidelity of wireframes to enhance the importance of user interface at some aspects and display the rationality of interaction between fast test and the visual elements. Program to address these problems properly is using interactive wireframe, also known as the clickable wireframe.

If you want to create such a complicated wireframe, then you need UXPin, which is a tool for wireframing and prototyping design. Interactive prototyping may be the best presentation to developing team and clients. When you came across the problem that “what it will happen when I clicking this button?’’, you just need to click and show to your clients how it works on the interactive prototyping. Indeed, it’s quite impressive and direct.

Show wireframe cautiously

You must be cautious about the guy who is totally a layman when you need to present your wireframe to him. He may be your client, also may be a non-technical manager took part in the cooperation. But he does not know the truth that the wireframe and the final product may seem unrelated. So, he may not understand the intrinsic link and operation mode between them. Thus, you need to figure out a proper decision whether you need to present and how.

This is an app user operation flow chart sketched by Fernando Guillen. Of course, it’s undoubtedly the early design version.

A wireframe is the most important part of a design. When you saw this flow chart, you’ll understand why it’s time-consuming to explain what is called wireframe and why we need to use wireframe. Or, you just skip this step.

Prototype

The requirement of a prototype is higher than wireframe/interactive wireframe, it must be a high fidelity prototype which is interactive and fit the final user interface as much as possible.

The target of prototypes is quite obvious: to simulate the interaction between user and interface as realistically as possible. When a button is pressed, the corresponding operation must be carried out, and the corresponding pages must appear, try the best to simulate a full product experience.

Visual features of prototype

Undoubtedly, the prototype must include the aesthetic features of a product that should have, and try to fit the final version. Basically, it’s a skin of a product, no HTML/CSS/JS involved, and not necessary to consider the server and database.

Advantage of prototype

Why it’s so important? Because prototype is usually used for users to test product. Prototype test at the very early stage can save a lot of developing cost and time. So that it won’t waste the effort of back-end product architecture due to the unreasonable interactive interface. So, prototype is a perfect progress to test product for designers and developers.

Besides, providing prototypes with users to collect feedback, that’s benefit to have an insight into all the details of your product, and inspire the whole team. Many of the prototyping tools can build prototypes quickly and efficiently, but no coding needed.

Design flow

After you have insight into the essence of design and known the difference between wireframe and prototype, you are standing in front of the user experience design world.

If you can concrete the series of product design into a cohesive and effective work flow, amazing thins will happen.

Tips

Try to use editable and reusable elements when make wireframe. In that case, you just continue to refine the elements to complete prototypes based on wireframes.

When you make wireframes, try to gather thoughts and opinions from your team and clients, and try to reflected them on wireframe designs.

Use your most handy tool.

UXPin

UXPin has built more than 900 kinds of different UI elements for you to create wireframes and prototypes.

Proto.io


Proto.io is a very robust prototyping tool, and it can export HTML / CSS code based on a prototype, and interactive prototype for touch screen, which allowing users to test on actual devices.

Balsamiq

A popula,r long-lasting wireframe tool only for static wireframe.

Moqups


This tool supports to make wireframe directly online.

Mockplus

Mockplus is the all inclusive prototyping tool for fast interaction, fast design, and fast previewing. It allows to create mockups for mobile (Android & iOS), Desktop(PC & Mac) and web apps.

Axure

As a most popular wireframe & prototype design tool, do we need more introduction of this tool? I think no.

Protoshare

This tool also can make wireframes & prototypes online.

InvisionApp

This tool can help you create usable prototype, you cannot draw anything, but you can add links between different screens.

The 5 Best Free Wireframe Tools for Mobile Apps You Can’t Miss Out

The flourishing of various mobile devices stimulated the explosive growth of the mobile Apps. From the rapid development of the mobile market, we can see it’s an age of accelerating technology on mobile App design and development. One of the most important part during App development is building wireframes which can reasonably organize and simplify the content and elements.

Low fidelity is the key feature of wireframes. It will present the design idea and App prototype of the product in a more intuitive and simple way. In addition to saving time, wireframes but also provide great advantages for designers focusing on product user experience. Here is a list of the 5 best free wireframe tools for mobile apps in 2017.

1. Paper prototyping

Pricing: free forever

Pen & paper are the total free wireframing/prototyping tools, no matter from the point of time & capital cost, usability, learnability, as well as the practicability. Comparing with other wireframing tools, the most important is that the pen and paper are free and easily get. Wherever you are, you can draw a wireframe with a few lines in a short time. But personally, I think the paper prototyping is not suitable for big projects, but only the small one. The large program may cost you a lot of energy to save widgets and present the whole project.

2. Balsamiq

Pricing: Free trail -30 days

Pro version -$89

Do you like the hand-drawing of paper prototyping? But don’t want to be distressed by the pieces of paper widgets? Try Balsamiq. You can build a hand-drawing style with this wireframe design tool. One of the reason to focus on the sketch style is that it could help to make the designers and clients focusing on the function, layout, and idea of the product. So that you won’t hear the picky client say he don’t like the color of buttons or other elements.

The built-in components and icons can basically meet the drawing requirements of wireframing design for mobile App. Simply drag out an iPad, iPhone, or Andrew interface template, put the needed components in the container, you can build a mobile App wireframes fast and easily.

3. Mockplus

Pricing: Basic version -free forever

Pro version – $129/year, perpetual license – $399

Mockplus is a wireframing/prototyping tool that showed up in the recent two years. It could be the best free wireframe tool for mobile apps, because it has a perfect support on mobile App wireframing. You can find Android, iPad, and iPhone templates in each size according to your specific needs. Besides, it also supports to customize the project size. So sweet. If you need a landscape App interfaces, that’s easy!

There are 200 built-in components and 3,000 icons, no matter you need a static wireframe or interactive prototype, that’s easy to make out by dragging and dropping. Do you know how long it cost to set an interaction? Only 3 seconds! It also provides with good after service that makes Mockplus get reputation among China and other countries.

4. Wireframe.cc

Pricing: Free trail -7 days

Single user – $120/year, enterprise – $990/year

Wireframe.cc is an online static wireframe design tool. If you are a fanatical minimalist designer, then this tool should be your dish. You can easily get started on the website, even without registration. The interface is super and concise, designers will not be disturbed by the cumbersome website introduction or the boring popping box, and the maximum concentration will perfect your design.

5. Justinmind

Pricing: Free trail -30 days

Single user – $19/month, perpetual license – $495

Justinmind is a high-fidelity wireframing/prototyping tool. By contrast, it is more exclusive on mobile App design than the current mainstream design tools, due to the good support in gesture operations, transitions, interactive effects, and so on. This is also the effective grantee of its high-fidelity prototype. While the high fidelity prototype also means that you will spend more time and energy.

All the best free wireframe tools for mobile apps are listed above. Hope this list will help you choose a good design assistant. If you have any other wireframe tools recommend, please feel free to add it to the comment area. Let me see you!