When you browse through a website, you rarely spare a thought for the time, effort, skill, and money that went into creating it. As a visitor, client, or customer, you're not expected to know the details.
However, as a website owner or a business owner, you would benefit greatly from knowing the process, of how the website evolved, right from the idea and design stages, through to the architecture, construction, and then the final product.
A brief overview of Web Design
Web design is a multifaceted process that involves the planning, creation, and maintenance of websites. It comprises several elements such as graphic design, user interface and user experience design (UI and UX design), proprietary software and standardized coding, SEO (search engine optimization), content and copy, etc.
The web designer and web developer are the two main professionals who have to work in close collaboration to create the final product based on the client's specs.
Web designers handle the project's aesthetic aspects, such as visual appeal, layout, graphic elements, etc. They also need basic expertise in HTML and CSS languages.
Every website goes through several stages before the final product can be created. The product development stages in all web designing typically include:
- Final product
What is a Mockup?
It is a high-fidelity product that simulates how the website will look in the final stage.
Mockups constitute Stage 2 in this cycle. They are not as simple as wireframes and not as advanced as the prototype. Since they're sandwiched between these two stages, they contain elements of both.
A mockup is a nearly complete design that gives a glimpse of all the elements in the final product, along with authentic representations of important components such as color, appearance, placement, navigation, etc.
A design mockup allows the user to evaluate the design in detail and provide feedback to create a working prototype. When your client requires a WordPress website redesign, the mockup is the right way to showcase your design.
In the field of web design, a mockup also serves the function of translating concepts and ideas into concrete design elements. They are a great tool that requires much less effort to create, yet they offer opportunities to test the usability, diagnose potential glitches and problems without the attendant risk of wasting time, resources, and efforts on the development.
Web designers also see them as drafts or full-scale models of their designs that can be used to evaluate, demo, test, or promote. They can be modified or discarded easily. Several modern, effective tools can be used for presentation and editing that can be used to create mockups. A good mockup is a great means to hook clients and hold their attention.
Mockups can range from simple, basic screen layouts to authentic bitmaps and all the way up to semi-functional UIs.
In terms of staging, mockups would probably feature as the end-point of the low fidelity stage and the starting-point of the high-fidelity stage. You have the option of creating them as soon as the wireframing stage is over, or you could do this following a period of low-fidelity testing.
Benefits of Mockups
When designers have to meet deadlines, they have to pay attention to how they present their concepts to the client in an effective, attractive, and interesting way. Mockups help to showcase their work in a more realistic and authentic way.
You can create several mockups while modifying, tweaking, adding to, discarding, or embellishing as you go along. They may not comprise all the transitions or functions available in a prototype or the finished design, but they do contain all the essential and important elements of the final product.
They are typically mid- to high-fidelity in nature and can accurately reflect the color schemes, fonts, iconography, visuals, navigation, and the general look and feel of the final product. Being of higher fidelity than wireframes, they require less context. Mockups offer various easy opportunities to make revisions early on, instead of finding that you need to do them in the later coding stages.
This way, you get to identify and locate design errors early so that you get your finished product to the market in complete condition. This would boost the immediate chances of its success because you can get immediate feedback from the client, stakeholders, etc.
Remember that web design is not a stand-alone silo. Designers need to know, understand, and learn about other parts of commercial activities such as sales and marketing, research, manufacturing, finance, etc., at least in a basic way.
Mockups are useful because they provide:
- the basic architecture and offer guidance on how to organize the hierarchical flow of information in a logical manner
- UX and how users navigate and interact with your website
- information on how the different elements are arranged on the page and how they appear on the screen
- examples of fonts, color scheme, and images
- the realistic feel of how all the different elements work together
- opportunities for real-time user testing
- the setting for better communication and collaboration between the client, development, and design teams
Prefer Reading- These are the Top 7 steps of Web Designing Process
Different Types of Mockup Tools
There are several different ways of creating effective, affordable, and efficient mockups. All these tools have helped designers put together the millions of available websites across the internet.
That means that there are just as many variations possible, using permutations and combinations of tools, designs, platforms, coding, fidelity, etc.
The ideal tool is one that supports all the different phases, including the mockup stage. That way, you get consistency across all stages when you start with the right one, rather than having to change horses midstream.
End to End Tools For Authentic UX: These tools are at the top end of the spectrum of available tools. They are available for use through the entire design flow.
Graphic Design Tools: Since designers work primarily on the visual aspect, they can use graphic design software to build a mockup.
Coded Mockup Tools: If the designer is comfortable with coding and can integrate coding into the design at the right stage, they can use these tools. However, some feel that these tools put hurdles in the path of their creativity and free expression.
Step By Step Creation of A Mockup
1. Information gathering
For creating an effective, attractive, and high-performance website, information is essential. Whenever you gather information, analyze these aspects:
- Reason for website
- What features it must have and what features it can have
- Services it will provide.
- Target users: average age, demographic profile
- Typical user persona
- Content offered by the website
- Client requirements: color preferences, graphics, and images required, logo, company profile, values, character, and personality of the organization, pages that are to be navigated
- SEO and keyword requirements
Using the information you have, you can begin thinking of the essential elements. Understand the canvas you have to work on. Slowly add each element one by one, giving each enough space. You need to know how your website will be accessed by the target audience and adjust your canvas according to the monitor's resolution.
Create a schematic along with the structure, hierarchy, functionality, and user interface elements. Firm up on style, logo, structure, call-to-action, and layout. When you're picking a style, stay consistent, and don't mix different types and themes.
The logo should catch the eye but not become an annoyance. Structure content to make it functional, simple, and informative. Buttons for buying, subscribing, getting in touch, etc., should be easy to find but not in your face.
3. Glance at The Competition
Obviously, your client wouldn't want a copycat website. But straying too far afield could be counter-productive. Temper your creativity by researching competitor websites and note down what works and what doesn't.
Ensure that you're using web-safe fonts to avoid disappointing a client who fell in love with one that's not a safe bet to be installed on most browsers and operating systems. You can also use font stacks or a list of fonts. That way, you won't get distorted displays or disabled ones.
5. Placing The Graphics
Remember that graphics are great in an art gallery, but they can slow down the download speed. So while you can incorporate key graphic elements based on the business and client requirements, a cleaner and leaner look work well, ensure that you check whether the client wants to use Flash, etc. Keep the images consistent, unique, and well-arranged so that they don't interfere or distract from the essential elements on the site.
6. Placement Patterns
Professional web designers and experts recommend that there are three types of content layouts that best work for the placement of elements. These are the F-pattern, Z-pattern, and the Gutenberg diagram pattern.
Each one of them is suited for a special design purpose and reduces errors, completes tasks more swiftly, and promotes better conversion rates.
Navigation is a key element in your mockup. Demonstrate the typical user flow from the moment the customer/visitor enters the final exit point. They may have entered from different social media links, content page links on Google, or a search engine.
7. Down To The Details
You can begin adding different filters, effects, etc., to the design to make it unique and attractive. This is where your creativity comes in. Many designers have an instantly recognizable design aesthetic and signature look and feel.
If the client has come to a particular designer based on their portfolio, previous work, and specialized expertise, this is the time to add these elements in a subtle yet unmistakable way. Watch out for detail overloads, color mismatch, unreadable text, etc.
Test your mockup thoroughly following the different aspects such as explorative testing, evaluation testing, and comparative testing (by creating a Plan B design). Repeat the testing several times after fixing problems.
8. Think Like The Client
Run through the site wearing your client hat. Avoid second-guessing and assumptions. Remember that the client has not seen the design before. Every element would be new to them, from the word go. Take care of issues such as background stretch, centering, etc., before the review.
This allows the presentation to go smoothly without glitches and interruptions. Add the latest touches, such as touch control. A smart tip is to add clicked elements to the sides of the screen or the lower half, where they can be easily accessed with the thumbs.
Does the logo appear at first glance, is the text easy to read, and does the content make for interesting reading? How would the design transition across different devices? Does the design speak to the target audience effectively enough?
9. Pay Attention to the Links
Great content may not be very effective if they aren't taking the user anywhere. Ensure that you provide the space and positioning for links. You can also build in alternate user paths. Remember that Google has incorporated a mobile-user-first approach since 2019. This is because research shows that more than half of web traffic is from mobile users.
If this is a joint presentation, that's great. However, if it's a pure design mockup, ensure that it's clear enough for the development team as well. You can use features such as Atomic Design that divides each concept into its separate elements for easier understanding. Remember that mockups are a static representation, so you'll have to draw focus, especially to the motion and interactive features. This will also save problems later at the back-end.
When the mockup design is presented to the client, remember that this is only a draft. Changes are to be expected. If you haven't paid attention to what your client told you right at the start, be prepared for unsatisfactory results. However, if there are elements that you feel should stay, defend them as best you can. Ultimately, the design is just that – a plan.
The last stage of this mockup comes when you hand over to the developer or the development team. They will begin the coding process based on your sharing the functional specs, documentation, scope of the project, site maps, records of initial meetings with the client, their requirements, etc.
Prefer reading- The ultimate guide to planning for a Website Redesigning.