Software Development

What to Consider While Prototyping Your Software Solutions?

What to Consider While Prototyping Your Software Solutions?

Is prototyping software solutions worth considering? For sure! Moreover, it is an essential stage towards final mobile app development. This answer is pretty evident as prototyping helps to see how some applications will function and look.

So let's find out more about this matter. In this article, everyone will get an understanding of what a prototype is, backed by an example of a famous Uber app, how a prototype differs from a final product, what programming languages and approaches are best for creating a prototype, and why.

So first, let's clarify what a working app prototype is.

Why Consider Prototyping Your Software Solutions?

A prototype is a working application that can show that the main idea of an app works and solves a particular problem. It can be a set of sketches, a mock-up, a model, a simulation of the final product, or a pixel-perfect prelaunch interface. It is a reflection of your idea put into some physical representation that shows the way the product will look like, what it will do, and how it will function.

Prototyping is an integral part of the design process. It gives room for experimenting with the rough draft of the final product before the production cycle starts. 

Getting early feedback from consumers helps to define strong and weak sides, which enable designers to polish a prototype further to avoid creating inappropriate solutions. This way, all the team works efficiently with a small investment into idea implementation and low risk of its failure improving the final vision and product along the way. 

So the main objective of this stage is to test the product before launch, which, in turn, saves money, time, and energy.

Just imagine that you want to create an Uber-like application. Such an idea is pretty complicated. Its development will roughly take about 500 hours of work. The final app development cost will depend on the hourly rate of the chosen software development team. 

Let's just assume that you select such a standard app developer with a rate of $65-$100 per hour. So it would need around $32,500-$50,000. Though can you be 100% sure that it will be useful and popular among the target audience? That's the moment when people decide to build a prototype.

In the case with the Uber example, the working prototype would be a simple application that allows cub drivers to register their cars. A client would be able to enter the address and make a request. No payment methods, no ratings, no fancy UI, no chat - it's a barebone application with the main idea implemented. Maybe even in a more simplified form. 

In this situation, to develop the prototype would require much less effort and money. The rough estimate of such an app would be 80-160 hours. With this rate, it would cost around $5,200 minimum and $16,000 at its max. Pretty big difference, right?

Creating such a prototype will give you early feedback and help you to define your value proposition with fewer investments. Once the idea is validated and improved, you can go ahead and invest in the mass production of the final product.

What Are the Differences Between a Prototype and an Actual Product?

First of all, the goals of a prototype and an actual product should be figured out. 

The prototype's goal is to test the idea in the real world, to understand if the market requires such a product or not. If the answer is yes - then the actual product is thought through, planned in detail, and goes through the development stage. In other words, the prototyping phase allows understanding that investing money in the idea is worth it.

The actual product is what the end-users will use - be it a web application or a mobile app, or any other software. It's a polished version of the initial idea with advanced functionality. This is the final product that will be appropriately advertised.

So, the significant differences between a prototype and an actual product are:

  1. The prototype is much cheaper but still shows if the main idea is relevant;
  2. The actual product is much more expensive, though it provides advanced functionality;
  3. The prototype is more straightforward and more useful at the beginning stage;
  4. The actual product has a better UX/UI design and is more convenient to use;
  5. Additionally, it has functions that simplify getting the primary benefit even easier.

So it's pretty reasonable to always start the app development from a prototype as it could be installed on the phone or just in the browser to use it and test the main idea.

What Programming Language Is Used to Develop a Prototype?

The first thing that should be remembered about prototyping is that this technique is used to test the main idea of a product with the least effort and money spent. 

The second thing to remember is that different languages are used for various purposes. For instance:

  1. C++ can be used for almost everything
  2. JavaScript - cross-platform Desktop, Mobile, and Web apps
  3. Python - Machine Learning & AI, Web, and Game Development, Data Science & Data Visualization, and Web Scraping Applications
  4. C# or Visual Basic - Desktop, Web Development, Machine Learning, and Mobile
  5. Java - enterprise applications and development for Android.

The third thing to consider is that pure programming language isn't going to help to build a prototype. Something called a framework would work here. The latter would contain much functionality out of the box and would allow building applications much much faster than if someone was to build everything from scratch.

So almost every language could be used for prototyping. The important thing is to find out what kind of application is going to be developed. Is it a mobile application or a desktop one? Is there website development involved? Is Back-end development or anything else required?

Here are a few recommendations while choosing the best technology for a prototype development:

  1. Look at what languages are the simplest and have a big pool of available developers to hire.
  2. Choose among not programming languages but frameworks. Of course, it is essential to select the most suitable programming language, but afterward, pick the framework based on the chosen language. 
  3. Finally, choose JavaScript as the best programming language for prototyping. It is cross-platform and allows building the most common applications such as mobile, desktop, and web ones. There is a repositories pool called NPM. It has almost a million different libraries that can be used for prototyping a particular use case. 

Of course, if necessary to program some hardware, it's better to review different languages such as C or C++. 

Microservices vs. Monolith: Which Architecture Is Best for a Startup Prototype?

There are two approaches in architecture organization for creating a software application: microservices and monolith. Microservices gets more and more popular these days due to its scalability, and agility. Though the monolithic one can not be underestimated as it is still appropriate for many use cases, so, let's review both approaches and their pros and cons.

The Monolithic Approach

Pros:

  1. A single team that requires simpler management;
  2. Easier to test;
  3. Well-suited for small-to-medium size applications;
  4. Faster development cycles;
  5. Easier deployment process;

Cons:

  1. Not suitable for large and complex applications;
  2. Harder to maintain if the application is extensive;
  3. Worse scaling capabilities;

The Microservices Approach

Pros:

  1. Well-suited for large and complex applications;
  2. Each team works on a separate microservice;
  3. Great scaling capabilities;
  4. Each separate microservice is easier to maintain and test;
  5. Less painful stack updates as each microservice can be easily rewritten or updated to a newer version;
  6. Ability to use best-suited tech stack for particular microservices. For instance, it's possible to use .NET Core for training the Neural Network and Node.js for data storage and retrieval;

Cons:

  1. Harder to configure the deployment process;
  2. Developers need additional effort to implement the communication mechanism between microservices;
  3. Maintaining multiple databases for each microservice is much harder;
  4. Testing all microservices at once can be quite challenging;

For startup purposes, it is best to choose the monolithic approach, as it would be enough for a prototype. Additionally, it helps to save a considerable amount of money when adopting this approach. The iteration process would be much faster and easier to maintain.

Final Thoughts

Prototyping is an essential step towards successful product execution. It breathes life into static wireframes and helps to test the whole application idea, check the design and architecture hypothesis, receive so much valued customer feedback, and, finally, see the ultimate result of development before the actual app is produced.

It all allows planning further development stages and making critical decisions to improve the product; therefore, get better business results.

Vasyl Latushko
Vasyl Latushko

Vasyl Latushko is the Tech Lead at Visartech Inc., a software development company that acts as a technology partner for all-sized businesses from small startups to huge enterprises in various industries. He believes in the idea of empowering businesses with innovative technologies to dominate the market and solve business challenges.

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