User experience design involves the process of creating a user interface that is intuitive, easy to use, and integrates style and branding requirements. The process begins with the building of wireframes based on core requirements.
It ends with the creation of high-fidelity prototypes that are then handed over to the development phase. In between these two processes, designers can create mockups that include visual elements.
What is a Mockup?
Mockups are a collection of static pages that look real but do not include interactivity. You cannot click on their elements or navigate between them like you can with prototypes. But they provide a full sense of the look and feel of the user interface.
3D mockups provide an even more realistic idea of the final version of the interface. Mockups act as the glue between the skeletal wireframes and the high-fidelity prototypes.
In the simplest sense, a mockup is the version of the user interface that includes visual elements, which are absent from its wireframe predecessors, but does not contain the functionality that is present in its prototype successors.
A wireframe lays out the basic information architecture and core functionality of the user interface. A mockup adds visual elements such as the content layout and parameters, logo and branding elements, font styles and sizes, color scheme, and the style of the widgets, but they will not be clickable.
In essence, the mockup is the first stage in creating the look and feel of the user interface.
What is the Importance of Mockups?
The mockup is the first version of the interface that the designers can present to the stakeholders to give them a realistic idea of the final version.
By including the content layout, logo, font and color schemes, and all the branding requirements, the designers can get the stakeholders to approve these aspects at this stage.
This will ensure that look and feel will not need to be revisited at any point further down the design or development lifecycle.
Mockups can serve as a collection of basic style guides. Since mockups contain all the visual elements of the user interface, a collection of these static pages can be handed to the developers as a reference for layout and branding elements.
How to Use Mockups in User Experience Design?
Mockups are typically built upon wireframes. The basic structure of the wireframes is fleshed out with design elements, using design tools. The downside to this is that the screens have to be developed from scratch in the prototyping phase.
To overcome that hurdle, mockup tools allow designers to create the mockups and import the assets into the prototypes that are being built.
User experience designers who know how to code can create coded mockups instead of using design tools. This will save time in the development phase, but the downside is that if any visual elements need to be changed, the coding will have to be redone.
The user interface design process can be fairly fluid, with designers moving straight from wireframes to prototypes, or sometimes skipping the prototyping phase. But the importance of mockups as an integral part of the process is indisputable.
Mockups give the stakeholders the best idea of the look and feel before designers invest too much time and resources in prototyping. Mockups help iron out visual aspects early on in the design lifecycle.