To Rapid Prototype or To Wireframe, That is the Question….

When it comes to building out websites, many designers are faced with the issue of whether to rapid prototype the pages or to use wireframes. Both processes essentially serve the same purpose – which is to use visuals to specify how a website will look and behave. But they are very different methods of achieving the same goal, so it’s important to understand what purpose each one serves and in which cases one might make a better choice over the other.

What’s the Issue with Wireframes?

Wireframes are like architectural drawings of websites. They outline the information and components that appear on a screen and what the functionality of the different elements should be. While they can be super helpful in certain situations, they do have some issues that make them problematic.

Not Responsive

Wireframes are static and not well-suited to the content that designers work, such as constantly-shifting material, animations, etc.

Super Technical

Wireframes are super techy and not very useful to the average user. It’s much easier to implement lean UX with other types of design tools.

Time Consuming

Wireframes can take a long time to create and designers can waste valuable time slaving away over details that don’t guarantee that the developers will understand them or be able to interpret them correctly. This time is usually better spend improving designs toward the end of the process rather than meticulously outlining them in the early phases.

Is Rapid Prototyping Better?

Rapid prototyping is a great alternative to wireframing. This refers to using a rapid prototyping tool such as Axure, Balsamiq, iPoltz, etc. to create a prototype. They are much more sophisticated and are capable of producing designs that are more helpful to a wider range of people.  The capability to provide working visuals to a user so they can experience the application at a more interactive level separates rapid prototypes from the old school wireframe world.

Easier to Understand

Prototypes are much easier for an entire team to understand and offer feedback on. They are much more user-friendly and make more sense for the non-techies in the company.


Rapid Prototypes are interactive, unlike wireframes. This means that designers can alter them with the prototyping tools while they are still in the design phase in order to better improve functionality.


Rapid prototypes are also responsive, unlike wireframes. You can see how the prototype will respond on a variety of devices, which is incredibly useful for creating a product with the best UX.


Prototypes are rapid! They don’t need the extensive documentation that wireframes require and will save your team time.


With prototypes, you can prepare as much or as little of the project as you like. If you want to get feedback right away, you can prototype just what you need feedback on and that requires less work and less documentation. With wireframes, you have to complete and document the entire project at once.

So…Should We Ever Wireframe?

Although rapid prototyping is typically the most effective and efficient choice, wireframing can still be helpful in some instances. If you need to map out a big project and are starting from square one with little direction, it can be helpful to wireframe it in order to get an idea of the initial layout and design of the site before creating a functional prototype of the site.



Phalanx Digital is a award winning Pennsylvania based digital agency that works directly with advertising and marketing agencies to help design and develop their digital efforts.  With designers and developers in-house with skills ranging from native mobile apps to enterprise software experience design and development Phalanx is uniquely positioned to assist our partners with making their digital dreams real.  Phalanx makes its reputation with delivering projects for large and small brands alike on time and under budget.  Customers we have worked with include: Sheetz, Remington, Victory Motorcycles, Troegs, US Army, Carlisle Syntec, Allstate, Beaufurn and many others. 

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  • Monday March 30, 2015