Everything in the previous section refers to low-fidelity wireframes. Those have placeholders and as little graphic design as possible.
But, although they are enough for UX testing purposes, sometimes low-fidelity wireframes are not enough. They don’t show the general idea of a final project. In fact, they hardly reflect the project at all.
That’s why designers often turn to high-fidelity wireframes, also known as mockups. They are still static and only show the most basic functionality. However, they include contrasts in greyscale, images, typography, copy – at least headlines and subheadings – and everything else that is supposed to be included in the project. In short, high-fidelity adds visual richness to the layout that proved to work in earlier steps.
Try showing a low-fidelity wireframe to a stakeholder or a client. Without the complete background, someone who invests in a website can have a hard time verifying that it will fulfill its purpose.
Using mockups allows the designer to communicate with a client on the same level. You can discuss the visuals, the influence of brand design, the weight of graphical elements, and anything else that is visualized there.
High-fidelity wireframes allow stakeholders to review the visual side of a project and discover clashing elements. It’s easy to find the best balance between typography and images. And the useful aspects of the low-fidelity wireframe – for example, fast iterations and adapting the project to changing ideas – are still there.
In short, the mockup is the middle stage between the wireframe and the final design.
And since we’re talking about the final design… High-fidelity wireframes enable you to come to a consensus on the layout and general design of a website. With that in place, the designer who will work on its final form can focus on the creative work. The placement of elements across space is no longer an issue: the designer just needs to make these elements look beautiful.
Even a high-fidelity wireframe is still pretty basic. What if you wanted to see all the colors and interactions, and get an idea of the final outcome? You design a prototype – but we’ll cover that next time.
Wireframes and Mockups. Which to Use and When?
As we described, wireframes and mockups each have their pros and cons. Naturally, the mockup will flow out of the wireframe, but sometimes a mockup is not an option.
It all comes down to a certain project specification. With complex structure and loose frames, it’s best to follow all the steps – design a low-fidelity wireframe first to make sure you don’t lose any of the information during the process and set up the best UX. Then move to the mockup, and then to a prototype.
But if project specification is very detailed or the project itself isn’t that complicated, you could start with a mockup. This enables you to design the website or app faster while still keeping the costs at reasonable levels.
There are many tools – free and paid – for creating wireframes, but it requires UX design knowledge, skills, and experience to design a good website blueprint. If you don’t have these skills in-house, that’s not a problem. All you have to do is hire an experienced agency.