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The 4 Different Types of Product Prototypes

Prototypes are about product discovery and coming up with the fastest, cheapest way to test your assumptions.

But when people think of a "prototype," they tend to think of the first type of prototype they experienced.

However, there are actually four distinct types of prototypes, each suited for testing different assumptions.

1. Feasibility Prototypes

  • For prototyping new technology (ex. updated algorithm).
  • Engineer writes just enough code to see if it's feasible.
  • Helps understand technical risk, often related to performance.

2. Low-fidelity User Prototypes

  • Essentially an interactive wireframe (doesn't look real).
  • Created by interactive designers to test the workflow.
  • Simulates process to identify usability issues early.

3. High-fidelity User Prototypes

  • Realistic looking, working simulation.
  • Good for communicating a proposed product to stakeholders.
  • Used in defensive user testing, not to see if they'll like it, but to learn if they won't.

4. Live-data Prototypes

  • Very limited implementation created by developers to actually prove it works.
  • Has access to real data and is sent real live traffic.
  • Hasn't been "productized" (no test automation, SEO, localization, etc).

Summarized by Reforge. Original article by Marty Kagan • Partner @ Silicon Valley Product Group