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Prototyping Vs Wireframing

Product development is a huge undertaking, with a lot of gears spinning in different places.

Managing each of its aspects takes a lot of planning, and designers and product owners rely on a spectrum of tools to enable that.

The commonest of them are prototypes and wireframes.

They are far from being the same thing ⁠— each of them fulfill an important role in product development, making it efficient and fruitful.

Let’s begin.

What are prototypes?

Despite being an important aspect of product development, there seems to be a lot of misunderstanding about what a prototype does.

Prototypes are the sample version of the final product, used for testing and idea-validation before the actual development.

Essentially, a prototype should let you test your value propositions of your product with your users without having to spend too much time developing a robust solution. They get an idea about what your product does and you get to see their level of enthusiasm.

As simple as that sounds, prototypes are generally confused with wireframes or mockups because they all have the testing aspect in common. 

Here’s how you can remember it better: prototypes are much closer at representing your actual product than the others. 

Validating your idea using a prototype

Having an idea for a product and wanting to build it is all good, but in a cut-throat market, only the one that ‘fits’, stays. 

Prototypes help you showcase your idea to a sample of your target market. They help you validate your idea, i.e., to confirm your belief that your solution matches their needs.

If you see the test subjects reacting positively to your prototype, then it is a green light for your product.

Prototyping Vs Wireframing

User feedback and funding prospects using a prototype

Most times, the ideas are quite good, but there are certain gaps in the UX that hinder the user from solving their problem.

When you observe them working their way through on your prototype, you get the chance to see those UX gaps. After that, it is just a matter of a few iterations to get it right.

Another exciting prospect is getting investors interested. When you go on to meet VCs with your pitch desk, a working prototype will give you an advantage.

They get to see what the product would ultimately look like as well as experience the value proposition in action. A much faster and solid way to convince them and bring them to support your cause.

Wireframes are not prototypes

A wireframe is like a blueprint of your product. It is two-dimensional and is used to design and discuss the user journey, page structure, and layout of the product. 

When you intend to start on developing your idea into a product, wireframing is the first thing that you do. It helps you visualize and understand the UX, and with more brainstorming and iterations, you land on something better

The easiest way to create a wireframe is just by drawing the pages and the elements products on paper.

From the first time to discuss your idea to the developers and designers to the next meetings that finalize what your product is going to look like, wireframes are a constant companion. 

Once a wireframe is finalized, it gets made into a prototype.

Low-fidelity wireframes

Serving as the basic visual representation of the set of pages/stages of your product or website, a lo-fi wireframe is rough and is not accurate. 

Instead, it uses simple images, block shapes, and mock-content like Lorem Ipsum to show exactly how a user would travel from one place to another.

Prototyping Vs Wireframing

High-fidelity wireframes

Also known as mockups, these wireframes are a pixel-perfect representation of your product. The content is all optimized and the UI is the one that would be developed by the front-end engineers.

They also can include instructions and principles for every stakeholder to make the overall product development smoother and communication clearer.

Prototyping Vs Wireframing

Prototypes versus Wireframes

While wireframes are used to design the product and its UX, the prototype is for testing the product and its feasibility.

The wireframe is an internal tool: it helps stakeholders discuss aspects of the product during the initial stages of development.

The prototype is an external tool: it helps product owners and organizations test the product with the audience and get valuable feedback to make it better.

Prototyping Vs Wireframing

Conclusion

To be neck to neck with your competitors, you would need to function with the right tools.

Prototypes and wireframes are necessary tools that enable a seamless product development.

Understanding how they work and using them in your workflow can help you build world-class products with ease.

Because, without a crisp UX and a foundation for product-market fit, it is hard to impress customers.

Aspiring entrepreneurs can further leverage digital product agencies like Crayon’d to get a wireframe or a working prototype of their product-idea.

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Amrit Manthan

I love metaphors and similes. I feel at home with them, just as how the claws of a bird easily cling to a branch.

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