Wireframes are great if you’re not trying to replicate every pixel of a design. They present the website’s content and layout in a schematic form, without any of the pretty graphics that come with mockups.
But when you want to see how your site will look and feel before coding, mockups are essential! This post will break down the key difference between these two design tools so that you understand which one is right for you.
Wireframes are grids of boxes filled with content, showing the general structure of a page. They’re very low-fidelity and only give an overview of the relationship between elements on a page rather than any visual details.
Wireframes are generally created using simple tools such as PowerPoint or Keynote.
Mockups are more detailed versions of website designs. They include the layout, colors, and styling. All elements on a mockup are highly realistic, which means it’s not just a wireframe that looks pretty—it looks exactly like the real thing.
Mockups include easily editable vector images such as Photoshop or Illustrator files that you can tweak with effects such as shadows or gradients to emulate the look of your design in the browser.
From a designer’s perspective, mockups can be a tempting website prototyping tool because they produce a great-looking website quickly.
But if you’re not planning to use them in the front-end development process, there are few reasons to spend time creating them.
If the first thing you need to do is figure out how your website should be structured, consider wireframing instead of creating mockups. A wireframe is an effective way to organize the site’s content into a layout while figuring out what works and what doesn’t.
Without the visual details, you can pay more attention to the hierarchy of information on each page—you’ll be able to see if something isn’t as prominent as it should be by looking at your wireframes.
You can change wireframes quickly and effortlessly, so it’s easy to try out different layouts to see which one works best.
Creating mockups can be incredibly time-consuming. Although you can start with simple mockups and gradually add more careful design details, there’s always the risk that you’ll spend so long on them that by the time you’re ready to produce a quality website, it will be too late!
Once you get feedback from your clients or potential hires asking why your site looks different than their first impressions, going back to wireframe design will save you countless hours of work.
The more realistic your mockups look, the harder it is to make changes to them. If you’re planning to change a layout or page title by the time you’re ready for the front-end development, turning a mockup into a wireframe will save you a lot of wasted time and effort.
For example, imagine that you want to add an avatar photo on every page of your website. If you’ve been using mockups and you want to add the images, you might end up adding them to every page, which will take a long time. Instead, create a wireframe first.
A wireframe provides an excellent overview of your design. You won’t have to worry about how or whether users will see content on another page.
For example, in a wireframe, every element is equally important, and it’s easy to see the interactions between them.
A mockup is always a step behind the design you want. If a client asks you to change the font color of your logo, you could likely edit the mockup in less than a minute before finding out it was too late to make any changes to your design!
Even though there are many advantages to using mockups, once you’re ready to develop a quality website, it’ll be easier to use wireframes.
If you’re unsure whether your design will be complex enough to use mockups, begin with wireframes instead. Wireframes can also help you structure your website’s content before you start creating mockups.