Developing a prototype, an example or model, is part of every software development today. But what are the advantages of a prototype, compared to the simple concept development? And how do you make the step from prototype to finished product?
The development of a prototype
A prototype can have different shapes and can be very little developed or very accurate. Wikipedia defines a prototype as follows:
A prototype is an early sample, model, or release of a product built to test a concept or process or act as a thing to be replicated or learned from. It is a term used in a variety of contexts, including semantics, design, electronics, and software programming.
The advantage of a prototype is that it can be changed faster and changes cost less money and time. The development of a prototype should therefore be at the beginning of a product development.
A prototype can also be used to inform investors about a product or to gain initial user experience. A prototype should answer a concrete and not an abstract problem.
Prototype + User testing = Better products?
Developing prototypes can help you to develop a great product.
It’s a relatively inexpensive way to test an idea and get the first user feedback. If a prototype fails, this is far less serious than if a finished product failed, as the investment was far lower.
In addition, a prototype has the ability to completely rethink and redesign it, which is rather difficult for a finished product.
Prototypes are a great opportunity to collect and respond to user feedback. As bad as shown here, it should not be better 😉
High fidelity and low fidelity prototypes
When you look at prototypes in software development, you find the terms “high fidelity” and “low fidelity”, which can also be equated with “high tech” and “low tech”.
A low-fidelity prototype can e.g. B. the conception by means of paper and pen or post-its. Often, the low fidelity prototype is also the starting point for the high fidelity prototype.
By contrast, the high-fidelity prototype presents the future product at a high-tech level. Designs are created here and often the high-fidelity prototype is fully functional. However, this also means significantly higher costs and time, which flow into a high-fidelity prototype. Of course, one can understand low and high fidelity prototypes as two instances, but rather as two ends of a spectrum in which there are many intermediate possibilities.
What should your prototype look like?
Before you start to develop a prototype, you should answer the following questions:
- How far should my prototype be developed?
- How much budget and resources do I want to spend on developing the prototype?
- Who is involved in the development?
- What will the workflow and internal communication look like?
- How do I get first user feedback?
- Which tools are available to me
The right tools
Especially if you are developing a high fidelity prototype, you need the right tools for your project.
Depending on whether you are developing a mobile app or a browser application, the tools you need can vary greatly. Also, depending on where you are in development, you need different tools.
I can therefore recommend this article, which gives you a good overview of tools such as Briefs, Atomic.io or Axure. Here you can see how different tools perform in terms of speed, high fidelity, user testing and customer support.
User testing used to be the last step in software development. As a result, user feedback could only be incorporated at the very end and sometimes costly changes. Fortunately, that has since changed and user feedback is now part of every design process.
When developing an application, it may make sense to ask users for a prototype for feedback. Everything you learn in this step will save you a lot of effort afterward.
The advantages of a prototype are obvious: you can show an example or model very quickly, you save costs, resources and time. It is therefore worthwhile to plan the development of the prototype exactly, from the tools to the team to communication channels.
Hope you enjoyed this post.