1) What is a Prototype?
A prototype is an early sample of a product that serves as a basis for a future model. The term prototype is used in various contexts such as semantics, design, electronics, and software programming. Prototyping also provides specifications for a real working system rather than a theoretical one.
2) Types of Prototypes:
Prototypes can be classified into 8 categories:
2.1) Working Model:
A working model is probably the most common type of prototypes. A working model is as close as you can get it to what it might look and feel like when the consumer uses or experiences the product.
2.2) Representational Model:
Representational model is a model that is built to represent the actual product. It has the appearance of the product but has no actual functionality. With 3D prints, it is relatively easy to make a representational prototype out of plastic.
2.3) Scale Model:
This type of Prototype is used simply to scale a product if it is too big to be carried around (for example a house or a car)
2.4) Video or photo demonstration:
This model is the earliest stage of prototyping, it is used when nothing has been built yet, and it’s just an idea. A slideshow or animation of how the product is supposed to work is helpful enough to communicate the idea of the product to other people.
2.5) Digital Prototype:
A digital prototype is a model that is made virtually using a computer and a software it enables the company to see how the individual components will work together and how the product will look and work once it is built.
2.6) Analytical Prototypes:
Analytical Prototype is a Mathematical model of the product.
It can only exhibit the behavior arising from explicitly modeled phenomena. (However, sometimes the behavior is not anticipated). Some behavior may be an artifact of the analytical method. Compared to physical models, an Analytical Prototype often provides more experimental freedom.
2.7) Focused Prototypes:
A Focused prototype Implements one or a few attributes of the actual product. It Answers specific questions about the product design. However Generally speaking several models are required.
2.8) Comprehensive Prototypes:
A comprehensive prototype has a unique feature of outfitting the majority of the attributes of a working product. It offers opportunities for rigorous testing. It can also be best for milestones and integration.
3) Use of prototypes:
There are various needs and uses of a prototype such as:
- A prototype can be used to assess whether the product works as it was intended to be. A similar case in material and geometry if the product was produced in a different way or made differently.
- A prototype can also be used to test reliability and to identify remaining bugs in the product. Given to the customers to test in the use environment.
- A prototype can be used for educational purposes, schools and even universities sometimes use prototypes and models of an actual mechanism in order to teach students.
- A prototype can be used in Communicational purposes, a prototype can demonstrate a product for feedback.
- Integration combination of sub-systems into a system model.
- It can also work as the milestone’s goal for the development team’s schedule
4) Advantages and Disadvantages of using a prototype:
Prototyping can improve the quality of requirements and specifications that are provided to the developers. Since unforeseen changes cost exponentially more to implement as they are detected later in development, the early determination of what the user really desires can result in software that is developed faster and cheaper.
Prototyping allows users and consumers to see and interact with the prototype, thus allowing them to provide a better and more complete feedback. A prototype can prevent many misunderstandings and miscommunications that occur between the designer and the user. Since compared to the developers, consumers and users are normally better informed of the issues related to the products, a better communication between the designer and the user will lead to a final prototype that is more likely to get the satisfaction of the user regarding its look, feel and performance.
The focus on a limited prototype can potentially distract developers from properly analyzing the entire project. This may result in overseeing better solutions, preparation of incomplete specifications, or getting poorly engineered final projects out of the prototypes that are hard to maintain; furthermore, due to the limitations of the functionalities of a prototype, it may not be considered and used as the basis of a final deliverable, which can also not be noticed if developers are too focused on building a prototype as a model.
A major property of prototyping is that it is expected to be made quickly. If the developers forget this fact, they may instead try to develop a prototype that is overly complex. Developing a prototype with detailed requirements, may not necessarily lead to an increase in the productivity to compensate the time spent developing the model. Users can become stuck in debates over details of the prototype, therefore holding up the development team and delaying the final product further.
Users can begin to think that the prototype that is intended to be thrown away is actually the final product and that it just merely needs to be polished or edited. This can easily lead clients and users to expect the prototype to accurately model the performance of the actual final system when this is not the intent of the developers and creators at all. Users and consumers can also sometimes be attached to the features that were included in a prototype for consideration reasons and then when they are removed from the final system, it can lead to conflict and misunderstandings between creators and consumers. Same as users, Developers can also become attached to prototypes they have spent a great deal of effort and time producing, this can lead to problems like attempting to convert a limited prototype into a final system when it does not have an appropriate architecture.