Prototype

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Definition:

A prototype is a realistic model that depicts the design of a product. It is usually created to show the product owner or other key stakeholders. A prototype is used to ensure that the project team is working on exactly what the customer or stakeholders expect. The prototyping is done during the design phase in the project lifecycle. The team creates a design to show where different product components will lie in the end product.

Prototype

Prototyping is a crucial step in System Development Life Cycle. The prototyping is done to show the basic version of the product to the client. The project manager uses it to ensure that the project team works according to the client’s expectations. It is done during the designing phase. A dummy prototype is made to show the design and structure of the product to the client. If the client likes the design, the project moves to the next stage, but if the client does not like the design and requests some changes, the project team redesigns the prototype unless the client is satisfied.

Characteristics of a Prototype

An effective prototype should have the following characteristics:

  • Representation: A prototype should be represented on paper, mobile, computer, or any other medium.
  • Detail: The prototype should be detailed enough to represent its type, i.e., low fidelity or high fidelity.
  • Interactivity: This determines the functionality of the prototype. A prototype can be fully-functional, partially functional, or view-only.
  • Evolution: A prototype should go through a life cycle. Some prototypes are created, tested, and replaced quickly, while others evolve and improve as the project moves towards completion.

Types of Prototypes

There are two types of prototypes based on the details that they demonstrate:

  1. Low Fidelity Prototype
  2. High Fidelity Prototype

Low Fidelity Prototype

A prototype does is not detailed is called a low fidelity prototype. It represents the basic model of the product being made. It is usually made cheaply and easily. A low fidelity prototype may present a model with few features that the final product will have. It is typically used to show the client how the final product will look.

High Fidelity Prototype

High Fidelity prototypes are detailed enough to depict the final product. They are much closer to the end product.

Creating a Prototype

The process of creating a prototype includes the following steps:

  • Identifying the basic requirements: In this step, the basic needs are collected and identified. The basic requirements include the inputs and outputs, the basic functionality, and the design requirements.
  • Prototype Creation: A basic prototype is created according to the requirements identified in the previous step. A product team should not invest too much time or money in prototyping as it will go in vain if the product owner rejects the prototype.
  • Review: The prototype is presented in front of the product owner. Everything is explained to him, and he is asked for his opinion. The client then specifies any changes needed to be made in the final product or approves the prototype.
  • Improving the Prototype: Once the client has given the feedback, the prototype is improved, and changes are made to fulfill the client’s requirements. Once done, the prototype is again presented to the client. This process continues unless a client is satisfied with the prototype.

Prototyping Methodologies

A prototype can be created while following any of the methodologies. These methodologies include:

  • Paper Prototyping: In this methodology, the design team designs ideas on paper with hands using shapes, lines, and text. This is the best methodology to be used in the early stages of the product lifecycle.
  • Digital Prototyping: In digital prototyping, a prototype is created using different tools such as Figma, Adobe Illustrator, Adobe XD, etc.
  • HTML and JavaScript Prototyping: The teams sometimes create prototypes using HTML and JavaScript to achieve a more accurate design.
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