I’m sure you’ve heard the terms, “wireframe”, “mockup”, “prototype” and “MVP,” all of which are used to demonstrate the initial look and structure of an application. But do you really understand what these terms mean? When should you create a wireframe over a prototype or an MVP? These terms are often used interchangeably, possibly due to convenience or a misunderstanding of their definitions, but it’s crucial to distinguish what sets them apart and understand the benefits of each. On that note, let’s get talking about wireframes, prototypes and MVPs and when you should use each!
Please keep in mind this article is for beginner level UI/UX designers or junior Product/Project managers. If you are experienced on this topic, this article will NOT be for you 😉
Wireframes are the backbone of your design, containing the functional elements of your final mobile or web product. In other words, it’s the draft version of your application. Imagine how a house is built. The contractor wouldn’t be able to start building before getting framing plans from the architect. The same needs to happen to build a mobile or web application. Engineers can not start building a website until they receive the wireframes, otherwise, they may miss an important product element.
Wireframes, may not provide the complete details of the product, but it does provide a solid representation of the final design so that important pieces aren’t missed. Moreover, by creating a wireframe you have the opportunity to get feedback from your team. This can save your time, by allowing for changes prior to the actual build. By creating a wireframe you’re setting a path for the whole project and for the people that are working with you, developers, visual designers, project managers. You can create a wireframe simply by sketching in a notebook. However, the more popular method is to use tools such as Balsamiq, Fluid UI, or UXPin.
Let’s get into Mockups! Mockups are a medium fidelity representation of the final product. Using your wireframes as a guide, mockups – a working sample of the final product, can be created. It’s usually not advised to start on development of the application until the mockups are ready. Once mockups are ready the engineering team can make your product a reality. Mockups include colors, fonts, images, logo or anything that can put form wireframes, to help finalize the look of your product. The good thing about mockups is that they allow you to experiment with the visual elements of the app as a whole or on specific features, giving you time to create a solution that best fits your goals.
Prototypes are a high-fidelity representation of your app. It’s a mockup enriched with UX elements, animation, interactions and anything else you’d like your users to experience when engaging with your app. A prototype is a simulation of the final interaction between the user and the interface and thus is a clickable version allowing the user to experience the app. Prototypes provide the perfect solution for transferring your ideas and vision into a product that can both be seen and, more importantly, experienced. They provide users with a few interactive elements and early insights into the application including its overall aim and vision. Prototypes are mostly used to pitch investors, first customers, and co-founders. Understanding your audience, testing your assumptions, and gathering feedback from your target users are all vital to the success of your project, and even though much of this will come from your MVP, your prototype will provide early answers to a number of questions that will allow you to better understand how engaged your users are with your product. The difference between a prototype and the final product is that the functionalities are not yet implemented by the engineering team. Technically the frontend and backend are not tied together and the advantage of this is the reduced cost of development.
MVP (Minimum Viable Product) is a development technique in which a new product or website is developed with sufficient features to satisfy early adopters. It is the first version of software fit for release to customers. It should have enough functionality to be considered useful. It is generally built with a basic set of features that allow the product to be functional and deployed into production in order to accelerate time to market for a new product introduction. The purpose of an MVP is to maximize learnings from early customer feedback with the least amount of implementation effort and can be used to start raising a substantial seed round for continued development. The design and implementation process of your product can require some high-level long-term product strategy but it will set out a good foundation for future development.
Thanks for reading the article, I hope it helped to guide your understanding of product design!
- Product Development