What is a Prototype? Definition, Types, and FAQs.

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What is a Prototype?

A Prototype is an unfinished version of any product, used for user testing purposes. A prototype must incorporate all the features and functions of the final product, but without the final design elements. Although it is unfinished, it should appear to the user as a finished product to garner honest feedback from them.

The primary purpose of testing any prototype is to make sure that the design remains intuitive and engaging for the audience.

Prototypes enable the companies to correctly assess the product’s value, proposition, and quality before its final launch.

What is the importance of prototyping for product teams?

For any type of product, digital or physical, Prototyping can yield invaluable results which can otherwise be hard to detect for any product team.

Firstly, it encourages the product team to view the idea from a different perspective by transforming it into a more realized form than just a concept. Something may seem good on paper, but when it actually becomes a reality, may not seem as relevant and useful.

Next, introducing the prototype to different types of users brings a new perspective into the development process. Since the participants have not seen the product beforehand in its development stages, they could provide some valuable insights which the whole team may have overlooked. The participants are not biased and view the product objectively rather than from the perspective of someone who has spent months working on it.

Furthermore, they can flag even the most minute flaws in the product design or any other kind of inconvenience that could have an impact on the overall usability and user experience of the product.

Product teams may overlook these basic details or even underestimate the potential harm they can cause to the product. Thus, prototyping helps the teams really dive deeper into the user needs and expectations.

What are the types of Prototyping?

The simplest form of a prototype is Sketching. Designers can just pick up a sheet of paper and start roughing their ideas out. Ideally, this should represent the core functions and features of the product. This is considered the best to introduce your idea to the investors and other stakeholders.

Another more advanced form of sketching is a paper prototype. These clarify how all the product’s elements work together to provide a fruitful and engaging user experience. These are essential for outlining the core structure and navigation of digital products.

Basic wireframe models, useful for testing the flow and design are some of the low-fidelity prototypes where any functionality issues can be accurately located and changed accordingly.

A high-fidelity prototype, on the other hand, more closely resembles the product’s final design and functionalities, but, of course without, the final finishing touches.

A high-fidelity prototype is more representative of the product’s final form and performance, though it’s still without that marketable polish.

Nowadays, live data prototypes are also used for more advanced testing. They use analytics to determine the product’s success or failure.

FAQs

Q: What is Rapid Prototyping?

A: Rapid Prototyping is a strategy employed by agile teams throughout the product development process. In this approach, the 3-dimensional prototypes of a product are created and subsequently tested to optimize simple characteristics such as shape, size, overall usability, etc., and gather some user feedback. 

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