A prototype, in application development, is simply a model, sample, or a preliminary version of the final product. It presents a preview of the application at the pre-development stage.
The success of your application depends on user acceptance. And so, you must consult the end-users, preferably before you develop an app. Prototyping is essentially a way to involve users in the product development stage.
Prototypes have evolved over the years. Initially, prototypes were just diagrams. Their use was thus limited to the display of front-end. Gradually, realizing that a static prototype is not very useful, now, interactive prototypes are trending the app development industry.
Everything good comes with a cost! So, the question of whether interactive prototypes are worth your time and budget can only be answered after understanding both the advantages and limitations of prototyping.
Advantages of Interactive Prototypes
Here are the benefits that the top application developers derive from prototypes.
- Elicit Requirements Prototypes are excellent tools for bridging the gap between the user requirements and what is delivered. Interactive prototypes are as close to the final product as possible, thus giving a real-like preview.
Providing a good user experience is the ultimate aim of developers. But, user experience can be rightly judged only by the client. So, prototypes give the developers a tool to assess whether the project UX as perceived by them and the clients match.
The prototype thus is a great way of eliciting the project requirements and clarifying the vague or confusing areas of user requirements.
- Requirement Validation A prototype gives a visualization of the product to all the stakeholders at a stage where they can give their opinions and suggest the changes that they require in the final product. Without a prototype, the stakeholders would have to wait for the developed product, only to realize that the product isn’t what they expected.
And if the stakeholders suggest changes after the whole product is developed, it is a huge waste of both time and resources. Moreover, at times implementing the changes means an overhaul of the complete product.
If the prototype is presented to the stakeholders before product development starts, it can give them a glimpse of the product before the product is actually developed. And, any changes that they suggest are then incorporated in the final product when it is developed.
Prototyping, as discussed above, is the best way of soliciting feedback from the stakeholders. And, as the prototype describes the functions and features well, the feedback is more objective, precise, and comprehensive.
- Testing Prototyping is also an excellent way to do pre-development design testing. It will highlight all the shortcomings of the idea. At this stage, fresh ideas can be generated. If required, the client can change his own requirements after determining that certain aspects of the product were misconceived or miscommunicated.
- Evaluating the Design for Deficiencies Prototypes help developers evaluate design deficiencies and assess problem areas that might arise during the development process. It helps them to identify the missing features and functions. These are then incorporated in the end-product. Thus, prototyping is a risk-reduction activity that minimizes the possibility of a product failure during or after its development.
Limitations of Prototypes
Though there are so many benefits of interactive prototypes, we can’t ignore the limitations either, before we decide whether these are worth our time and budget.
- Slow Process Prototyping is a time-consuming process, undoubtedly. And, it requires dedicated designers specializing in prototyping.
Often, developers view prototyping as a slowing down of product development. As another stage is added to the product development cycle, the cycle also slows down.
- The Ability of the Designer A prototype is only as good as its designer. The most significant limitation of the prototype is that unless the designer is capable enough of converting the client requirements into an accurate prototype, the whole purpose of prototyping fails.
- Cost A prototype can be costly to build. There are free software and tools available for prototyping, but you will have to spend considerable time evaluating the best prototyping software that meets your requirements. So, the costs of time spent on research cannot be ignored.
Moreover, you will have to dedicate an expert for building the prototype. As mentioned above, if the prototype is not designed well, the whole effort is fruitless.
Interactive Prototypes are a significant part of a successful project. For projects that require user-inputs, feedback, and revision, it is absolutely necessary to go for prototyping. You must accommodate for the time and budget requirements of the prototype in order for a user-centric digital project to be successful.
Similarly, when working with a new client, prototypes are desirable to prevent miscommunication. Last but not least, if you want your customers to pre-order your product, a prototype will benefit you loads!
Developing a perfect interactive prototype is not easy. Luckily, SingleMind (and similar software design and development agencies) offer interactive prototyping in their UX Design services.