Prototyping: Small versus Large Projects
IS 6840 - Vicki Sauter
By: Brad Boutaugh

Main - Prototype Elements - Small vs. Large Projects - Main Highlights - Works Cited

Prototyping: Then and Now

A prototype is a tool, and like every tool it carries its own function. However, whereas a typical tool’s function is specific, a prototype is a versatile entity capable of destroying conceptual barriers that derail systems development and open pathways of communication to all stakeholders involved in that development.  With that in consideration, prototypes come in different forms which are then utilized in different ways.  How this proverbial Swiss-army knife is implemented among various sized projects is largely dependent on aspects parallel to those denominations of workforce and budget dollars rather than simply size itself.  In other words, the function and complexity that works as a progenitor to the size of the project will be of more effect to the nature of the prototyping process than the actual elements used.  

Prototyping has long been used within various groups and organizations. What has changed over the years has not necessarily been an increase in the occurrences of prototyping but the manner to which it has been approached.  Long used in an inadvertent and unplanned manner, prototyping is now a more deliberate process within organizations as its capacity to reveal uncertainty in design specifications, better interpret user requirements, and design innovation warrants a now solidly managed execution of its implementation.  By its very experimental nature, it requires in-depth management to procure success. [9][[21]

As methods of prototyping begin to coalesce into concrete terms of the industry, the differences between them as they are adapted among various sized projects begin to be understood.  Indeed the very definition of a prototype is in debate as there is not one meaning of the term shared by all organizations. As well is how it is defined within the confines of systems analysis as applied to information systems. One such definition for information systems prototyping goes as: “An early version of a system that exhibits the essential features of the later operational system.” [21] Such a simple interpretation of the prototyping process does not reflect prototyping as a communication tool as well as a design template.

Does the prototype merely determine the conceptual via low fidelity or the fine-grained via high fidelity? Does it grow and develop as a forerunner to the final product via evolutionary methodology or does it merely serve as one of many support pillars knocked down to give way to the product’s launch via the throwaway technique? Is it primarily focused on user interaction per horizontal orientation or does it serve the designer per a vertical orientation of the prototype? The answers to these questions ultimately vary with the product elements associated with the size of the project.



[9] Davis, Alan M. “Operational Prototyping: A New Development Approach.” IEEE Software (1992): 70-78. Print.

[21] Alavi, Maryam. 1984. “An assessment of the prototyping approach to information systems development.” Communications of the ACM. ACM 27.6 (June 1984): 556-563. DOI=10.1145/358080.358095 <>