What is a Mockup Design & Why is it Important?

  • Last update: 22/09/2021
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Many people confuse sketches, wireframes, mockups, and prototypes. They are 4 separate phases of the graphic design process. We will explain the difference in this article. Besides, we will detail everything you need to know about mockup designs.

Mockup: Graphic Design Definition

What is a Mockup Design
Example of Design Definition

In graphic design, a mockup is an advanced model of a product. It shows off how the final design will look like. A mockup features most of the visual elements that are not functional yet.

Graphic artists use mockups to present the full-size product. This model is not as polished as the final version (for example, it does not include interactive features like clicks). It is a visual draft.

A mockup is a full rendering of the design including all placeholder data, such as text content, images, videos, or ad slots.

To design them, graphic artists use software like:

Adobe Illustrator is the industry standard for all designers who need a vector graphic editor. Adobe Photoshop is another reference for raster graphic editing.

Mockups are crucial steps to develop websites or mobile applications, as we detail below.

Mockup Anatomy

Whatever the ultimate purpose, every mockup includes the same staple assets. Here is the list of what they cover:

  • Typography.
  • Content layout.
  • Color scheme.
  • Navigation indicators.

The typography is all about the font types, their size, their style, the text spacing, and the alignment. Graphic designers must optimize the typography to reach the best user experience.

The content layout concerns how the text & visuals are arranged on the screen. Like for the typography, we must optimize the available space.

Color schemes are the shades, colors, and contrasts that graphic artists use to make the overall product appealing & meaningful.

The navigation indicators are the visuals that help people use the product. It includes menus, footers, sidebars, arrows, sliders, etc. They are not functional yet at the mockup phase.

Different Kinds of Mockups

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Different Kinds of Mockups Design

Project managers need mockups in various fields, including offline & online. Here is a non-exhaustive list of mockup applications:

  • Printed banner & poster.
  • Business cards.
  • Logo.
  • Digital Image.
  • Video.
  • Website.
  • Mobile application.

The mockup stages are different for each, but their essence is similar, as we explain later in this article.

Mockup Purpose

The primary objective of a mockup is to give a close feeling of what the final product will be. It showcases a realistic visual design.

It makes mockups convincing & perfect to pitch to people. Project managers use them to show how the deliverables will look like. It is critical when important stakeholders such as clients get involved.

Mockups are also useful because they allow feedback while making progress. When dealing with the product owner, headquarters, clients, or investors, it is easier to make changes at the mockup phase than when the product is already completed.

Many graphic artists make convenient A/B testing at the mockup stage. For example, they can show the product in 5 different colors, and ask stakeholders to choose.

In the end, the purpose of mockups is to be close enough to the final product. They must not be under or over-stylized, otherwise, the stakeholders will be disappointed.

Eventually, mockups help developers create the product. We will detail this in another section below.

Mockup Stage in the Design Process

There are 4 main phases in the design process:

  • Sketch.
  • Wireframe.
  • Mockup.
  • Prototype.
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Mockup Stage in the Design Process

Mockups belong to step #3, quite close to the final stage. We must differentiate mockups from the 3 others.

A sketch is an ideation phase. Graphic artists often hand-draw the general concept with a simple pencil & a piece of paper. Once the overall idea takes form, they go ahead with the next phase.

With the wireframe, designers draw the project foundations. Stakeholders see more precisely how the final product will be. There is still no function or even color, as wireframes are in black & white.

The mockup adds visuals, color, and more substance. Graphic elements become more complex. Mockups display all static visuals of the final product. Real content (or at least lorem ipsum) is crucial because graphic artists must craft the design around that.

Then comes the prototype, which introduces the main functions of the product dynamically. Project managers also call this phase the implementation step. Stakeholders should approve the mockup before going to this last stage.

To visualize better, here is a comparison between the 4 design process phases & the human body:

  • Sketch: the human soul.
  • Wireframe: the bones.
  • Mockup: the skin.
  • Prototype: the muscles.

To sum up, a mockup is more detailed than a wireframe but less functional than a prototype. All are equally important. Can we imagine a human being with no skin?

In real life, project managers often skip a few design phases or mix them to go quicker. The final product’s quality is always impacted by such decisions.

Mockup Benefits

The benefits of a mockup are pretty much the same as the mockup’s purposes. Graphic artists mostly use them to offer a visual showcase of the product and to collect feedback from stakeholders. Mockups are:

  • Visual.
  • Close to the final product.
  • Convenient to test.
  • Easy to revise.

Mockups give a clear idea of how the project will be once completed. They are good to pitch. They convince better than a sketch or a wireframe. They assess the user experience. Mockups also allow project managers to test the market if they plan to survey.

Besides, mockups are quick & affordable to modify. It is easier for graphic artists to apply changes on a mockup than on a nearly finished prototype or worse, on a product in the development phase.

A mockup is the first step to usability, right before the prototype which finalizes the functionalities.

Mockup Tools

There are many mockup software tools available on the market. Here is a list of excellent starters:

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Moqups Tool

Their use depends on the graphic artist’s skills. For the stakeholders, the result is the same as they evaluate the visual mockup from a presentation or a shared tool. We recommend testing all of them before making a choice.

Mockup Design Handoff to Developers

Once the mockups are done, the graphic artist must send the design assets to the developer. It is the prototype or implementation phase. The developer will put life (or functions) to the static design.

Concretely, the designer & the developer must have smooth communication to deliver the final product. While the developer receives the code styles & image assets, the graphic artist explains the pieces of design for perfect implementation. Since the mockups are static, the designer must point at the interactive elements to help the developer.

A few project managers prefer to skip the whole design process & immediately go for the coding implementation. The logic behind this is to save costs & speed up the timelines. For sure, it is cheaper & quicker to waive the design phase. It results in what everybody should expect: a cheap & quick product.

Developers are not designers or graphic artists. Creating a sketch, a wireframe, or a mockup is not their job. There is no match between a deliverable that went through a mockup phase versus a product that skipped it.

Mockup Bottom Line

Mockups are a close-to-the-end part of the whole design process. Project managers need them to anticipate the final product’s visuals & ensure the user experience.

Graphic design mockups help convince stakeholders during pitches. They also allow the graphic artists to revise their designs before sending their assets to the developers for implementation.

The more complex the project is, the more important mockups are. Make sure to consider them when you develop your products if you want to deliver quality.

To reduce your costs & work with professionals having years of experience, contact Prodima Vietnam & get started with your digital mockup design.