What Are the Best Tips for Making a Prototype Application?

Eugene P.

There are many methods that can be used to create a prototype application, although a few tips can help to make the general process easier. One of the most important aspects involved in making a prototype application is to maintain focus on the fact that the program is only a prototype, no matter which methodology is being followed, because it can be easy to forget and waste time and effort coding elements that might never be used. During the process of prototype development, using all available libraries and rapid development tools can drastically cut down on the amount of time it takes to have a functional application. In some situations, it can be more effective to create a prototype within another program, such as a spreadsheet with scripting abilities, so the main features and design of an interface or system can be displayed without have to build a temporary framework for an actual application.

The testing process for an application involves using several software tools and programming languages to confirm its functionality.
The testing process for an application involves using several software tools and programming languages to confirm its functionality.

A common pitfall that can be encountered during prototype application development and refinement is losing sight of the fact that the program is only a prototype. Classes in a prototype do not need to be extendable or generic and, for the most part, the programming can be very casual without optimizations for efficiency, readability or memory usage. In many cases, the prototype will be disposed of when the actual product starts to be coded, so features such as elaborate loaders, support for expanded input, and even error checking are unnecessary. One other aspect is that the prototype application usually will be run under controlled circumstances, so dynamic layouts for different screen sizes or resolutions also are not normally necessary.

The prototype application likely will be disposed of or completely rewritten after changes and approvals are made by a client, so using tools that help speed development are a way to rapidly develop an application. These can include libraries with high-level functions for graphical user interface (GUI) elements and even high-level visual languages that allow elements to be inserted with only a few lines of code. Low-level programming, even if that is what the final application will use, should be avoided because of the large amount of programming and design overhead required for some otherwise simple tasks.

Some specific tools that can help with prototype application deployment are GUI builders that are visually based, automatic code generators, and even existing prototype programs for more complex entities such as a standard query language (SQL) server. In the event that the final application will use elements that are mostly non-visual and do not involve a large amount of user interaction, using a program such as a presentation or slide designer, a spreadsheet program or even just a paper mock-up of the application can be suitable. Using tools that require very little coding and planning for prototype application development helps to quickly make changes when requested and can shorten the amount of time spent in the prototype development phase.

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