Prototypes of various forms have been around for as long as we've been applying technology to solve problems. Per the famous Fred Brooks quote, “Plan to throw one away; you will, anyhow.”
While Fred's quote is as relevant today as when it was first published (in 1975!), many things have changed, not the least of which is that the tools and techniques we have for developing prototypes and testing them have progressed dramatically.
That said, I continue to find teams, and even people I would consider thought leaders, that have a very narrow interpretation of what is meant by the term prototype.
When I press people, what I typically find is that they associate the term prototype with the type that they were first exposed to. If the first one you saw was used to test for feasibility, that's what you think of. If the first one you saw was used for usability testing, that's what you think of.
But there are in fact many very different forms of prototypes, each with different characteristics and each suited to testing different things. And, yes, some people get themselves into trouble trying to use the wrong type of prototype for the job at hand.
In this overview, I highlight the major classes of prototypes, and in the chapters that follow, I go into depth on each of them.
These are written by engineers to address technical feasibility risks during product discovery—before ...