A software prototype is an incomplete version of a software program. It is for evaluate whether the idea is feasible, whether the code is working fine, and to ensure that the basic functionalities are working. All this without expending vast resources or man-hours.
The objective of a software prototype is simple – correct smaller mistakes before they snowball into bigger irreversible issues.
A software prototype can be compared to a rough skeleton of an idea. In fact, it has three stages during which the final software product takes form and shape.
- Low-fidelity prototype – a rough skeleton of the application or the product based on requirements
- Mid-fidelity prototype – A slightly presentable version of the prototype for discussions and user feedback
- High-fidelity prototype – A fully-functional and visually appealing version that can be circulated to larger masses for user testing and analysis
The four major software prototyping techniques you should know
There are four major software prototyping methods you can follow to build your software prototype.
- Incremental prototyping
- Throwaway prototyping
- Extreme prototyping
- Evolutionary prototyping
Of course, there are still more methods, however, these rank as the best among all since they make the process of creating better and presentable prototypes easier and more feasible.
Each method delivers a slightly different end result, however, all leading to building a better software prototype.
1. Incremental prototyping
The word increment means “an increase or addition, especially one of a series on a fixed scale.” In computing, it specifically denotes a discrete increase in something. In software prototyping, creation of a slightly better version is there at every stage, each version being better and more refined than its predecessor. This method follows a linear development process where the improvement is in the form of feature additions, design enhancements, debugging, etc.
Incremental prototyping is good if you want to build and launch software prototypes easily and test them within a short span of time. Further, the linear fashion in which it is built also ensures that there are minimal errors or the risk of the software failing once it is complete.
2. Throwaway prototyping
A.k.a close-ended prototyping, in this method of prototyping, the objective is to get a specific aspect of the prototype right. It is not really for integrating into the final software product. It is usually provided to users for collecting feedback. Based on the feedback, the next prototype could be built differently or as in incremental prototyping built better.
The primary advantage of throwaway prototyping is that you can retain the reusable components of the prototype and discard the rest for future use. Further, no documentation process is followed for this prototyping method which saves a significant amount of time and effort.
3. Extreme prototyping
Extreme prototyping is useful primarily for building web applications and it happens over three stages.
- Building a static prototype consisting of HTML pages
- Programming the screens with a stimulated service layer
- Implementing the services
The primary benefit of this method is that it helps developers catch bugs and issues well before it reaches the production stage. As a result, it saves costs that would otherwise require on rebuilding the product to solve the issue or to make it functional for the user.
Additionally, extreme prototyping also improves user engagement with the application. Exceptional care is there at each stage. It ensure that the user experience and performance of the app match user expectations. In a way, we can assume that it is for this reason that this method got the name extreme prototyping. It goes to extreme ends to ensure that a prototype matures into a final product that users engage with.
4. Evolutionary prototyping
Evolutionary prototyping a.k.a breadboard prototyping is the most fundamental form of prototyping, and one that favors the efforts of developers. In this method, the developers build a robust prototype based on well-understood requirements. They try to incorporate maximum features and functionalities from the initial scope of work. Incorporating additions and improvements further refine the prototype. This method differentiates itself from other methods by following a structured approach to prototyping.
All four prototyping methods discussed above serve a specific purpose.
If you want a prototype to test out your idea, then the throwaway prototyping method would be ideal. It requires minimal resources as well.
If you want to refine and make your prototype better with time, you can opt for the evolutionary method.
Now, if you have the time and resources, then the extreme prototyping method is an ideal one that will help you build a well-rounded prototype that is closely signed to user expectations.
If you are not sure which of these is ideal, you can always count on the incremental prototyping method which is the fundamental form of prototyping.
There is no perfect choice. You’re trying to build a prototype. The objective is to build one that closely reflects the final product’s functionalities. With continuous testing and user feedback, you can build a better prototype which would then become the final software ready for general adoption.