Prototyping in software development entails the making of a model in advance to exhibit the key features of the ultimate product and used as a specimen for ensuing development. Though prototyping is not a novel thing, it has previously been a preserve of product development as opposed to software development. In the perspective of software creation, prototyping is a replica of what actual process of software development. As such, software element such as graphical user interface, software responsiveness, navigation, and content should be incorporated into the model. As a tool in software development, prototyping helps to raise and answer queries regarding the software to be developed. It responds to issues like will the software work properly, is it economically feasible to develop the software, will the user embrace the software, will it solve the identified problem and many others (Arnowitz, Arent, & Berger, 2010). The present essay concentrates on demonstrating the four phases of prototyping protocol. They include the Plan Selection, Specification, Design and Appraisal phases
Phase I: Plan Selection
Like in the actual software development, planning is essential in prototyping as it entails a provision of a breakdown of the steps that guide the prototyping process. Phase I helps in developing this plan. In large software developments, this phase makes it necessary to have a project manager and even stakeholders involved. A meeting of these individuals and managers helps in determining the software requirements. Some of the key guidelines include; who is the intended user? What manual is appropriate? What are the software inputs? And what is the outcome is expected? These set of queries helps to guide requirement gathering. However, the requirements are refined to establish their validity. The plan first phase in prototyping and entails the determination of the prototyping requirements and development of the plan. It called functional because it involves selection of the functions the said software will exhibit (Budde et al., 2012). Summarily, this step comprises of three steps. The first is the verification of prototyping requirements. The next step is the generation of the task flow, which entail a flow of how the user will navigate through the software’s interface (Budde et al., 2012). However, a sketch of the task flow is not static but scalable and evolves as the process continues. The last part of this phase is the specification of the reliability levels (Arnowitz, Arent, & Berger, 2010).
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Phase II: Specification
Upon the valid requirements obtained in the previous Phase, this phase commences by making a list of specifications that will guide the project. Forms the second phase, it covers and leans on the decisions reached in the first phase (Arnowitz, Arent, & Berger, 2010). It commences with the defining the prototype characteristics and terminates after the selection of an appropriate prototyping tool. For instance, if it’s Android application, the tool can either be coding or at time drag-and-drop. The phase starts by selecting the suitable prototyping features which include reliability, efficiency, audience type, speed and responsiveness of the software (Budde et al., 2012, p.4). The next two steps of this phase entail the selection of the prototyping method and prototyping tool. The method and tool chosen should be such that minimal effort is spent in the prototyping (Budde et al., 2012).
Phase III: Design/Construction
The starting point of this phase is the validation of the design criteria. Personally, I will start by determining the highest priority areas of the software interface, key sections of the software GUI, software display layout and the elements in each section. To sum up, any designer will also specify every screen interface, develop the interaction flow, and other GUI elements based on design rationale. Having specified the method and techniques of prototyping, Phase three focuses on the actual development of the prototype. The phase provides good design attributes which include the software meeting the aesthetic value and provision of an easy to navigate user graphic-interface (Arnowitz, Arent, & Berger, 2010). The phase provides a guide on how to make prototyping decisions and implement them. It involves two steps, the formulation of the design criteria and the creation of the prototype. Each software developer has the unique sensibility of what software will entail, appropriately developed criteria should provide relevant combined guidelines that capture graphic and information design as well as cognitive psychology (Budde et al., 2012). Finally, the prototype should be made based on the above procedures.
Phase IV: Prototype Appraisal
The 4 th phase is simple a review of the model software agaisnt the requirements and specifications made earlier. The review may be internal, that is within the software-making team or external audit which is the involvement of an external consultant or speciality in the area to review the model. For the internal appraissal, feedback from the stakeholders, simulated users and any person involved in the design should be consindered. An appraisal of the model is the last step in prototyping and entails a review and validation of the software model designed. However, due to the changing demands of software development, different prototypes demand unique appraisal tools that are specifically tailored to a particular phase in the prototyping process. Another action in this phase is the validation of the model regarding usability. Validation is achieved through the response by the users regarding their feeling for the software. When invoked in prototyping, particularly at the design phase, validation that involves auditing usability through focus groups, the software-making team can realize the outcome of the effort spent. The value of progressive refinement is also revealed. Phase IV is considered as a decisive step as it offers feedback regarding what has been done and acts as an impetus for further software development (Budde et al., 2012). As such enough resources should be set for the appraisal step for the training and evaluation steps
Conclusively, based on my personal assessment, prototyping is not just about the mention of the phases but what the phases contain. It is apparent that not all element of the actual product (software in our case) are included in the prototype, but those utilized are a just a replica of the actual design. The most important feature of the prototyping process is the ability to answer design concerns regarding the prototype’s economic feasibility, audience receivership, and stakeholders’ feedback regarding the project. As such, each step is important since a preceding one beckons on the result of the earlier phase. The last step which the appraisal helps to demonstrate the merit of prototyping. As a tool in the designing software, prototyping addresses concerns on the feasibility, acceptance, and further prospects of whichever software intended to be developed.
Arnowitz, J., Arent, M., & Berger, N. (2010). Effective prototyping for software makers . Elsevier.
Budde, R., Kuhlenkamp, K., Mathiassen, L., & Züllighoven, H. (Eds.). (2012). Approaches to Prototyping: Proceedings of the Working Conference on Prototyping, October 25-28, 1983, Namur, Belgium . Springer Science & Business Media.