Software Prototyping Process in 2024: What to Expect?

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Software development is a complex process that can invite risks that have to be promptly managed or prevented. There are multiple activities and stages that precede the actual coding, and software prototyping is one of them.

It is a vital step for finalizing the vision of the product, assembling the information gathered previously regarding the user experience, user interface, stakeholder requirements, and much more. Competition and striving for greater efficiency disrupt the industry and challenge custom software development companies to optimize and improve their process.

Why is prototyping important in software development?

Depending on the scale and purpose of the product, software prototyping can offer a set of valuable benefits that emphasize its importance and result in high ROI.

Established Product Vision

While there is a consensus in describing a software prototype as a purely visual deliverable, it also over much more value in representing a defined vision of the product, including:

  • Defined and visualized business logic
  • Tested and validated user flows
  • Tangible visualization of project requirements
  • Consistent and detailed functional decomposition

Based on the nature of the product, the software prototype can also cover aspects such as visualizing compliance with required standards and more.

Budget Planning & Management

Clarity and cost-effectiveness are the focal points since software prototype can offer transparency when it comes to the expected product scope. Functional decomposition allows for detailed estimates and, as a result, a spending plan that can be realistically followed throughout the whole development process.

Approved product vision and scope help the team and stakeholders stay in sync and spend less money on reworks and refactoring later on. A thoroughly researched and completed prototype is the backbone of a development process that moves along with minimal risk of complications and last-minute changes.

Market Entry, Traction & Promotion

Software prototype is the closest you’ll get to the look and feel of the product before spending money on development. Our clients often use it to pursue their marketing objectives, boost their pitch strengths, and more, mainly due to these factors:

  • Software prototype allows quick and simple product demonstrations to investors, stakeholders, and potential clients
  • Software prototype helps gauge the mood of the target audience through feedback gathering, allowing the project to determine whether people will use the product long before launch.
  • Full visual representation allows for the timely preparation of all marketing materials.
  • Detailed functional decomposition allows to plan the release dates for each version and build a proper marketing strategy based on that.

What are the purposes of a software prototype?

As with anything within software development, every process and deliverable is strictly based on the needs of a particular project and the business that pursues it. Software prototype is a versatile tool that can include a varying level of detail and scope, according to the specifics of the project.

There are multiple factors that come into play, with the main ones being:

  • The size of the business (startup, SME, enterprise, etc.)
  • Budget restrictions
  • Time restrictions
  • Goals and purposes of the project
  • Required accuracy of estimations

Based on these criteria, among many other, software prototyping can be both an affordable quick process to get funding from investors and profound research with precise estimates and a development-ready prototype as the final deliverable.

Customer Journey Map Example
Customer Journey Map Example

What do you do during software prototyping?

The activities list can vary a lot based on the product, its niche, the business goal one is pursuing, and much more. However, as custom software developers since 2007, we’ve managed to provide software prototyping services for many clients from different niches. Based on that knowledge and expertise, we’ll try and consolidate all the data in one concise list.


The inception of the project. This is where the stakeholders are identified, and the process begins to identify the challenge, potential solutions, rough outlines of the requirements, and more.

Deliverables at this stage vary based on the complexity of the project, but one should expect a healthy number of flowcharts, solution maps, task-flows, etc.

Requirements Gathering

Both functional and non-functional requirements play a crucial role in scope assessment and corresponding planning for each consecutive step in software development. This stage is dedicated to collecting and documenting them.

The deliverables from this stage are presented in the form of Use Cases, User Stories, etc. Each of these deliverables can and will be used by both the development team and the stakeholders to track the progress and alignment with the original goals, as well as a reference point in the future stages, including software prototyping.

User Experience Design (UX)

The core of this stage revolves around user flows – detailed steps that depict the path that users take from the entry point to the end of the interaction. Based on the complexity of the project and the goals set before this stage, the process might include only the main success flows. However, UX design can also include Alternate and Exception flows to include unusual scenarios to predict problems the users might encounter while interacting with the software.

This step sets the stage for UI design and helps to streamline the development more, as well as reducing risks and the need for change and maintenance in the future.

UI Prototyping

This step results in a high-fidelity wireframe, or a mockup, which acts as a static visualization of the product. The stakeholders can see the preliminary look of the software, as their customers would see it and adjust early on when necessary.

Hi-fi wireframes also serve as building blocks for the Clickable Software Prototype and as guidelines for the developers during the coding stage.

You might also like: Low Fidelity vs. High Fidelity: See How Wireframes Benefit Your Product

High Fidelity Wireframe in a Software Prototype
High Fidelity Wireframe in a Software Prototype

Clickable Software Prototype

An interactive experience of using the product that is the closest to the final version on release. It combines the data and deliverables acquired during the previous stages. An optimal tool for testing and improving the product with the help of:

  • Usability testing
  • User feedback
  • Technical validation

As mentioned before, an interactive software prototype is a great tool to pitch the product to potential investors as well, generating interest, promoting value, and attracting funding.

Technical Validation

Software prototype is also a powerful tool for preliminary technical validation, which ensures that the user flows are built correctly, the widgets are complete, and the software can be designed and coded as intended without major setbacks during development.

If, during this process, some inaccuracies are found, the team can get on it quickly and produce a revised version, which would take much less time and cost much less money than the identical activity performed during the actual coding.

Usability Testing

A software prototype can act as a tool for evaluating the software, getting feedback from focus groups that consist of real users, and highlighting the areas of improvement early on.

We have made a piece on gathering and utilizing feedback properly. If done correctly, it can immensely help set up the project for the initial success within the target audience.

Software Design

Designing Software Architecture, planning the usage of third-party services, microservices, and more to ensure the required capabilities within the software.

This stage is important to meet the required performance standards, be simple enough to implement, showcase uniformity, be structured in a way to accommodate change and scaling, and be protected from unexpected circumstances, like rapid increase of user requests, meeting security standards, and much more. This is where the technical core of the solution is drafted, validated, and polished to the point where it can be put to life and serve as the basis for smooth development.

Budget & Timeline Definition

This step takes all the collected information and designed deliverables into account to present the most accurate projections about:

  • Required functionality (detailed decomposition)
  • Estimated time to complete
  • Estimated budget
  • Number of professionals to include in the development team
  • Setting the priorities, stages, and other milestones

The more time and effort the team spends on ensuring each step in this process is done correctly, the more accurate these predictions and estimations will be.

It is important to note that based on the available funding, time restrictions, and other factors, the client may need to sacrifice something from the “Cheap, Fast, Quality” trio, as it is nearly impossible to get all three simultaneously.

Startups often prioritize speed and low costs to get the attention of investors as soon as possible, while large enterprises prefer a well-polished software prototype, other deliverables, and precise calculations and projections. This is essentially a timeless triage that is effective if performed strictly according to the limitations and capabilities of the business in question and its priorities.

What are the pitfalls of software prototyping?

The complexity of the process often invites risks from different areas, and it is important to stay informed about those hidden issues, especially if software prototyping is something your company has never or rarely done before.

The process is highly adaptable to the client’s business model and requirements, therefore, the risks can be widely diverse as well. However, we can discern several key mistakes that can be prevalent regardless of the business size or objectives. Those are:

Tunnel vision. Often, stakeholders can be overly attentive to just one part of the project, aiming to perfect only a certain aspect of the designed product. This inevitably creates situations where other, more obscure parts of the software will be under-researched and invite risks in later stages, costing more money and time in the long term.

Spending too much or too little time. Rushing through software prototyping often results in missed opportunities to improve or overlooked areas to fix. While the client gets visually appealing deliverables rather quickly, it is imperative to spend more time on validating everything created before to avoid unnecessary problems during development.

Focusing on the prototyping for too long can cause unnecessary budget inflation, missing the window of opportunity, reinventing the bicycle in some cases, and more. Chasing perfection can harm the product’s chances on the market because users don’t look for perfection – they look for things that solve their problems.

No market and user research. Straight from the previous mistake, this one is also critical. Making sure that the potential users have seen your drafts and given you feedback is key. You are making this product for them and people like them. It is important to make sure that your ideas will be met warmly and that your product has a fighting chance in the ever-evolving market.

Shifting focus to UI only. User interface is the factor that connects the user to what’s happening “under the hood” of the software. Therefore, it is vital to make sure that the user flows are polished and that the business logic is aligned with the functional requirements. Minimal cognitive load and intuitive pathfinding within the software are achieved by addressing a large number of aspects, which User Interface is only a part of.

The Takeaway

Software prototyping process is riddled with complexity and hidden risks that may not always be visible from the start. But at the same time, it is also an amazing opportunity to explore, research, and prepare enough data and deliverables to make the development much smoother.

Prototyping in software development can serve many purposes for different businesses, from startups to large multi-national corporations. It can include just the bare bones essential items and also be the foundation of a detailed and precise estimate of how the product should look, for how long it should be developed, and how much it should cost.

Each year something new is added to the mix, but the general process remains largely the same – research what you can, fix all the mistakes you can find, and eliminate all the risks you can see. Diving into software prototyping in 2024 can seem a bit daunting, but if you’re willing to make this chance count, make sure you contact us so we can support you and guide you through the process using all our expertise accumulated diligently since 2007.