I don’t think it means, what you think it means.
Has it ever happened to you that you see a familiar word but you have a feeling it might mean something different in some situations? The word “Prototype” is a fairly common word but since it has been adopted by the IT community, it acquired additional meanings, and because of that, the importance of prototyping can sometimes be overlooked.
Why Do I Need to Know The Difference?
Prototyping can be an important part of product development process. According to Quora, a knowledge sharing platform, there are at least 1000 apps submitted per day, and each one of them had to go through prototyping stage before reaching the final product. Not knowing the exact meaning of the word in certain situations can lead to misunderstandings when communicating with a development team, resulting in wasted time and resources, or at the very least you wouldn’t want to appear ignorant.
The information we will share with you is not a well kept secret, but it does tend to slip through the cracks from time to time. Let us save you some time by unwrapping the two main meanings of the word “prototype”, the importance of prototyping and what it can be confused with.
What is Prototyping
Imagine this conversation:
- Do you have the prototype ready?
- Yes, we will send you the link to InVision.
In the above scenario a person is talking about a prototype that is basically pictures of your app's interface with buttons. As a variation, you could also hear “Clickable Prototype”, which is a prototype that allows you to go from one screen to another by clicking on buttons, to demonstrate user flows.
InVision is a popular online service, often used by UX designers to create a prototype and share it by copying a link. Some other service platforms that do similar things include Marvel, Webflow, Proto.io, Justinmind, Origami Studio, InVision is simply one of the more popular prototyping tools around.
The main point to remember about this meaning of prototype is that no coding is involved in creating the prototype, only drawing using one of the applications mentioned above. It should take very few additional hours on top of the main design process. Be wary if your designer says you need to pay him double for a prototype of something you already have, he might be trying to play you out of extra cash.
- Do you have the prototype ready?
- Yes, we are testing it now, it's a little buggy, but we're getting there.
In this dialogue the word “prototype” refers to a very basic version of your website or mobile app that is not a final product. It should never see the world at this stage. It’s intended for internal use on the production site only, or to be shared with close friends.
Showing this preliminary model of your product to strangers is like leaving your house with your fly down – socially unacceptable and it doesn’t make sense.
Coding is involved in creating this prototype. Depending on the complexity of your website or mobile app this meaning of prototype would take considerably more time on top of the design process.
What It Can Be Confused With
A prototype can be confused with an MVP (Minimum Viable Product). MVP is not a final product yet, but it works as if it is. It is needed to roll out the product on the market and start usability testing and getting the first feedback from users. In order to cut costs when building and designing an MVP, the product owners would pick and focus on the most important functionality of their app, which is a wise thing to do. Think of it as the very basic version of the finished product. Unlike prototype, an MVP works properly and has no bugs. Sometimes, an app can be so simple that no additional functionality needs to be added after the MVP is released.
It can also be confused with a mockup. A mockup is just an image. It would not show animations of transitioning between pages, for example buttons can’t be clicked, there is no movement whatsoever.
Reasons Why Prototyping is Important
The importance of prototyping in product development process can’t be overstated. We’ve listed some of the prototyping benefits below.
- Shareholders and potential investors can get the taste of your application and get the basic understanding of the product faster and cheaper, so that you can secure the funding.
- Frontend Developers will use a working prototype to implement it in a form of a code. A prototype would have pictures and icons that make a front end developer's task much easier. However a mockup would do just as good guiding a developer.
- The importance of prototyping shows in Usability Testing. Testing your app at this stage of development allows to avoid mistakes and spot bugs very early in the process. Making corrections to a working prototype is like making corrections in the architectural plan of a building instead of fixing the house after it has already been built.
- Quick Market Validation. Your idea can be quickly assessed and compared to existing competitors thanks to a prototype.
- Because a prototype is a working model of the end product and it feels like a real application, it creates solid ground for your ideas to take flight.
- Making a prototype could be the best way to determine the final specifications of your finished product based on a preliminary model.
Do I really need to create a prototype?
To sum it up, a prototype can mean two things: first, a set of images made in an Invision-type online service that allows users to click buttons and go from one screen of an app to another; and second, a somewhat working version of your app, that is not intended for the end-customer.
To put it simply, in our opinion, if your app is more than just a registration form – you should start with a clickable prototype. As a company you should evaluate the importance of prototyping for your needs and then reach out to a trusted company for help. Most development agencies and design studios will offer you an entire spectrum of their services including making a prototype.
When you need a Clickable Prototype contact us for a free consultation at Keenethics.com.