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What are Mockups?

We’ve talked about mockups before but it’s time to give them a much more thorough treatment.

Essentially, a mockup is just a sketch that represents the way the site will look:

sketched mockup

It’s meant to take the least effort to give you the most useful look at what you’re going to be building.

We live in a world where we need to move quickly and iterate on our ideas as flexibly as possible. Building mockups strikes the ideal balance between true-life representation of the end product and ease of modification. You can build a site mockup in just a few minutes using tools like Balsamiq (which you’ll see in upcoming demos), which is barely more time than it takes to sketch it out by hand.

Mockups are useful both for the creative phase of the project — for instance when you’re trying to figure out your user flows or the proper visual hierarchy — and the production phase when they will represent the target product.

balsamiq interaction

Making mockups a part of your creative and development process allows you to quickly and easily ideate and iterate on your site before you’ve invested in the actual coding process. You’ll have something tangible to show potential clients or a helpful reference to work from when you start moving forward.

A small investment of time up front to learn this skill will save multiples of that in the future.

Fidelity

Mockups aren’t some industry standard that you need to memorize and stick to — there are as many different ways of mocking up sites as there are designers and developers in the world. That said, a common way of identifying the “roughness” of your mockups is by using the term “fidelity”.

Fidelity is the measure of how close your mockup is to the end product. A low fidelity mockup is basically just a simple sketch:

low fidelity mockup

A high fidelity mockup, like those done in photoshop, are basically pixel-perfect representations of the final site:

photoshop mockup

In our case we’ll be straddling the line between the two, striving to build mockups which are accurate enough to build from but simple enough to produce quickly.

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