It’s really easy: develop a semi-functioning and working prototype of the design.
Many industries use prototypes to test-drive specific ideas and concepts. Prototyping is a much cheaper alternative to full scale production, allowing you test out risky or uncertain elements without committing to them.
An auto manufacturer may develop a few different variations of a new car design using 3D modeling software prior to actually building the first car.
We design and develop software prototypes in the same fashion, and for the same reasons—to analyze and expose risks, and offer changes for correction at a greatly reduced cost. Like the car makers, we target a prototype to test one or more specific aspects of the larger project. We can build prototypes to test ideas, create a better plan for an application and to save money.
It’s really hard to plan out custom business software and web applications. What seems to make perfect sense in our heads can fall apart during the development process, or worse—after initial user testing. Successful prototyping requires us to ruthlessly review an application’s requirements with a visual model, not just ideas and scratch paper.
An application can be prototyped as a set of drawings on a whiteboard, as a nonfunctional mock-up drawn with Photoshop, or with an interface builder. The actual data and functionality isn’t as important as ensuring the ideas of the application translate well to paper. The prototype can be shown to users and initial feedback can help design and improve the rest of the user experience.
The purpose of the prototype is to avoid costly mistakes and to investigate anything that would be critical to the final system or is experimental. This helps you turn over a complete step of collected ideas to the development team, while knowing/approving the final design before the code is started.
A Website Development Project Plan is About Saving Money
Poor development is expensive. The prototype aims to iron out issues and ensure we’re on the same page before we start developing and designing. It’s always an uncomfortable conversation when the client says something like:
“Well, this is what I wanted but now that I see it, I don’t like it.”
That always means the project is about to get out of scope, because it’s likely too late in the process to correctly make a shift. Prototyping and mocking it up first ensures the functionality is in place, and the design is on par with what you were looking for.
You can learn about our specific prototyping and planning process with this recent article.