A prototype is a working model that is functionally equivalent to a component of the product.In many instances the client only has a general view of what is expected from the software product. In such a scenario where there is an absence of detailed information regarding the input to the system, the processing needs and the output requirements, the prototyping model may be employed.
This model reflects an attempt to increase the flexibility of the development process by allowing the client to interact and experiment with a working representation of the product. The developmental process only continues once the client is satisfied with the functioning of the prototype. At that stage the developer determines the specifications of the client’s real needs.
There are many advantages to using prototyping in software development, some tangible some abstract. Reduced time and costs: Prototyping can improve the quality of requirements and specifications provided to developers. Because changes cost exponentially more to implement as they are detected later in development, the early determination of what the user really wants can result in faster and less expensive software.
Improved and increased user involvement: Prototyping requires user involvement and allows them to see and interact with a prototype allowing them to provide better and more complete feedback and specifications. The presence of the prototype being examined by the user prevents many misunderstandings and miscommunications that occur when each side believe the other understands what they said. Since users know the problem domain better than anyone on the development team does, increased interaction can result in final product that has greater tangible and intangible quality. The final product is more likely to satisfy the users desire for look, feel and performance.