What is a mockup in development?

A mockup, sometimes spelled mock up, is a product/service design concept that entails the real-life implementation of a design idea, i.e., to make an idea come to life through a visual medium that others can see. In this regard, the core purpose of a mockup is to convey the vision behind a product/service effectively. Furthermore, the lack of product/service functionality means a mockup is not a version of a future physical product or digital service release, i.e., mockups are neither prototypes nor wireframes of planned product/service offerings.

For example, a product improvement team for an auto-tech start-up may need to create a mockup for a planned EV offering. To realize this goal, graphic designers in the team create a detailed 3D model of the electric car based on the real-world physical dimensions outlined in a product specification sheet. As a graphical representation of the planned real-world EV, the mockup only depicts the visual characteristics of the EV and nothing else.

Role of mockups in Product/Service Development

In actual implementation, a mockup can be either a scale or full-size 2D/3D graphic/pictorial representation of a planned product/service offering. This visual representation of a future product/service aids product/service development teams in two improvement-centric ways, namely:

Generate Feedback

A mockup is a basis for valuable product/service-specific feedback that a development team can use to rectify, improve and refine an idea/concept for a planned product/service offering.

Teams typically seek improvement-centric feedback on product/service mockups from all critical stakeholders in product/service realization chains, i.e., from people working in-house manufacturing, tech support, and customer care departments, to third-party suppliers, distributors, and oversight bodies/organizations.

Gain Approval

In addition to improvement-centric feedback, a future product/service mockup is verifiable proof of a product development team’s progress in transforming a product idea/concept into a viable real-world product/service offering.

Product/Service Improvement teams typically present mockups as proof of progress to a Chief Product Officer and heads of in-house departments directly involved in product/service realization, i.e., manufacturing, prototyping, IT, etc. Ultimately, the approval of a product/service mockup means a product/service improvement team can proceed to prototype, i.e., create the first functional version of a planned product/service offering.

Types of mockups

A product/service mockup can be exclusively classified into only one of two possible categories depending on whether the mockup depicts a future physical product release or a digital service offering. Consequently, the two main mockup types are:

Digital Product Mockup

A digital product mockup is a graphic depiction of the user interface for a planned SaaS (Software as a Service) offering or a downloadable native application release. It can be a mockup for either a native app downloaded from an online app store or a dedicated, service-centric web-based platform, e.g., weather apps, ERM (Enterprise Resource Management) software, etc.

Physical Product Mockup

Unlike digital mockups, visually representing a future tangible product release entails depicting a wide array of physical attributes that define the product offering. For example, a 3D mockup for a planned hand sanitizer gel product can feature a life-size product display box and gel container with product-specific branding.

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