Tips and strategies on website design, development and optimization so that your business shines online, attracts new customers and is memorable.

Wireframes v. Mockups – What’s the Difference?

In the simplest definition, a wireframe is a blueprint or draft of your website design, often in black and white, sometimes hand-drawn. It is often a really simple sketch that demonstrates what sort of things you can do in your design. For example, a wireframe of a website will show the navigation, the main buttons, the columns, the placing of different elements, etc.

A mockup takes the wireframe to the next level. It is a more realistic visual preview and further shows overall appearance aspects of a design, including type and color choices, images, etc. In essence, wireframes are the skeleton designs most often used to create mockups. Note that neither are typically in any programmable form but rather are meant to serve as blueprints for the development of the user interface/prototype once client approval has been given. Having either a wireframe or a mockup is essential to making sure that all stakeholders are on the same page and agree on what is going to be built.

My Process

In most cases, I begin sketching out ideas on paper. While clearly of lower fidelity, sketches are quick, cheap and easy to revise while going through the initial feedback stages with my clients. I then use the sketches to develop either a wireframe or mockup (usually one or the other depending on budget) and not until I receive final client feedback and approval do I begin the prototype.



Cost, Time and Other Factors Considered

Almost all the projects I work on have time and cost limits that determine whether I create a more basic wireframe or a higher fidelity mockup. Mockups (and prototypes) take much longer to create and are more expensive than static wireframes. If a wireframe is good enough to give the client enough of a vision of the final product to pass approval, I will put the time and money that would go into making a more dynamic mockup into the actual development of the website.

Wireframes are also sufficient when the user interface (UI) will be fairly basic, such as limited to simple links, buttons and menus. However mockups act as a more informative mechanism if the UI is more complex, such as when the design includes animation, non-standard interactions or more complicated navigational choices. Interactive mockups can also be more useful for demonstrating responsive designs as clients can actually see how the site transitions between different screen sizes.

Lastly, I’ve found mockups really help my clients that lack technological sophistication as it offers a very visual representation. However, on the flip side, some clients can get too bogged down in the details when the mockup is meant to only communicate broader ideas, such as navigation, page layouts, etc.

In Conclusion

Hopefully some of the points above have clarified the difference between sketches, wireframes and mockups. Everyone has their own preferences and budgets. My biggest recommendation is to create what is needed for the client to approve a design that will prevent the need for major revisions after development has begun.

Microsites Can Help You Be First-to-Market: Case in Point

Law Firm MicrositeI recently launched a microsite for Knox Ricksen LLP, a civil litigation firm specializing in health care fraud and mass torts, to help them reach out to a very geographically specific and niche audience.  The goal of the microsite was twofold:

  • Provide valuable information to people in the Los Angeles area who may have been involved in a massive health care fraud scheme that involved not only using counterfeit spinal implant parts but also the performance of unnecessary spinal surgeries
  • To earn high quality scores by Google and other search engines so that victims of the fraud seeking information about their legal rights would know that Knox Ricksen was available to help

What Exactly is a Microsite?

Microsites generally have one-to-five pages that contain hyper-focused content. An example for lawyers would be a small site that solely focuses on one particular type of lawsuit, such as bicycle accidents in San Francisco. The ultimate goal of a microsite is to offer very specific content that’s easier for a potential client or referral source to consume and navigate. Microsites have their own domain, custom URL, navigation, design and keyword-rich content. They also often provide links back to the firm’s core website, but only after offering very in-depth information around a specific topic.

Microsites can be used to promote events, highlight new legislation and/or provide information to very niche audiences. Because of the keyword-rich content, microsites generally pull higher search engine rankings and lead generation. In addition, businesses can choose to drive even more traffic to the microsite using narrowed key search terms in a pay-per-click (PPC) campaign.

You Already Have a Robust Core Site, Why Would You Want a Microsite?

Microsites, versus larger core websites, have the following advantages:

  • More narrow focus with targeted information most relevant to visitors and potential clients
  • User-friendly and simplified navigation versus the bulkier sites where visitors can get bogged down or lost when trying to find what they are looking for
  • Drive more high quality leads with higher participation and interaction due to being able to speak directly to a highly defined audience
  • Higher prospect-to-client conversion rates and SEO (search engine optimization) performance
  • Can be built quickly, inexpensively and responsive to any type of device – especially important if your company wants to be first-to-market and target new niche markets
  • Results are more easily measured as the site has it’s own separate analytics
  • Build awareness and community faster for cause-related issues

Microsites can have major impact for your business, by promoting topic-specific content, improving your SEO and generating new and qualified leads, among many other benefits. The Spinal Implant Lawsuit site was landing in the top positions on the first page of Google even before I submitted the sitemap and the firm received several high quality leads and email submissions within the first week of launching.

If you’re looking for ways to establish expertise and leadership and gain competitive advantage in newly developed or over-saturated areas, adding microsites to your marketing plan is a smart and cost effective strategy.

A Rare Find: An Engaging, Successful Law Firm Facebook Page

I rarely recommend Facebook as a front line social media strategy for law firms since evidence shows there are much more effective platforms, such as Google+, LinkedIn and Twitter, for making connections, building trust and establishing credibility. However, there are always exceptions to the rule. Advokids is one of them. Read on to see how they were able to gain support for their cause with Facebook.

Engaging Law Firm Facebook PostAdvokids is a legal non-profit dedicated to making sure the 55,000+ children in foster care in California are protected and have a voice. A little known fact is that I was in foster care for almost two years, and let me tell you, my sisters and I were not well cared for nor did we have a single person raising their voice on our behalf. So when I learned of Advokids, I immediately wanted to help. I met with Margaret Coyne and her crew of dedicated volunteers and staff to review their website and social media presence.

During our meeting, they mentioned that they had been selected the charity of choice for an upcoming, very popular music event in San Francisco, OysterFest, being held just a few weeks away on May 10. This event headlines four very popular bands as well as offers delicious local oysters and beer. Crowds from previous years totaled over 250,000! Immediately, my mind began to shoot off in a hundred directions as I thought about the many ways they could use this opportunity to further awareness and gain support for their cause.

At the end of our brainstorming sessions, we had a strategy:

  • Create a Facebook Giveaway where one lucky fan would win 2 back stage passes and free admission tickets to the event.
  • Tweet about the Giveaway on their Twitter page.
  • Send out a customized, branded email to let everyone on their contact list know they were the selected charity and that tickets were purchased through Advokids special link, 20% of every ticket price would be donated. At $39/ticket, that $7.80 can add up fast!
  • Contact the band managers and ask them to post Advokids Giveaway and their special link on their Facebook Fan pages (each band has hundreds of thousands of fans.)
  • Create a customized, branded banner for the event booth as well as back stage and make branded T-shirts.
  • Create a second Giveaway for the day of the event that would encourage event goers to sign up and donate for a chance to win something of value.
  • Create a customized sign up page for the day of the event and use Square for those who wanted to donate on the spot via credit card.


The event took place last weekend, and all was in place. While the donation and sign up numbers are still being tallied, initial estimates look close to desired target outcome. To date, their Facebook fans have increased by over 200%, from 542 to close to 2000, and they were able to increase their email contact list from event submissions.

What’s also noteworthy about Advokid’s Facebook page is that they actually get engagement with their posts – this is rare for most law firm Facebook pages, which may have “Likes” but no real interaction.

As a former foster child and strong supporter, I was happy to help Advokids strategize ways to get the most out of being named the event’s charity of choice. To find out more about Advokids and to support their cause of helping protect and providing a voice for foster children in California, please visit their website:

*Update Post OysterFest SF:

Advokids made such an impression with the event coordinators and bands at the Oysterfest SF that they were subsequently also named charity of choice for the upcoming Oysterfest San Diego on June 14th! Know anyone going? Please invite them to purchase through Advokid’s link to tickets!