What’s The Difference Between Sketch, Wireframe, Mockup, and Prototype?

A sketch, wireframe, mockup, and a prototype are all very different things, but they are all interconnected. These are very similar exercises that help you in ensuring that you are going in the right direction and have completely understood what the app is trying to achieve. These are pre-development activities which are different in how they work but are still used interchangeably and synonymously.

The development process is both time-consuming and expensive. You can’t really afford to waste so much time and resources by doing silly mistakes in the development process and then having to repeat it. This is why you should have a clear idea of what the app is trying to achieve and this can be done by first making a sketch, then creating a wireframe, then designing a mockup, and then in the last, the prototype. These can help you fill those gaps easily. But how are these different?

Let’s First Take a Look at the Design Phase.

Every development cycle has a design phase where the plan is drawn out and a picture of what it will look like is presented. In the case of an app, it works the same way. This design phase tells you what your app will look like once it is developed. It also shows you the behavior of the app when users try to interact with it. The actual design process only begins once the design is approved.

A Design Process Goes as Follows

  • Sketching
  • Wireframing
  • Mockup
  • Prototyping

Why Should You Have an Initial Design Process?

Consider the initial design as a blueprint of a building. You never build a building or a monument by simply putting together everything that you have. You first create a design and then give it for approval. Once it is approved, only then you actually build it. If you start without approval, you are bound to make mistakes and it will be impossible to dismantle the building every time and start afresh. The same applies to a software development process. It is easy to make changes to a sketch or wireframe than to change the final product.

What is a Sketch?

A sketch is probably the simplest representation of the idea of your app. It is a simple visual representation of the app based on the ideas and inputs you have received from your clients. A sketch is just a freehand drawing on paper. It helps you visualize the information communicated to you. A sketch helps in getting a common vision of the idea presented to you.

What is a Wireframe?

This is again a visual guide of the app but you add all the things that you couldn’t add in the sketch. A wireframe gives you a rough idea of the input, how it is processed, how the screens will be presented, how the elements will look etc. A wireframe tells you what happens when an action is taken using the app. If there is content on the screen, wireframe gives you an idea of how that data or element will be presented in the app.

What is a Mockup?

The wireframe shows the basic structure with the contents of the app and the functions, whereas a mockup adds design, color, style, and typography to it. A mockup shows a realistic picture of how things will shape up in the end. The visual representation of the mockup will show what all will be covered in the final picture. At this stage, these elements can be interactive or they cannot be interactive depending on how far you go with your mockup.

What is a Prototype?

A prototype is a final visual image of the app. The prototype acts just like the app to some extent. The code used for development is not used for creating a prototype, but it can still have clickable buttons and other components of a real app.

Conclusion

Creating a sketch is the most basic design function which can be performed even by a non-technical person. A wireframe acts as a more three-dimensional sketch. A mockup gives you a picture of the idea that you have so you can come up with better visual suggestions. A prototype is very close to the final app. Even though these words are used interchangeably, they are very different in how they work.

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Keval Padia
Keval Padia is the founder & CEO of Nimblechapps, a fast-growing mobile game development company. The current innovation and updates of the field lures him to express his views and thoughts on certain topics.