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Prototype Development

The goal of prototyping based development is to counter the first two limitations of the waterfall model discussed earlier. The basic idea here is that instead of freezing the requirements before a design or coding can proceed, a throwaway prototype is built to understand the requirements. This prototype is developed based on the currently known requirements. Development of the prototype obviously undergoes design, coding and testing. But each of these phases is not done very formally or thoroughly. By using this prototype, the client can get an “actual feel” of the system, since the interactions with prototype can enable the client to better understand the requirements of the desired system.

Prototyping is an attractive idea for complicated and large systems for which there is no manual process or existing system to help determining the requirements. In such situations letting the client “plan” with the prototype provides invaluable and intangible inputs which helps in determining the requirements for the system. It is also an effective method to demonstrate the feasibility of a certain approach. This might be needed for novel systems where it is not clear that constraints can be met or that algorithms can be developed to implement the requirements. The process model of the prototyping approach is shown in the figure below.

Prototyping Model
Prototyping Model

The basic reason for little common use of prototyping is the cost involved in this built-it-twice approach. However, some argue that prototyping need not be very costly and can actually reduce the overall development cost. The prototype are usually not complete systems and many of the details are not built in the prototype. The goal is to provide a system with overall functionality. In addition, the cost of testing and writing detailed documents are reduced. These factors helps to reduce the cost of developing the prototype. On the other hand, the experience of developing the prototype will very useful for developers when developing the final system. This experience helps to reduce the cost of development of the final system and results in a more reliable and better designed system.


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