After coming up with an idea, working through the plan, and realising that you have something with huge potential, it's always a good idea to create a prototype. A prototype is a working model of your idea, which has basic functionality; just enough to showcase the potential of the complete design.
In software engineering, where an invention doesn't take long before another precedes it, it's good to move fast on an idea before someone else does. Before releasing the entire project for public or commercial use, it's best to create a prototype, here's some good reasons why:
Building your prototype is your first opportunity to validate your idea in real life. You can send your prototype to potential customers, stakeholders and friends to get real feedback in a very short space of time. It's much cheaper to weed out problems with your idea when you've only spent a couple of days on a prototype - instead of a couple of months building the real thing. As prototypes are quick and cheap to create, they're also quick to change and iterate upon - get it right in the prototype and save your engineering team weeks of pain down the line.
To Showcase to Potential Investors
While some investors might be drawn into investing in an idea, some are skeptical and would require seeing how the product works before putting their money into the project. Since a prototype is a nearly complete product, investors get to see how the product functions and assess whether it's worth investing in. It's the easiest way of presenting the idea to interested parties.
To Estimate the Total Time and Cost of the Project
It can be hard to estimate how much a product will cost to develop to its full completion. A prototype helps to estimate the cost by clarifying exactly which features are in scope and which are not, and how certain features will function once fully developed.
To Identify the Unnecessary Elements
It's common for software engineers to include elements in the software that might end up being redundant to the entire project. A prototype helps to identify these elements and whether removing them will cause any damage to the complete project. As a result, the prototype helps to bring down the total cost and billable hours of creating the entire project.
For a startup that is operating on a budget, prototyping is a way of enticing potential investors who prefer investing in a product they can see rather than an idea. While in an established organisation, prototyping helps to identify the total cost, the time it would take to complete the project, the redundant elements, and how to improve the overall product to make it better.