The Prototyping Model

Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary defines a model as “… a miniature representation of something.” Furthermore, that same dictionary defines a prototype as “an original model on which something is patterned.” Thus, a prototype is a special type of model. According to Martin et al. (2005), prototyping is:

   A systems [development] methodology in which an initial version of a system is built very quickly using fourth generation tools and then is tried out by users, who recommend changes that are the basis for building an improved version. This iterative process is continued until the result is accepted.

Thus, there appear to be a number of various definitions of modeling and prototyping. In this writing, modeling will be viewed as a miniature representation of something, and prototyping will be viewed as a process that consists of the steps involved in the creation of a model of some future system, with the intent to satisfy some business need and to identify the requirements thereof.

Modeling comes in three basic forms: iconic, analog, and mathematical (Anderson et al. 2008). The iconic form consists of a physical model that physically resembles the entity being modeled. An analog model is one that may not physically represent an entity in any physical capacity; however, it will represent an entity in some capacity. For example, a speedometer is a physical model that represents speed though the speedometer does not resemble speed per se (Anderson, et al. 2008). A mathematical model is one in which mathematical symbols or representations model some entity, real world or otherwise.

Though it may span different modeling forms, prototyping (in this writing) will be limited to the intangible world of software development. However, even in the software development environment, physical paper copies may be created of software development screens, for instance. Baily (2005) even makes the case that paper-based prototypes are highly effective in requirements gathering:

   “low-fidelity prototypes appear to be as effective as high-fidelity prototypes at detecting many types of usability issues. Low-fidelity prototypes have an additional advantage in that they can be created quickly and easily, and they do not require advanced computer skills.”

However, Fitzgerald (2007) disagrees with Baily (2005), citing that Citibank used iRise, a high-fidelity prototyping tool, to streamline requirements gathering.

Yet, for the sake of this writing, even tangible paper models will be recognized solely for the intangible concepts therein.