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What is a prototype?

A prototype is the initial example of a product or program, which acts as a basis for following designs. Prototypes are often made from inexpensive materials and are usually made at a lower level of detail than a final product. In software design, prototypes can be made that focus on the visual design or the functionality of a program.

What are the advantages of creating prototypes?

Prototypes can be used to attract funding or to show what a designer has understood from a requirements brief. Using prototypes is also a cost-effective way of discovering issues that can be costly to optimize later in the development process. You can also gather feedback from users on the usability of your application by using prototypes. This in turn reduces risk and helps ensure that your application will be successful. One of the current disadvantages of using prototypes is that stakeholders are not always aware that the function of a prototype is to demonstrate a key aspect or function of a design. Demonstrators must therefore ensure that stakeholders know what they should focus on, so that time is not wasted getting feedback on less important details. If the feedback process works well however, prototypes can be a useful tool.

How to create prototypes

Prototypes can be created for websites, mobile or other software applications using prototyping software. This can help designers, developers, usability experts and information architects plan how their designs should look or function. Prototyping software can often be used without the need for programming knowledge, which means this process is often cost-effective and quick. Prototypes can then be shown to clients and potential users for feedback. Prototypes can be optimized or new prototypes can be created based on this feedback until a final working prototype is created that includes the functional features of the final design.

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