A Complete Guide on Prototype Models in Software Engineering

DevOps & Cloud Engineering
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DevOps & Cloud Engineering

Knowing how to prototype a model in software engineering is highly essential to stand out as a complete developer for anyone working in this field. Today, prototyping has become a pivotal approach to bridge the gap between user expectations and the final product. Facts like user feedback or their involvement in the iterative development of any project all help to make a perfect prototype model, which solves issues like in-between errors, cost management, user interests, etc.


In this post, we will see a detailed and complete guide on prototype models in software engineering. Exploring many different types of prototype models and the steps for a prototype model in software engineering, along with real-world applications.

What is a Prototype Model?

A Prototype Model in software engineering is a step-by-step development process where a preliminary version of the software, also called a Prototype, is created to understand and refine user requirements and resources before the final product. Hence, it includes building an early model, which is a replica of the final product.


The main aim of the prototype model is to gather feedback from the users and to meet their expectations for the final product. During the process, the interest of users may change, and hence, to satisfy the final product, we must make a prototype model to run necessary tests and changes without changing the core code.


Also Read: Waterfall Model in Software Engineering

Steps for a Prototype Model in Software Engineering

Any organisation or company follows their own specific methods for prototyping its models, based on the type of project and requirements. However, in general, we can follow some specific steps that are necessary for prototyping any model, which are mentioned below.


1. Requirement Analysis and Resource Allocation


Initially, once a project is assigned, all the requirements need to be on hand, along with the resource allocation. So that we can quickly implement the initial design for the first user feedback.


Resources like tools, databases, hardware and software requirements, etc., are taken into account. Conducting interviews and surveys for resource allocation helps to quickly initialise the project.


2. Task Management


Task management is one of the very crucial processes because it involves giving priority to the tasks, and the tasks that need to be done first will have the highest priority. Moreover, all the tasks need to be divided among different teams. For example, developers handle the development part, client interviews and feedback, resource, and data handling team, designing team, etc.


3. Quick Design Implementation


After allocating all the resources and dividing tasks, a quick simpler design is made and tested for some small implications for the initial run. The initial design does not hold all the complex parts of the project but an overall interface.


4. Building the foundation


Here, the prototype model is created with the help of all running functions (not up to the full extent) but with all the designs implicated. It involves coding the basic functionalities, demonstrating key features, and real-time user interactions.


5. User Evaluation


This prototype model in the above step can be used to evaluate and gather feedback from the customer, including deleting or adding any new feature, design changes, colour and animation suggestions, usability tests, etc., forming a complete list of modifications and enhancements to be made.


6. Refinement and fine-tuning


The list of modifications is used to change all the required things suggested by the stakeholders. It also adds new features that increase the efficiency and overall productivity of the software model.

7. Final Implementation


This includes the development of the final software model version which is derived from the prototype model, and all the characteristics, information, and structure are inherited from the prototype model.


8. System Testing and Validation


Running all the final tests on the final version of the software and validating the real data clarifies all the necessary changes. Once the testing is done, the software is ready for release and to be installed on any device for usage by the users.


Also read: Software Development Life Cycle

Types of Prototyping Models


  1. Throwaway or Rapid Prototyping: This method involves a quick and simple method to understand all users’ requirements. Non-used suggestions are discarded.
  2. Evolutionary Prototyping: This includes building a prototype model and then continuously refining it as the user suggests, which is suitable for projects where requirements are not fixed and can change over the course of time.
  3. Incremental Prototyping: Sometimes, developing more than one prototype in a single project helps to get a better idea and comparison view for the stakeholders. Hence, this process involves the formation of multiple small prototypes of different parts of the system and then integration with all the accepted changes to make a final prototype model.
  4. Extreme Prototyping: This is generally used in web development projects, where there is a need to develop static HTML pages, coding functional services, and integration of both, along with design changes. This prototyping is rapid and involves frequent updates.
DevOps & Cloud Engineering
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DevOps & Cloud Engineering

Pros and Cons of Prototyping Model


Advantages of Prototyping Model


There are many advantages of using a prototype model before making the final product, like:


  • Improved User Involvement
  • Better Requirement Testing
  • Better Resource Allocation
  • Early Detection of Problems
  • Enhanced Flexibility and communication
  • Proper Risk Management
  • Incremental Development
  • Reduced Development Time

Disadvantages of the Prototyping Model


There are some cons of using the prototyping model that can hinder some kinds of projects:


  • Potential for Scope Delay
  • Increased Cost
  • Misunderstanding a prototype as the final product
  • Inaccurate or incomplete specifications
  • Over-reliance on User Feedback
  • Inconsistent Quality
  • Developing Temporary Answers Instead of Permanent Solutions to Errors
  • Complex Management


In conclusion, prototyping is a dynamic user-centric approach that gains numerous advantages and avoids the final product failure. Creating early versions for incremental growth is very necessary to obtain a final product. Many times, any software does not hold its final version, as many of them require periodic updation with the changing technology and number of users. Overall, the prototype model is a valuable strategy for projects that can benefit from high user involvement and iterative refinement.

The iterative nature of the Prototype Model allows for continuous adjustments and refinements, accommodating changing user requirements throughout the development process.
Prototyping tools facilitate quick design iterations, visual representation of ideas, and easy modifications, enhancing communication and efficiency in the development process.
Stakeholders provide critical feedback during the iterative process, helping to refine requirements and ensure the final product meets their needs.
Throwaway prototyping is ideal for projects with unclear initial requirements, allowing for quick feedback and early requirement clarification before final development.
User evaluation provides essential feedback, identifying usability issues and necessary improvements, ensuring the final product aligns with user needs and expectations.
Evolutionary prototyping allows for continuous improvement, better user feedback integration, and the development of a robust final product through iterative refinements.
The iterative process can be resource-intensive, requiring multiple revisions and updates, which may increase overall development costs.
Clear project objectives, effective change management, and regular stakeholder communication can help control scope creep in the Prototype Model.
By iteratively refining the prototype based on user feedback, the Prototype Model ensures that the final specifications are accurate and comprehensive.
Misunderstandings can lead to unrealistic expectations and dissatisfaction if stakeholders perceive the prototype as the final product.

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