I am a freshman in UX design and find it difficult to understand the difference between mock-up, wireframe and prototype. Are they referring to the same thing?
Wireframes are schematics that display basic elements without going into details.
Prototype is a detailed simulation of the future design, often to a point where it's mimicking the interaction. It can be created on paper, with a specific program or by coding up the dummy data and/or services.
Mock-up is a class of designs that include both wireframes, hi-fidelity designs, prototypes. I.e., when you are asked to do a mock-up, there is a need to check the detail level, unless it's already understood.
A wireframe is a outline sketch of layout. It doesn't look anything like the real finished product. It just shows where the various elements will be.
A prototype and a mock-up....there we don't have exact definitions and ways of differentiating them.
I would say that "mock-up" to me sounds like something that is still in fairly early stages whilst a "prototype" is almost complete, a beta version almost. However this is just a feeling and generally the two words are fairly interchangeable.
In my 8 years of experience I have never found that this is used consistently, you cannot rely on meaning the same thing if someone talk about a wireframe or a mockup. Especially about Mockups: Some visual designer call a high fidelty visual design a mockup, some UX people call a very low fidelity thing a mockup. I recommend to show examples if you want to agree on what is expected.
On Prototypes there is a also a huge variety. But generally a prototype simulates different states and a minimum of interactivity. I like the take of Todd Zaki Warfel on prototypes:
A prototype, regardless of its fidelity, functionality, or how it is made, captures the intent of a design and simulates multiple states of that design. Wireframes and storyboards are static representations of a design that on their own merit do not simulate multiple states of a design. It’s the simulation and multiple states part that creates the distinction.
Prototyping - A Practitioner's Guide. By Todd Zaki Warfel
Totally agree with Rolland. I'll suggest you to think about usage of each one of this thing.
Mockup : is often referring to "zoning", I always start with this one. Using it to place elements and informations on page templates.
Wireframes : looks really often like what the other one answers, I'll add a little precision, you're supposed to use real content (real texts, real pictures).
Prototypes : are supposed to simulate user interactions, different states etc. You can have some low-fi protoypes based on mockups, wireframes or some hi-fi prototypes based on graphic design or even more (conditions, real data-bases) etc. I would say the prototype is meant to be used not just "shown".