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What is the difference between a wireframe and a prototype and which should you ask for?

Actually, they are both part of the app design process flow and they have different objectives.Wireframes are used to map out the basic layout and structural guidelines.  They are simple and seldom show specific details.  One can build limited interactivity into a wireframe, but it’s basically the “rough sketch” of what app screens would look like.  Wireframes are essential for organising the steps in the process flow and user experience.

Prototypes are the next step in the process.  This is where the wireframes are fleshed out with mock content and interactivity is built in to such a degree that that designers, developers, product owners and even test groups can see “how it would look and how it would work”.

an interactive, clickable and workable design that gives users a realistic idea of what the final product with look, feel and act like. With advanced UI features and elements in a smart prototyping tool, you can add video, html, flash as well as an extensive range of animations, effects, transitions and mobile gestures. The more realistic a prototype, the more accurate the feedback and the more accurate the scoping and costing of the ultimate product.

So, which should you ask for?  Both.  As someone with an app idea, you need to be sure that the development agency really understands your vision.  The shortest route to getting an app that you are really happy with, is to start with wireframes, progress to prototyping and then, once testing is complete, proceeding to development.

Skipping steps in this process could very well lengthen the app development process and add significantly to the cost of your project.  The good news?  There are many simple-to-use wire framing and prototyping tools that are free.  If you’re strapped for cash, why not try your hand at doing some of the steps yourself?

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