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The Advantages & Disadvantages of Prototyping

The Pros & Cons Of Prototyping

Prototyping isn’t for every project, but for the projects it is right for, it can be a tremendous asset.

As Dr. Sheldon Cooper would say, when prototyping finds its ideal project match, it’s a “bazinga” winner.

The Prototyping Model is a system development method (SDM) in which a prototype (an early draft of a final system or product) is built, tested and then reworked as necessary until an acceptable prototype is eventually achieved from which the complete system or product can be developed. A prototype serves as a throwaway model made to understand the requirements of a project before design and coding begins. In essence, prototyping is a project test run.

Here’s the general prototype industry process step-by-step:

  • Requirement Gathering
  • Quick Design
  • Building Prototype
  • Engineer Product
  • Refining Prototype
  • Customer Evaluation

Like the invention of the wheel, telephone and internet, prototypes have been the early models of many of history’s great technological advancements.

The worst-case scenario of any prototype is customers mistaking it for the finished project. Customers seeing a rough prototype may not understand it is merely a model that needs to be finished or polished.

Prototypes are commonly used in design and development of physical projects when large system building construction or manufacturing is involved. For projects built on software that have many changing variables and unknown logistics, prototypes are invaluable. There is a misconception that prototypes aren’t a viable option for projects facing tight completion deadlines.  However, with 3D printing, making prototypes is comparatively speedy and shouldn’t slow down the project very much.

But for projects demanding trial and error, prototyping is an essential component to guarantee optimum success. But you must ensure you have the budget and time a prototype-built project demands. If you do, the payback can be immense, just look at the iPhone.

The Benefits of Prototyping

  • Reduced time and costs: Prototyping improves the quality of the specifications and requirements provided to customers. With prototyping, customers can anticipate higher costs, needed changes and potential project hurdles, and most importantly, potential end result disasters. Strong prototyping can ensure product quality and savings for years to come.
  • Improved and increased user involvement: Most customer want to feel like they are involved with the intricate details of their project. Prototyping requires user involvement and enables them to see and interact with a working model of their project. With prototypes, customers can give their immediate feedback, request project changes and alter model specifications. Prototyping most importantly helps eliminate misunderstandings and miscommunications during the development process.
  • Reduced time and costs: Nothing makes customers happier than projects that come in under budget. Prototyping improves the quality of requirements and specifications provided to customers. Needed changes detected later in development cost exponentially more to implement. With prototyping, you can determine early what the end user wants with faster and less expensive software.

The Disadvantages of Prototyping

Alas, no project development model is perfect expect for, perhaps, oxygen plus hydrogen equals water. The disadvantages of prototyping must be weighed before deciding to implement them into project development.

  • Insufficient analysis: A focus on a limited prototype can distract developers from properly analyzing the complete project. The potential end result: A potential overlooking of better solutions, incomplete specifications or the conversion of limited prototypes into poorly engineered and developed final projects that are hard to maintain.
  • User confusion: The worst-case scenario of any prototype is customers mistaking it for the finished project. Customers seeing a rough prototype may not understand it merely needs to be finished or polished. Also, customers can wrongly perceive the prototype to accurately model the performance of the final system. Customers may also grow fond of prototype features that are not part of the final system.
  • Developer misunderstanding of user objectives: For every project to be successful, developers and customers must be on the same page and share the same project objectives. If customers require all proposed features of a prototype be included in the final product, this can lead to team and mission conflicts.
  • Excessive Development Time: Remember, prototypes are by nature designed to be developed quickly. If a developer spends too much time developing a complex prototype, the project can run into roadblocks (especially if there are disagreements over prototype details) and run over both time and cost budgets.

The Prototype Conclusion

For projects that require revision and end user feedback and recommendation implementation, prototyping is a must. Prototyping directly determines the direction of the entire project, and its eventual success. For successful prototyping identifies and corrects problems long before they can negatively impact and irreparably harm the final finished project.