In software design a prototype serves the same purpose as it does in physically manufactured products; it’s a proof-of-concept and test article to validate the workings of the new product. The most valuable roles offered by software prototyping are in the aspects of applications that deliver meaningful user interfaces.
Putting A Face On Your Product
Development teams that face challenges related to user experience (UX) and interfaces can use the prototyping process to characterize system capabilities and gather information about the potential for functionality and the likely success of a given design. As a contrast, prototyping holds less value for teams that develop applications that run in the background or focus on batch calculations.
When you’re scrambling to pull together a minimum viable product (MVP), working on a shoestring budget, you might be tempted to skip prototyping completely. However, creating a prototype gives you at least two advantages:
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- Prototyping will validate that you are investing your resources in a functional product and give you something to show users and early stage investors.
- To allocate your funds efficiently you need to ensure that errors and dead-ends appear early on in the process.
Match The Interface To The Experience
User experience and interfaces are the most important elements of product design. Prototyping creates a visual simulation of the intended product that will generate large volumes of information that might not have been obvious beforehand. It also gives the development team a starting point; product designs often change significantly during the prototyping phase. The test model helps define the look, feel, and functionality of the interface, which will define the user experience.
A prototype gives you a point of reference for users to generate feedback and give you notes on what they would like to see in the final product. The first attempt is likely to be entirely different from the one that reaches production; what it will do at the very least is act as a focus for discussion and a tool to engage the future users.
For enterprises that are seeking to develop new products and product lines the need to operate efficiently is still a paramount concern. Simulating the product initially saves time later in the development process. Putting a test article in front of a group of potential users can give you a sense of the way that customers will respond, the feedback from this is some of the most valuable that developers can get, as it represents the voice of the customer.
Fail Early And Save Time Later
The most successful mindset is the one that gives the problem or product the priority. At the early stage, any particular design should be a throwaway because fixating on one solution is almost guaranteed to be the wrong one, particularly if the developers place too much significance on it; the problem is the most important factor, not the solution to it.
Software prototyping defines and simulates new applications. It’s a process and, as the limits and abilities come into focus, the parameters change; you are unlikely to complete the process with the same prototype with which you started. Your final product will be much better for having taken full advantage of prototyping services, saving time and trouble down the road.