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September 12, 2016updated 10 Jan 2017 12:49pm

What is a Prototype?

Learn all about a prototype model.

By Hannah Williams

A prototype is an initial or early model of a product or information system. It is usually built for demonstration purposes or as part of the development process.

Prototypes are used to test the design, functionality and capabilities of a new product, usually before being manufactured and sold to the mass market. It is most commonly used in areas such as  semantics, design, electronics and software programming.

There are many different kinds of prototypes from Proof-of-Principle Prototypes to User Experience Prototypes. Specific prototypes test and explore different aspects of intended design and functionality. For example, a Visual Prototype only tests the size and appearance of a product or device, not the functionality.

Want to know when the first prototype was invented? See next page.

In programming based specifically on prototypes, a prototype is seen as an original object, whereby new objects are created by copying the prototype.

Hardware design however, has the prototype model built by hand, which represents a manufactured product sufficiently for designers to visualise and test the design accurately.

A website prototype also, is a selection of interactive demos of a website.

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