What Is a Prototype?

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Find out what a prototype is, how it can save you time, money, and resources through feedback, and other benefits of prototypes.

[Featured image] A UX designer in an orange long-sleeve T-shirt works on a prototype on his desktop computer.

A prototype is a model of a proposed product. It transforms the original concept into physical or digital form. It acts as a small-scale example of your product to ensure it is feasible, and it also allows you to make required tweaks to ensure the product is viable before investing more time and resources into it. 

A prototype is also a great tool for feedback from potential users, which helps designers make changes and fix any manufacturing and development issues before moving forward in the product creation process. 

3 benefits of a successful prototype

A prototype is a sample rather than a complete product ready for trials. It can be as simple as a quick design or parts of a product created with the purpose of early-stage testing. Consider these three key benefits when creating a prototype. 

1. It saves resources.

It is less expensive if you discover flaws early in the process as opposed to when development begins, so creating a prototype can save costs as the project progresses to more expensive stages. You can even discover if you should forgo the concept altogether and use what you've learned to move on to something else. A prototype will also help you find out which areas of your product work so you can spend your time and focus your funds on them. Inevitably, there will be changes that need to be made before your product is ready to hit the market and this way, you will be prepared. There is the risk that your prototype won’t work. In this case, you can save time and work by scrapping your original concept and using the data from the unsuccessful attempt to focus on a better solution. Even in this case, the failed prototype can save you time by switching your focus to a different concept.

2. It invites feedback. 

Gaining feedback on your prototype is helpful when it is from potential clients or users, who can greatly enhance the final outcome of your product. When presenting a prototype to your target audience, ask them their thoughts on what works, as well as any areas where they think improvement is necessary. Working with an actual prototype allows users to give immediate feedback. Even if you choose not to implement their critiques, you can gain insight into potential areas of concern to consider.  

3. It attracts investors.

Using the feedback you acquire from potential users can help you attract and build credibility with investors, which is especially important for start-ups. Without seeing actual interest in a product and its ability to deliver, investors may not be able to properly measure your product’s feasibility in the market. With a prototype, investors can see the product’s potential. 

Next steps

Are you interested in learning more about prototypes? A great place to start is by gaining the skills you need to further your career. Check out the Google UX Design Professional Certificate on Coursera, which helps you learn in-demand skills for a career in UX design.

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