Mockups and interactive prototypes are product testing methods deployed to yield valuable learnings early on in the development process. The learnings gained go a long way in avoiding wastage of resources due to frequent re-works of product concepts.
Mockups offer higher fidelity than wireframes (read “Wireframes – Giving Structure To Ambiguity“). They incorporate images, text, and colors. The text fields may even have real copy.
Mockups are more visually stimulating and can be created using graphics applications from Adobe, like Illustrator or Photoshop. Sketch is another program that allows similar capabilities. As with wireframes, mockups can be made static or clickable.
Unfortunately, the output from the graphical applications mentioned above is not inherently clickable and hence further processing is needed. Balsamiq or InVision can help with this. They allow you to specify locations that can be made clickable (often called ‘hot spots‘) and even stitch together multiple pages to create a better navigational flow.
Mockups yield better feedback than wireframes because imagery, text, and color influence user experience more than grayscale layouts with placeholders and one must not discount this during testing.
By incorporating branding elements, like typography and color schemes. It gives a better visual rendition to all stakeholders to ensure that the product meets with prescribed branding guidelines.
Higher on the fidelity scale are interactive prototypes. These artifacts include drop-down menus, audio, video and input fields. Interactive prototypes require more advanced applications to create but are the closest to the truth. The navigational flow and interactive nature is even more immersive.
With advances in technology, some applications allow you to export your prototype to HTML, CSS or JS and enable you to create interactive features without any coding, for example – Axure.
Interactive prototypes offer the best user experience when compared to hand sketches, wireframes or mockups and hence offer validated learnings that give project teams the highest level of confidence to proceed.
Let’s not forget
It must also be said that the contextual nature of the design needs to meet with user expectations to give them a better overall experience and concurrently better feedback.