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What is Software Prototyping? - Definition, Models & Tools

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  • 0:04 What Is Software Prototyping?
  • 0:55 The Software…
  • 2:09 Models of Prototyping
  • 2:36 Advantages & Disadvantages
  • 3:32 Tools
  • 4:01 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Lucinda Stanley

Lucinda has taught business and information technology and has a PhD in Education.

This lesson introduce you to the world of software prototyping, including its advantages and disadvantages. You will learn the four-step process and two basic models used in software prototyping before testing your knowledge with a quiz.

What Is Software Prototyping?

Have you ever beta tested a software application? You know, have you played a game or used a program whose publishers said it wasn't quite up to par and they needed your opinions before developing the final product? If so, you have participated in one form of software prototyping.

Software prototyping is similar to prototyping in other industries. It is an opportunity for the manufacturer to get an idea of what the final product will look like before additional resources, such as time and money, are put into finalizing the product. Prototyping gives the software publisher the opportunity to evaluate the product, ensure it's doing what it's intended, and determine if improvements need to be made.

Often, the software prototype is not complete. Sometimes, only certain aspects of the program are prototyped, such as those elements the publisher is most concerned about or areas where user interface may be tricky.

The Software Prototyping Process

There is typically a four-step process for prototyping:

  1. Identify initial requirements: In this step, the software publisher decides what the software will be able to do. The publisher considers who the user will likely be and what the user will want from the product, then the publisher sends the project and specifications to a software designer or developer.
  2. Develop initial prototype: In step two, the developer will consider the requirements as proposed by the publisher and begin to put together a model of what the finished product might look like. An initial prototype may be as simple as a drawing on a whiteboard, or it may consist of sticky notes on a wall, or it may be a more elaborate working model.
  3. Review: Once the prototype is developed, the publisher has a chance to see what the product might look like; how the developer has envisioned the publisher's specifications. In more advanced prototypes, the end consumer may have an opportunity to try out the product and offer suggestions for improvement. This is what we know of as beta testing.
  4. Revise: The final step in the process is to make revisions to the prototype based on the feedback of the publisher and/or beta testers.

Models of Prototyping

There are two main models for prototypes. The throwaway model is designed to be thrown away once the review process has been completed. It is just a look at what the end product may look like, and it's typically not well defined and may only have a few of the publisher's requirements mapped out. The evolutionary model for prototyping is more complete and is incorporated into the final product. The revisions in step four are made directly to the prototype in order to get it to the final stage.

Advantages & Disadvantages

Of course, there are advantages and disadvantages to using prototypes in the development of software. Some of the advantages include:

  • The developer can use feedback from the publisher and/or consumer to make improvements and fix glitches.
  • The publisher can determine if the software application does what it was intended to do and meets all of the requirements.
  • The development of the prototype can give the publisher an idea of how much time and money may be needed for the manufacture of the product.
  • During the course of developing the prototype, the developer might find additional uses for the product the publisher hadn't thought of, thus making the product even more valuable.

Some of the disadvantages include:

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