28. Make a Prototype

Overview: This task may represent considerable effort. The intent of prototyping is to identify issues and flaws. The components made during this task are working models. Give attention to the main purpose of the change.

A prototype may be created for a new business concept or service, a computer application, new instructional or educational material, a new manufacturing process sequence, or a physical product.

In both marketing and engineering, increasingly, technology that can simulate the look and design of a physical object is becoming more popular. For example, Stanford School of Business has conducted marketing tests comparing the viability of using virtual prototypes to conventional market research methods. MIT’s Sloan School of Management has conducted and published similar studies.

The most common form of prototypes in most businesses today come from the Information Technology (IT) departments in the form of prototype end-user applications, from marketing departments in the form of marketing concepts, new products or brand imagery, and from engineering teams working toward creation of a new product design. Beyond IT, Marketing and Engineering, almost any other function in an organization might find a use for developing and testing a prototype. According to Merriam-Webster, a prototype is “an original model on which something is patterned.” Using this definition, a prototype might even include a spreadsheet with a set of mathematical models that can be tested.

Considerations: Select components carefully. Make examples of major deliverables. Deliverables are usually tangible (can be seen, heard, or touched). Some examples are in final form. Others are a draft. All examples function and convey meaning. A broad prototype represents the entire change (in draft). A deep prototype represents one aspect only (in detail). Balance the breadth and depth of the prototype. Who is prototype developed for? Who has experience with building a prototype similar to the one being envisioned? Who should be involved with testing the prototype? How many variations of the prototype are appropriate?


  • Identify the breadth and depth of the prototype. Review the considerations listed with this task.
  • Examine design documentation associated with the change.
  • Make a work plan when requiring more than 10 full-time equivalent workdays.
  • Get representation from stakeholder groups. Let them critique the examples throughout the development process.
  • Develop each component of the prototype to the appropriate level of detail.
  • Document major differences or gaps between the prototype developed and the end-product or end-result likely to be developed at a later stage.

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