Why Do You Need a Wireframe and a Prototype for Your Web Page and What Is the Difference Between These Two Terms?

Why Do You Need a Wireframe and a Prototype for Your Web Page and What Is the Difference Between These Two Terms?

When you start working on a web page, you should create a wireframe for it first and then a prototype. Read this article to get to know how this approach can help you to optimize your workflow and cut down expenses.

 

A wireframe and a prototype are essential phases of developing a digital product. If you know how to handle them, you should be able to optimize your workflow, minimize expenses and boost customer satisfaction. In this article, we’ll analyze the pros and cons of prototyping and wireframing and explain the difference between the two processes. If you don’t use them yet, it might be the right time to try.

What Is a Wireframe?

A wireframe is a layout of a web page that features all the interface elements that are supposed to be present on that page. All the team that is working on the site should have a look at the wireframe and approve it.

A wireframe pursues the following goals:

  • Present the information that will be displayed on the page
  • Give an outline of the layout and navigation of the page
  • Ensure the terminology and structure used for the site meets user expectations

If team members fail to agree on certain elements, they can review them. It’s cheaper and easier to edit the wireframe than any of the later stages of the page’s development. Only after the whole team’s approval, the creative phase begins.

What Is a Prototype?

A prototype enables users to test a digital product’s interface and functionality. It is the preliminary version of the actual product developed. The development team and the client rely on it to detect those aspects that need improvement.

You can use two varieties of prototypes:

  • Display prototypes. They reveal the looks of the product and might feature little or no function. They are vital for the fashion business and other industries where the exterior is paramount.
  • Miniatures. These are the simplest versions of the products. They reveal both the looks and the functionality of the products but include only the most basic features.

Compared to wireframes, prototypes offer higher fidelity.

The Difference Between Wireframes and Prototypes

Wireframes serve as the skeleton of your digital product. To accelerate the progress from the wireframe stage to the prototype, you should strive to prepare the content and copy for your design as early as possible. The primary target audience of wireframes are your team members, you might not want to show them to your clients.

A prototype is a more visual representation of the product. It is supposed to be shared with clients. A prototype is not the final version of the product — but it is comprehensive enough to detect which aspects of the product you should fine-tune. Once you improve these aspects, you send the designs over to the engineers who’ll make it real.

The Pros and Cons of Wireframes

These are the primary merits of wireframes:

  • They provide an early visual that you can send to your client to review — it is a perfect way of getting feedback for prototype usability tests
  • Wireframes ensure the page content and functionality are positioned correctly based on user and business needs
  • They can serve as a good base for your team to agree on the project vision and scope

On the flipside, wireframes have the following drawbacks:

  • Some clients might find it challenging to grasp the concept because wireframes don’t include any design
  • You’ll need to explain to the designer why page elements are positioned as they are even if they don’t approve of that
  • Your designer and copywriter will need to work closely to fit all the content into one page

To make the most of your wireframes, you should establish efficient communication among your team members and between the team and the client.

The Pros and Cons of Prototypes

Development teams value prototypes for the following reasons:

  • You get a chance to validate the design of the actual product
  • You can improvise with little expenses

At the same time, you should be ready to put up with the following disadvantages:

  • Even though your expenses won’t be too high, you still need to invest funds in creating a prototype
  • The process of working on a prototype might constrain the designer’s ideas
  • Designers with little experience might find it tricky to estimate the time required for the prototype creation and the difficulty degree of implementation

You might want to characterize the process of creating a prototype as “materialization”. It’s the initial stage of transforming the virtual or conceptualized design into the real physical form.

Which Tools Can You Use to Create Wireframes and Prototypes?

To create a wireframe, you can use the following tools:

  • Pen and paper. Whenever a good idea comes to your mind, you just take a piece of paper and draft it.
  • Wirify by Volkside. The main purpose of this tool is not to create wireframes but to analyze pages by turning them into wireframes.
  • Freehand by InVision. It’s a lightweight digital whiteboard that offers excellent communication and collaboration opportunities.

The following tools might come in handy for creating prototypes:

  • Balsamiq. It allows you to design mockups with minimum effort. This is a highly user-friendly tool with a great widget library. Its cloud-based software facilitates team collaboration.
  • Justinmind. You can use this tool to make prototypes for both web pages and mobile apps. You don’t need coding skills to build highly interactive prototypes.
  • AdobeXD. Through its interface, you get access to multiple assets. Your prototypes will effortlessly adapt to any size screen. You’ll be able to try out the functionality of your web pages on the UserTesting platform that AdobeXD integrates with.

On the Internet, you can find other useful tools for creating wireframes and prototypes.

Final Thought

Hopefully, you found this article informative and now you better understand the difference between a wireframe and a prototype. The former is the simplest draft of a web page that shows which elements this page should feature and where they should be located. The latter allows you to assess the looks of the product in greater detail and test its functionality. Both can help you to cut down costs of product development because it’s easier to fine-tune the product at an early stage.

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