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What is Prototype? Definition, Benefits, Types, and Examples

Last updated: Sep 01, 2023

What is Prototype? Definition, Benefits, Types, and Examples
Illustration of Prototype

What is Prototype?

A prototype is an initial model or example of a product, system, or project. If you wonder “what is prototype”, this model is specifically designed to illustrate the appearance and functionality of the product.

Prototypes are often used in the design and development process to test and identify features, functions, and the product's design before the production process.

Through this model, you can gather feedback and evaluations from users, clients, or stakeholders to ensure that the product is created according to the desired expectations and needs.

The Purpose of A Prototype

The purpose of creating prototypes is to provide a visual or functional representation of the product being developed before its final version is completed.

During the product development process, users can participate in evaluations and provide feedback.

The feedback provided will serve as a reference in the product development phase. Furthermore, this action can also generate new ideas that can be developed into features to enhance the product.

The Benefits of Having A Prototype

One essential element in the product development process is having a sample model. Through this model, you can test ideas, concepts, and designs before fully developing the product.

Becoming one of the most crucial steps in the product development process, its existence offers several benefits. Here's a detailed explanation:

1. Time and Cost Savings

Utilizing prototypes offers long-term advantages by streamlining the product development timeline and cutting costs. 

Early integration of this model in the initial phases allows for swift detection and rectification of potential glitches and flaws, paving the way for enhanced iterations prior to advancing product development.

It significantly diminishes the probability of substantial alterations in the conclusive phases of product development. 

This is particularly valuable as these later stages frequently demand a considerable investment of time and valuable resources.

2. Understanding User Needs

Having a sample product can actually facilitate direct user testing of the product which can accordingly foster valuable interactions. 

Engaging with this model empowers users to offer insights into coveted features, and functionalities, and pinpoint issues that warrant attention.

Such insights play a pivotal role in enhancing stakeholders' comprehension of user requirements, subsequently guiding the development of a product that aligns more closely with user expectations.

3. Serve as a Reference in Product Development

With a clear and detailed model or design, you can have a visual guide to follow in the product development process.

This clarity equips stakeholders with the ability to recognize any deficiencies within the product, thereby prompting a concerted effort to explore holistic enhancements and remedies.

4. Serve as An Effective Presentation Material

Presenting a well-designed and interactive prototype can help communicate ideas more clearly and effectively.

This makes it easier for you to explain product concepts and designs to users, clients, and stakeholders.

Types of Prototype

In addition to understanding “what is prototype” as well as its benefits, you also need to comprehend the common types of prototypes used in the product development process:

Here are some types of prototypes that you probably see in daily life::

1. Sketches and Diagrams

Sketch and diagram prototypes encompass rough sketches and drawings, as the name implies. 

Despite their simplistic nature, these models play a pivotal role in swiftly and effectively conceptualizing ideas and concepts. 

This type can provide a solid foundation before delving into the intricacies of advanced development phases.

2. 3D Printing

You must be familiar with the concept of 3D printing. This variety presents a tangible three-dimensional representation of the evolving product or component.

By employing such a model/sample, enterprises can expedite the shift from design to production, thanks to the streamlined identification procedure.

Upon finalizing the identification phase, a mere digital reprogramming is required to proceed.

3. Physical Model

If you wish to gain tangible insight into the product under development and attain a deeper visual perspective, the physical model is the solution.

The physical model is created using physical materials such as paper, cardboard, or other substances.

This type works effectively in conceptualizing on a small scale before advancing to the production stage.

4. Wireframe

A wireframe is one of the most commonly used prototypes for websites, software, or other digital tools.

Wireframe focuses on the user interface (UI) appearance and design. As a result, it usually contains the fundamental framework of UI elements without intricate visual design details.

Through this model, you can design an efficient and user-friendly UI structure and layout.

5. Feasibility

The additional category is known as feasibility prototyping. This approach is frequently employed to assess the viability of a particular product or system.

In pursuit of this goal, feasibility prototyping delves into the realms of product functionality and performance, while also appraising the probability of effectively materializing a given idea or product concept.

Examples of Prototype

Now, you have understood the definition, benefits, and types of it. However, in order to master this concept better, let’s get to know some of the examples of it, listed in the followings:

1. Paper

As the name suggests, this type of prototype employs paper as its medium. Despite its simple form, a paper model design can provide insights into both the visual appearance and functionality of a product.

Some of the examples include hand-drawn sketches, diagrams, or images representing user interface (UI) visuals or product layouts.

2. Low-fidelity

A low-fidelity sample tends to nearly resemble a product but with lower levels of detail and resolution.

Examples of this model can be seen in wireframes or digital mockups that depict product designs without complete visual details.

3. High-fidelity

On the other end of the spectrum lies high-fidelity prototyping, where the sample bears a remarkable likeness to the ultimate product. 

Engaging with a high-fidelity sample engenders a sense of the final product's encounter. 

Nevertheless, it is imperative to acknowledge that the development of such prototypes is an endeavor marked by temporal investment and financial allocation.

You can see some examples of high-fidelity prototypes in applications that are still in development but already look like the actual final application.

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