What Is Prototyping And Why You Need It

Nigel Tsopo
07 October 2022
7 min read

When you've got a software idea you'd like to validate immediately without actually developing a full product, prototyping or rapid prototyping is what you need and in this post, we'll explain why.

When most people think of the word ‘prototype’, they imagine expensive, high-tech products. The truth is, prototypes come in all shapes and sizes, including software. While they may not always be high-tech, bug-free or fully-functional, they are always essential to the product development process.

What is a Prototype?

A prototype is a preliminary or trial version of a product that is used to test its feasibility, design, and/or function.

Think of it as a sample, model, or early release of a product to customers, external stakeholders or testers in order to obtain feedback on the product prior to its development and official market launch. 

A UX/UI prototype is typically created early in the product development process before the product is finalized and released to the market.

Developing such a prototype requires human-centred design thinking, an experimental process, a full understanding of user needs and an iterative process. 

What Does Prototyping Mean?

To give you a clearer idea, here’s a step-by-step outline of the UX/UI prototype development process:

  1. Decide on the purpose of the prototype.

  2. Choose a type of prototype (low-fidelity or high-fidelity).

  3. Prepare the UX/UI software needed to create the prototype.

  4. Create the prototype using simple techniques, software and materials.

  5. Test the prototype with users.

  6. Obtain feedback about the prototype from users.

  7. Revise the prototype based on feedback.

  8. Repeat steps 5-7 as necessary.

Rapid Prototyping

Rapid UX/UI prototyping is a type of prototyping that uses simple techniques, software and materials to create a preliminary model of a product in a shorter timeframe.

Startup House is your go-to user experience (UX) and user interface (UI) team for all things user testing, rapid prototyping, rapid MVP development and swift no-code software solutions to get your products up and running within a few weeks.

Contact us to learn more about our tailor-made software solutions.

Reasons for Prototyping

There are many reasons why you might need to create prototypes. 

A UX/UI prototype, also known as a UX/UI design:

  1. Assesses product feasibility

  2. Identifies potential product defects

  3. Saves time and money

  4. Increases customer satisfaction

  5. Improves product design

  6. Evaluates manufacturing feasibility

  7. Helps identify early adopters

  8. Helps reduce risk

  9. Builds credibility

  10. Helps generate publicity

To expand upon these points:

1. Assesses product feasibility

Prototyping helps assess the feasibility of a product idea.

  1. Is the concept technically possible?

  2. Can it be developed at a reasonable cost?

  3. Does it meet all the required performance standards?

These are all important questions that need to be answered before a product can go any further in the development process.

2. Identifies potential product defects

Another key benefit of prototyping is that it can help identify a product's potential problems before it goes to market.

By testing prototypes with customers or users, businesses can get feedback about the product’s design, function, and user experience.

3. Saves time and money

By using prototypes to identify potential problems early on, businesses can avoid the costly process of making changes to a product that's already been released.

4. Increases customer satisfaction

By providing a prototype for customers to interact with, they can get a feel for how it works and give their feedback on how they feel it can be improved. If this feedback is taken into consideration, it can ensure that the final product is of high quality and meets customer expectations.

5. Improves product design

With the feedback gained from prototype testing, businesses can improve the overall design of their products, thereby giving them more likelihood of success upon release.

6. Evaluates manufacturing feasibility

Another key benefit of prototyping is that it can help evaluate the feasibility of manufacturing a product.

  1.  Is the product able to be manufactured at a reasonable cost?

  2.  Does it meet all the required safety and performance standards?

Answering these questions is crucial to the success of a product launch.

7. Helps identify early adopters

Prototyping can also help businesses identify early adopters of their products.

Early adopters are typically those customers or users who are willing to try new products and give feedback on their experiences with them.

This feedback can be invaluable to businesses as they work to improve the product before its official release.

8. Helps reduce risk

Creating a prototype allows you to test your idea before committing to a full-scale product development cycle. This can help you identify potential problems early on, and save you time and money in the long run.

9. Builds credibility

Another key benefit of prototyping is that it can help businesses build credibility with potential customers or users.

By showing customers or users a prototype of the product, businesses can demonstrate their commitment to developing a high-quality product that meets their needs and expectations. Doing so develops greater confidence in the business.

10. Helps generate publicity 

Finally, prototyping can also help businesses generate publicity for their products.

By testing prototypes with customers or users, businesses can get feedback about the product’s design, function and user experience.

This feedback can be used to generate positive press for your product, which can help increase awareness and interest in the product.

Now let's consider the two main types of prototyping.

Types of UX/UI Prototyping

Low-Fidelity vs. High-Fidelity Prototyping

Low Fidelity Prototyping

Low-fidelity prototyping (LFP) uses simple techniques and materials to create a preliminary model of a product or system. Some might call it a 'paper prototype method'.

The goal of an LFP is to quickly and cheaply generate ideas for user testing.

Low-fidelity prototypes are often created using paper or simple software boards. They are typically less refined and detailed than high-fidelity prototypes.

See a full list of prototyping tools below.

High Fidelity Prototyping

High-fidelity prototyping (HFP) uses more sophisticated techniques and materials to create a realistic model of a final product or system.

HFPs closely resemble the final product post-design process and are often created using computer-aided design (CAD) software (i.e. Figma), 3D printers, or other advanced technologies.

At Startup House, we've helped many founders and businesses discover the right path to take when developing a prototype. We can do the same for you.

Advantages of Low-Fidelity Prototyping

There are several advantages to using low-fidelity software prototypes:

  1. LFPs are quick and easy to create.

  2. They are less expensive to create than high-fidelity prototypes.

  3. They can be used to generate a large number of ideas in a short period of time.

  4. LFPs are less likely to be misinterpreted by users.

  5. They can be easily revised and improved.

Disadvantages of Low-Fidelity Prototyping

There are several disadvantages to using low-fidelity Software prototypes:

  1. They may not accurately represent the final product.

  2. LFPs can be difficult to test with users.

  3. A low-fidelity prototype can be difficult to communicate to stakeholders.

  4. They can be time-consuming to create if a large number of revisions are needed.

Advantages of High-Fidelity Prototyping

There are several advantages to using high-fidelity software prototypes:

  1. HFPs accurately represent the final product.

  2. A high-fidelity prototype can be easily tested with users.

  3. It can be easily communicated to stakeholders.

  4. High-fidelity prototypes can save time in the long run by reducing the need for revision.

  5. They can be used to generate publicity for a product.

Disadvantages of High-Fidelity Prototyping

There are several disadvantages to using high-fidelity software prototypes:

  1. HFPs are more expensive to create than low-fidelity prototypes.

  2. They can be time-consuming to create.

  3. A high-fidelity prototype may be misinterpreted by users.

  4. It can be difficult to revise and improve.

  5. HFPs may not be necessary for all products.

Which type of prototyping is right for your product?

The answer depends on your goals, budget and product's level of complexity.

In general, low-fidelity prototypes are best for generating ideas and testing concepts, while high-fidelity prototypes are best for testing usability and user experience.

Prototyping Tools

1. Adobe XD

2. Sketch

3. InVision

4. Marvel

5. Flinto

6. Framer X

7. Justinmind

8. Balsamiq

9. Axure RP

10. Figma

Conclusion

Digital prototypes can be used at various stages in the product development process, from initial concept testing all the way through to final user testing prior to its mass production.

Product development is amplified by effective prototyping because it allows designers to quickly create and test ideas with users.

There are two main types of prototypes: low-fidelity and high-fidelity. Low-fidelity prototypes are quick and easy to create, while high-fidelity prototypes are more accurate but also more expensive and time-consuming.

The type of prototype that is best for your product will depend on your goals and budget.

Contact Us

For a tailor-made prototyping service that considers only your specific product vision and software needs, get in touch with Startup House.

We'll guide you through the product discovery process to flesh out the most crucial functionalities of your idea and design it feasibly and effectively.

Contact us to find out more.

 

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