Bwere, Daniel E.

A prototype is a draft version of a product that allows you to explore your ideas and show the intention behind a feature or the overall design concept to users before investing time and money into development.[1]

Prototyping is the fourth phase in the design cycle that lets the design team develop quick practical concepts about their brainstormed ideas for testing before resources can be spent in developing the final product.

“They slow us down to speed us up. By taking the time to prototype  our ideas, we avoid costly mistakes such as becoming too complex too early and sticking with a weak idea for too long.

— Tim Brown, CEO & President of IDEO

Types of prototypes:

Prototypes can be classified into the following:

  • Proofs-of-Concept (PoC’s)
  • Functional Prototypes
  • Visual Prototypes

A Proof of Concept (POC) is a small exercise to test the design idea or assumption. It verifies a certain concept or theory that can be achieved in the development of a product.[2]

A Functional prototype is a sample or model of a product built to test a concept or process or to act as a visual prop to be replicated, improved, and learned from.[3] They usually try to show the functionalities of the product i.e. how it will work.

Visual prototyping serves to provide a visual product impact instead of an individual imagined view.[4]


Why prototype?

  1. Prototyping saves costs in backward development when one creates a complex prototype that may contain unnecessary features.
  2. It enables testing of a product’s features, thus enabling proof of concepts before final products.
  3. It provides a sense of ownership to all concerned stakeholders—therefore fostering emotional investment in the product’s ultimate success.[5]


Fig 1: the 1-10-100 Rule

Prototyping can be done in mostly two levels: low-fidelity and high-fidelity prototyping

A low-fidelity prototype is a quick and easy tangible representation of a concept, a use flow, or an information structure created for getting quick feedback and improving the product.[6]

The “high” in high-fidelity refers to the level of comprehensiveness that allows you to examine usability questions in detail and make conclusions about user behavior.[7]

As part of the design cycle, the use of prototyping is of great need because it helps avoid the creation of inappropriate technology.



  1. Prototyping
  2. What is the difference between the Proof of Concept and Prototype?
  3. What Is A Functional Prototype
  4. What Is A Visual Prototype
  5. Prototyping
  6. Accenture Interactive Amsterdam (Feb 26, 2016), Low-fi prototyping: What, Why and How?
  7. Eleonora Ibragimova (Dec 28, 2016). High-fidelity prototyping: What, When, Why and How?
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