How to Design a Mobile App: The Importance of Wireframes and Mockups

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How to Design a Mobile App: The Importance of Wireframes and Mockups

Prototyping is the little-mentioned but essential part of the mobile app design process where your app's blueprint is created.

· Mobile Zone ·
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83% of iPhone applications are deleted soon after being installed. The retention level for Android is also similar – up to 90% of apps are abandoned quickly and almost 30% within ten minutes after being downloaded

So what can you do to avoid losing your 30-second chance before a user deletes your app? First and foremost, don’t skip the prototyping stage in your app development process!

Learn how to get the most of wireframes and mockups with our guide.

Wireframes vs. Mockups

Let’s begin with answering one basic question: what exactly are wireframes and mockups?

Wireframes are low-fidelity blueprints of a mobile application. They depict what goes where in the design, but only as a basic draft, without focusing on details, colors, or shapes. All buttons, tabs, and placeholders are already included, making it easy to imagine the skeleton of the final application. Each wireframe is also connected with others by a link so that a clickable prototype of an app architecture is created.

Wireframes are sometimes replaced with the term “mockups,” although they are not exactly the same thing. While wireframes show the app architecture, mockups are more about the design layer. Their role is to show how the app’s visual elements will look like before you arrive at the final version of the design. Therefore, mockups include such features as fonts, colors, or shapes, which are not depicted on the wireframes.

What Does the Wireframe Stage Look Like?

Wireframes and mockups can be named together as a prototype and prototyping is one of the most important in the whole development process.

At Ready4S, we always begin the development process with a separate wireframes stage in which we discuss every feature thoroughly with our clients, so that we can understand each other perfectly. This is the moment when our PMs create the whole structure of the application and present it to the client in the form of connected screens. Also, our UX designers work hard in this part of the process to design sketches which will fulfill both the client’s and end-users’ needs.
Veterinary app 1Veterinary app 2 

How do the wireframes look? Here are some examples of an app designed by Ready4S. 

Mockups are the second very important part of an app prototype. At Ready4S, they are included in the first iteration of the development process and cover the visual layer of the app based on the functionalities designed in the wireframes stage. In this phase, the most important work is done by our UI Designers who make sure users will fall in love with your app at first sight.

Why Are Wireframes So Important?

As an experienced software house, we sometimes meet a client who wants to skip the wireframes stage. The reason behind such a decision is usually connected with costs – the wireframes take some time to create and a client wants to save as many valuable hours as they can.

However, we usually don’t recommend skipping the wireframes. As we take the app development process seriously, we always start with the wireframes phase and we don’t take any shortcuts here. Why?
Here are the most important reasons:

  • App architecture visualization: a picture is worth 1,000 words. With wireframes, the whole app's architecture is clear from the beginning.
  • Usability pushed to the front: we can discuss the functionalities and structure without focusing on design details such as colors or fonts.
  • Mutual understanding: wireframes help to understand the whole app idea and correct possible misunderstandings quickly, allowing us to avoid huge adjustments when the app is already coded.
  • Helping to manage the process: when the whole app is discussed and all the necessary features agreed upon, it is easy to divide the whole development process into iterations (two-week time cycles).
  • Time- and money-savings: a well-structured app is quicker to make and can save you a huge amount of money and frayed nerves. Because you're preparing the whole app “blueprint” early, you know exactly how the process will go and there will be no need for sudden changes and adjustments.

How to Make the Most of the Wireframes Stage

The wireframes phase gives you a lot of opportunities to plan your app. No wonder a lot of clients appreciate it very much. We often hear opinions that wireframes make it easier to imagine how the app will work and look. It can also help to adjust the app to its target market and the requirements of a great user experience.

Sometimes, this phase can also help to realize that there is still something missing in the app idea, like in the case of one of our clients, Josef Fico, who appreciated that wireframes let him decide that his app idea needs more market research before moving on to the development phase.

    1. Communicate our thoughts: Your project manager will do his/her best to fully understand your idea, but if you think there is a misunderstanding or a problem, tell him in advance. You will be able to adjust wireframes accordingly.

    2. Don’t focus on design: Wireframes are more about the app workflow, not pretty pictures. So don’t worry – your app won’t look like the wireframes at the end. But the main structure will be kept, so that’s what you and your software house should discuss at this stage. 

    3. Think through the app’s functionalities: That’s what the wireframing phase is all about and what it should help you do. Make a list of what you want your application to do and check whether all the necessary features are included in the wireframes.

    4. Focus on your users: You may have your own sense of what is pretty and what’s not, but if your users differ greatly from yourself, e.g. if they are kindergarten children, you have to design your app with them in mind.

    5. Remember that you will only have one first impression: You might know every screen in your app perfectly, but your app users have to learn everything from the beginning and are usually impatient, so make their user experience as smooth as possible. 

mobile, mobile app development, mobile design, mobile ux

Published at DZone with permission of Katarzyna Lorenc , DZone MVB. See the original article here.

Opinions expressed by DZone contributors are their own.

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