Why use prototypes in software development?

Darryl Bachmeier
Mar 24, 2019

Prototypes are not just about cost savings or catching errors. They help the development team to capture the right requirements from the business areas to build the correct product. Prototypes help the users to get their hands on something so they get a feel if the product will work for them. It increases understanding across all project team.

Types of Prototypes

There are different types of prototypes. Prototypes can be divided into wither low or high fidelity.

Low Fidelity Prototype

A low fidelity prototype is pen and paper. I sometimes do this when I meet with my clients and I need to clarify what goes where. I draw out simple doodle in very high abstraction. An image might be represented by a single box with an “X” in it. If multiple pages or screens are needed in the product, I might draw tiny screens on the page with arrows connecting them so I can understand the navigation flow.

High Fidelity Prototype

A high fidelity prototype is usually what I create after I think I have all the requirements documented. This will be done in C# using Sharp Develop. I like it because it’s free and open source and it is quick to layout components on screen. I usually go as far as to populate list boxes and data tables with some dummy data but I do not spend a lot of time on functionality. I am a business analyst not a developer so I leave the development to the professionals. I remind my clients that the prototype is not the final product even though I can get it to look good it is just a throw away.

Using prototypes have saved my projects lots of time and effort and have given my client’s the product that they needed. It has also helped to break apart projects into smaller iterations. It has increased communication of ideas across the project team. It has prevented not only errors but changes being made late in the development process which is widely known as far costlier to fix.

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