Prototyping is not always coding

Published on 
2 min, 268 words

Categories: misc

Part of my current role is prototyping new features and algorithms to determine if and how they will work. It's nice to do some hands on coding still.

However, it is easy to think that prototyping always involves writing code when you work in technology. IDEOU have a nice simple definition of a prototype that emphasises this:

A prototype is anything that gets the idea in your head into an artifact people can experience and offer feedback on.

I really like this definition as it focusses on the experience and the feedback - not on the solution.

The original Palm Pilot handheld organiser started off as a wooden prototype so Jeff Hawkins could try the form factor and usage before investing in building something more complex and expensive.

His solution was to carve a block of wood to match the intended size of the device, whittle down a chopstick to make a stylus, and use paper sleeves to simulate various user screens and functionality. He carried the block of wood in his pocket for several weeks and pretended that it was a functional device in order to get insights into how he would use it. If someone asked for a meeting, for example, he’d pull out his wooden block and tap on it to simulate checking his calendar and scheduling a meeting reminder.

Sometimes it can be a quick low-tech prototype that can get the best results.


Prototype Definition - Steve Neiderhauser

The Palm Pilot Story