The Complete Guide to Making a Website Mockup

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A website mockup is a visual representation of what a finished website will look like, created by UX or UI designers as an integral part of the web design process. Designers create mockups after finishing the wireframe, which is a barebones blueprint of a website’s design, and before working on the prototype, which focuses more on the website’s functionality and requires coding and interaction with the website.

What Is a Website Mockup?

Mockups allow the designer to experiment until they solidify the visual design of the website, and they can also be used to excite and impress stakeholders by giving them a clear, impressive vision of the finished product. Mockups focus on visual design elements of the website like the color scheme, typography, and style. While wireframes are rough sketches that focus on the structure and big picture design of the site without focusing in on individual details, mockups allow for more specificity.

Unlike prototypes, mockups do not require coding or assessment of the website’s usability. Since mockups can be created with highly advanced graphic design software, it is sometimes challenging or even impossible to translate certain visual elements of the mockup to code. The amount of time and level of visual detail designers put into their mockups can vary depending on the project and the software used.  

Methods of Website Mockup Creation

There are several tools designers can use to create a website mockup, ranging from end-to-end UX tools that encompass all stages of the web design workflow to dedicated mockup tools, graphic design software, and coding mockups. Designers can choose their method of mockup creation based on their own preferences and skills, what their project requires, and to what extent they will need to collaborate with other designers and stakeholders.

Is There a Need for a Website Mockup?

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Mockups allow designers to make critical decisions about the look of a website. In the mockup stage of the website design process, there is ample room for experimentation; designers can easily swap out colors and fonts and change the style of the website until the look of the website is satisfactory. Some designers consider mockups to be an unnecessary step before the prototype stage, which deals with both design implementation and functionality of the website. However, there are benefits to having a mockup step that focuses solely on the creation of visuals.

Benefits of Creating a Mockup

preparing coffee before going to work a mack up site

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Creating a mockup allows the designer to focus on the visual style of the website without worrying about structure or functionality. It can help to separate the design process into steps so that the designer focuses on and perfects one element at a time. Captivating visuals can be an important tool to impress and excite stakeholders. When presented with rough wireframe sketches, stakeholders have to visualize what the finished product will look like. A website mockup eliminates the need for imagination by presenting the client with polished visuals that look much closer to the finished product.

Tips on Creating a Website Mockup

The process of creating a mockup can vary depending on the tool you use. Mockups can be created with a few different tools. This includes:

  • End-to-end UX tools
  • Dedicated mockup tools
  • Graphic design software
  • Coding mockups

When selecting a tool to create a mockup, it’s important to consider your needs for the project.

End-to-End UX Tools

End-to-end UX tools include specialized design software like UXPin, Studio by InVision and Adobe XD. Designers can use these tools to manage the entire workflow of website design, including mockups, prototyping, documentation, developer handoffs, and design systems. They are all-in-one tools that can handle high fidelity projects and are designed for easy collaboration.

UXPin was the first end-to-end UX tool on the market. It allows for the creation of mockups with multiple slates and interactions and includes some features of Photoshop and Sketch, like the pen tool. Adobe XD and Studio by InVision are newer tools with their own benefits. Studio by InVision allows for advanced animation editing. Adobe XD allows designers to open Photoshop and Sketch files inside the XD designs and apply colors, symbols, linear gradients, and character styles.

There are several benefits to creating a website mockup in end-to-end UX software, including:

  • Strong visual and interactive design capabilities
  • The consistency of mockups across projects
  • Collaboration capabilities
  • Easy hand-off to developers

End-to-end UX tools also offer design systems, which ensure the consistency of mockups across projects and give everyone a single source of truth for assets and design principles. The software’s collaborative design allows for communication with stakeholders and other designers, and easy hand-off to web developers once the mockup is complete.

Dedicated Mockup Tools

Fixing the icons logo for the mock up website

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Tools like Principle, Framer, Moqups, or Balsamiq are dedicated mockup tools; they are designed to make the website mockup creation process as easy as possible. They are less complex and easier to navigate than end-to-end UX tools, allowing the designer to focus on stylistic choices. However, they do not have the end-to-end workflow and design consistency features of the end-to-end UX tools.

These tools are helpful for beginners because they are easy to use; experts also appreciate the tools because they are tailored to their mockup creation design needs. Tools like Framer and Principle are on the more advanced end of the dedicated mockup tool spectrum; they specialize in animations and interactions for mockups. Moqups and Balsamiq are on the lower end; they are easy and quick to use and handy for low-fidelity designs, but can’t handle higher fidelity designs.

Graphic Design Software

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If a designer’s top priority is creating stunning visuals for their mockup, they can turn to graphic design software like Photoshop, Sketch, or Illustrator. Of the mockup creation options, these programs are best suited for creating high levels of realism and visual fidelity, but much less suited to collaboration and streamlining workflow.

Graphic design software gives designers access to a large selection of highly defined colors, so it’s easier to match a brand’s preset color scheme. The software also offers more visual design tools. This is useful for style-heavy website pages, allowing designers to work through complicated issues and zero in on tiny visual design details. This heightened level of control over the visual design process can also help designers win over hard-to-please clients. If clients are presented with a visually arresting, impressive mockup, they may be more likely to move forward with the process.

One downside of graphic design software is that the designs may be harder to translate to code for the prototype. Certain fonts and effects may work in Photoshop but not in code, so time may be wasted attempting to translate elements that the client enjoyed. Another downside to using graphic design tools is that they are not built for collaboration. Using an end-to-end UX tool makes it easier to work with stakeholders and designers. However, mockups created in Photoshop or Sketch can be dragged and dropped into the next phase of web design, the prototyping phase, with UXPin. This allows the designer to animate all layers and prevent them from having to start over from scratch for the prototype.

Coding Mockups

Branding of the site that will creating a mock up site

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Designers who are fluent in code may find it easier to skip end-to-end UX tools or graphic design software and jump straight to working with code. This is a less common choice for designers as it’s not feasible if they are not familiar with coding. Usually, coding can be postponed until the prototyping stage of web design if you’re creating an HTML/JavaScript prototype, or later if you’re using a prototyping tool.

There are certain benefits to introducing coding to the mockup stage. Starting in code allows designers to know the limits of their design immediately. Designs are often easier to design than to code; coding the mockup avoids the disappointment of creating a stunning design in graphic design software that can’t be replicated in code. It can also make the design process much quicker by eliminating the step of making a mockup that’s purely visual and not functional.

However, coding too early may limit the designer’s creativity, imagination, and willingness to experiment. The difficulty of coding makes it hard to focus on anything other than the practicality of designs. Keeping the visual exploration of the mockup process and the practicality of the coding process separate may allow designers to be bolder and more inspired with their design choices.

Conclusion

A website mockup can be an important step in the web design process for designers. It allows them to focus on creating and polishing their vision for the website and work on any design issues before heading to the website prototype. It can also be an effective way to impress stakeholders and whet their appetites for the finished website.  

It’s important to decide what software you want to use for your website mockup before beginning your web design project, as it will directly affect how much control you have over your designs, how easy it is to collaborate with others on your designs, and how visually detailed your mockups can be.

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