Use of Prototype model for Requirement engineering

The concept of prototype model is derived from the famous Prototyping model in Software Engineering. It is a process model which I think is the most natural and productive method of reaching a final product whether it is a software, interface design or even a concrete building. These techniques come in handy while extracting the idea of the expected end product.

If you have watched the Iron Man series like me, you must have observed that “Tony Stark” went through many and many iterations of the Iron Man suit before reaching the resilient and stable robot. That is an interesting prototyping model  example.

Prototyping is to develop a basic structure, sample, model or a working system with the basic functionalities to examine and anticipate the idea of the final complete work product, project or a service. It looks and feels like an actual system but it is not an actual system, though it can be developed to become a complete end product.

So how do we determine the maximum amount of concreteness to differentiate the prototype from the actual product?

The best practice is to include at most the 10-30% of the complete functionality into its prototype to adhere to the core of its essence.

This concept is a much-known concept of design thinking and UX design. Today we will we can use this technique to gather user interface requirements from the clients. We will also learn the basic types of user interface design prototyping.

Types of prototyping:

Based on the complexity, cost, and closeness of  the prototype, it can be categorized into three classes:

Low Fidelity

This is the most commonly used kind of prototype model approach because it requires just a pencil and a page to start with it. You can draw shapes, images boxes or anything you want to just shift the basic idea of the interface onto a paper.  It is also called a paper mockup. Have a look at the following picture which is a mobile screen. It shows all the controls and its names and all the screen arrangement. The navigation it has clarifies that this is going to be an android mobile screen.

prototyping paper mockup

Medium Fidelity

A little higher level and more improved kind of prototype model technique is medium fidelity prototyping. If you do all the paperwork on any dedicated software for the mockup designs, then it becomes a medium fidelity prototype. Look at this prototype for the screen which is same as above. Wireframes, storyboards and grey mockups are included in this type.

medium fidelity prototyping UI prototype model

High Fidelity:

The most mature out of all other stages of the prototyping methodology. Ideally, this is so cleverly designed that if your client uses it, he will not know that it is just like completely designed working wireframes. The design of this level is exactly like the end product, but the functionality is mostly hard coded. At this point, it will become easy to decide that what is required and what is not. Have a look at the final shape:

High fidelity prototyping UI prototype model

So what is the point of making dummies to develop a quality product?

Let me elaborate on the Advantages of Prototyping:

Cuts duration and cost of the project:

As you will have spent so much time on the conceptual clarity and correct requirement gathering, the chances of error will be decreased. The high-level structure of the system will be stable and ready to be built upon.

User-centered approach:

The product will be a quality product only when the client thinks that it is solving his problems. Involvement of the client will build a mutual trust in the future product. Most importantly, this will become an evidence of agreed requirements.

Increases Client’s satisfaction:

The client will recognize your credibility and will be satisfied with your work. This will help you in your branding and business development.

System View:

A living model will make you see every perspective of the system. It will help you see a complete and a bigger picture of the design.

So is there a catch?

Although I do not think there is much worse that can happen but unfortunately there is a downside too.

Unrealistic:

Just because you drew a good cup of tea, might not always mean you can make one too. There can be technical constraints which can affect the design in the development phase.

Misunderstanding of Clients:

The client can often confuse that real from the prototype. They may think that the product is almost ready to use when it is not even started yet.

Higher expectation:

Clients may not accept any important improvements and changes that may occur in the development process. Or they can be changing requirements without accepting the design upgrades.

Overhead Costs:

Though it is an investment towards again, you have to bear the extra expense. This cost should be carefully included and mentioned to the client otherwise this can be a loss. The money it takes will not be spending on the actual product so it can cause cost conflicts.

Some popular tools for UI prototyping are Balsamiq Mockups , Mockplus and Google Draw IO. Then you can implement these models by using further designing tools.

Use this technique because it is easy natural and most of the times most helpful for a professional.

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