Why Making a Prototype is Important in Software Design (Explained Simply)

Budget is often the most limited factor in a software project. Here is how the use of prototyping can save effort, frustration and in the end: money.

A prototype is an example of a piece of software. Some are not functional, some have only bare basics (like navigating between screens). They are most commonly used for testing ideas and trying out the concept of a product with the potential users (market research).

Such a mock-up (in the industry called a 'click dummy') can do three very useful things:

  1. It can work out your ideas in detail. It is guaranteed that with a prototype you will find issues and opportunities that were not obvious on paper, or in your head.
  2. Proof that it is capable of what you want it to do. It communicates the product more clearly to your investors, customers, or simply you and your colleagues.
  3. Most importantly, a prototype helps you test software without spending time and money on programming it. Most UX/UI designers use click dummies to test how convenient and familiar the interface is to the potential user (usability).

A prototype allows us to fix the design quickly, test it again, and correct it some more. We do this because catching design mistakes after the developers finished programming is very expensive.

The mock-ups can range from pen and paper sketches to complete designs of the interfaces. The one you choose depends on what your goal:

  • Sketches are great at communicating the idea to your team, but will leave potential investors unimpressed.
  • High fidelity, finished designs could be useful for testing the experience of the product.
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