Why you need software prototyping

After hearing about prototyping most of us visualise it as, for example, NASA building a prototype of a new module of the International Space Station which is totally the correct way of thinking, but after going deeper into this topic we see that there is more about it all around us. Usually we are not aware that prototyping is a widely used technique in a number of different industries and businesses and, among others, also in software development. It is becoming an important part of IT contracts and a common habit of software providers which is good because prototyping has a number of important benefits.

Prototype is a working model of software with some limited options. It is used to evaluate and unify the vision of a software solution, its features and functionalities. Both, developer and customer benefits. The customer can see how the product will look and have an opportunity to share ideas and give more specific instructions on how they want the software to look and what functionalities to have. On the other hand, the developer has an opportunity to change their vision and to estimate the time and resources that will be needed to complete such a project.

Why you need a software prototype

Most people, generally, want to get their software solution finished, free of all bugs and errors and ready to use as quickly as possible but to get exactly what is needed they have to participate in the process of creation of a software solution and one part of it might be prototyping. Thanks to prototypes it is easier to spot the gaps or missing minor features in the early stage of a development process. It is much cheaper and easier to make changes in the beginning of work than edit the finished product.

  • Same vision
    By creating a prototype, people that are involved in all the stages of the development process can better convey their vision and standardise it. Prototyping works better than just describing the vision or ideas because it helps to visualise them and answer most of the bothering questions about functionalities. Unfortunately there is no guarantee that the prototype code will be used in the final product but, even if it is not, it is a solid base for the future and might be a separate solution in other project. Work on the prototype is never wasted. Even if the prototype does not work, there is always a lesson to learn from it.

  • Customer involvement
    It is also important to allow the interaction between customer and the product happen in early stages of the process of development because it is easier to make changes. Staying on the same page with the client is vital for the whole process and the product itself. The product should be primarily what the customer wants and needs and one of the roles of prototyping is to make sure that all the features and functionalities are what they should be.

  • Clarity of functionalities
    At this stage of the development process the list of functionalities should exist and be similar for both partners but their definition may sometimes differ from one another. For example a customer expects an advanced search function that uses different methods of searching for information and what they get is a simple search mechanism showing only the direct results. Problems that consider defining the requirements and particular functionalities should be solved at the stage of prototyping when both, client and developer can see the simplified version of a ready product of their future work.

Key stages of software prototyping

When you know what you can gain thanks to the prototyping you should also get to know what the stages of the prototyping process are.

1. Requirements gathering
Building a prototype should always start with gathering data and requirements. It is one of the reasons for prototyping – to check if the functionalities and requirements of the clients meet the vision of the developers. That is why everything should be gathered and analysed deeply to be consistent in the first place.

2.Creating the prototype
With the help of many tools and cutting-edge visualisations, developers create the functioning model of a software that corresponds with the requirements and the consistent vision and functionalities. At this point the vision of the developers becomes the same during the work on the project.

3. Review and revise
Once the prototype has been developed it is time to show it to the client, discuss the possible changes and the vision and accept the feedback. Together both partners, customer and developer should discuss the possibilities and come to conclusions. To finalise this process the developer should make a revision to the prototype based on gathered feedback and proceed to the next stages of the software development process with new, powerful knowledge.

To sum up

The experimentation phase is vital for the IT project and it is more widely used nowadays. Prototyping becomes the core of the early stage collaboration between customer and developer and it allows them to save money and time in the future and to dispel any doubts before they become a serious problem. Ask your IT partner about the prototype of the software solution to be sure that you will get exactly what your company needs.

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