Prototyping is a critical aspect of all product development, online or physical products. The types of prototypes vary according to whether the task is repairing a bad user experience, enhancing a good user experience or developing a completely new product. Some prototyping methods are only used for online systems and some are only used for physical products.
Prototypes play a fundamental role in iterative Usability Testing. Some of the different types of prototypes are as follows:
Paper Prototype: A 'pretend' prototype of a new product using pen (or pencil) and paper.
Rapid Prototype: A prototype of a new product or features with partial and/or simulated functionality. Microsoft PowerPoint is often used for rapid prototyping, as many users are familiar with how to use it.
Physical Prototype: When the product is a device, physical models of new products or features is more effective than Paper Prototyping or Rapid Prototyping. Often, modeling clay and/or foam or wooden blocks are used for initial physical prototypes.
Physical prototypes should ultimately evolve into artifacts that look convincingly real. This often requires the skills of a professional model-builder
Blank Model Prototyping: Similar to drawing the experience but with physical models instead of drawings. The physical models are often made with foam or wooden blocks, on which research participants draw controls.
'Wire Frame' Prototype: A simplified working model of a product, with apparent functionality
High-Fidelity Prototype: A prototype that looks and acts enough like an actual product that it can be submitted to unfacilitated usability testing
Working Models: A prototype that looks and acts enough like an actual web site that it can be submitted to unfacilitated usability testing.