Glossary for Industry Terms

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What is a prototype?

A prototype is a basic and experimental sample of a product that is being developed before creating the final product. It can be used in a variety of different contexts including design, electronics and software programming and can be anything from a drawing or sketch on a piece of paper, 3D rendering or a fully functioning product. Companies use prototypes because they are much cheaper to manufacture and create than the actual product, especially if they want to change aspects of the design or get customer feedback.

When starting the prototyping process, it’s recommended that companies use a low fidelity prototype, such as concepts, scenarios or personas. These prototypes are just very basic ideas of what the final products will be and are mainly used to build an understanding of what the product will do. As the idea or concept progresses, so do the prototypes. High fidelity prototypes function and look as similar as possible to the final product and are sent to customers for their feedback and input.

The goal of a prototype is to test products before spending lots of time and money creating the actual product. Companies use prototypes to get feedback and data from their target audience and will use this feedback to see what changes and updates need to be made.  The key to prototyping is to do it rapidly, with a minimum investment of time and resources. It doesn’t matter what the prototype looks like or how detailed it is, as long as people are able to test it and give feedback. It’s unlikely that companies will get their finished product on the first attempt; it will probably take at least a couple of versions, until they are satisfied with a final product.

Another aspect to prototyping is validation, actually seeing a version of your product is a great way to confirm that your idea is going to be successful. Validating an idea also helps companies determine what the final product will look like and how they are going to market it to customers.

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