Software prototyping

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Many of us (TAs/PMs and students) struggle with the concept of testing software or just how to prototype software. It is less concrete than physical prototyping and is harder to wrap your head around. You might say that you can’t test or can’t prototype something because it is software...think again!

We’ll compare it to a typical mechanical design cycle (not considering client involvement):

Design step Mechanical Software
Conceptual designs Hand/computer drawn sketches Hand/computer drawn sketches
Preliminary design Rough CAD assemblies Wireframe designs/flowchart
Detailed design Fully defined CAD High fidelity mockup/Initial coded software
Simulation/testing CAD force/fluid simulations UX simulation
Prototype 1 Manufactured part(s) Functional coded software
Refined testing Testing under load against metrics Sub functions to test behavior of specific features against metrics

In our GNG1103/2101 classes the cycle looks a little differently where you might have:

Design step Mechanical Software
Conceptual designs Hand drawn sketches Hand drawn sketches
Detailed design Detailed sketches of sub-assemblies with some analysis Wireframe designs/flowchart
Prototype 1 Cardboard prototype High fidelity mockup/Initial coded software
Simulation/testing Functional testing of prototype against metrics UX simulation against metrics
Prototype 2/3 Assembled and functional prototype Functional software

Here are some metrics that might be useful for you


When working in a team you will definitely want to share your files to work on things together. In mechanical GrabCad Workbench is a popular tool but in software GitHub is definitely an industry standard.

Here is an introduction to GitHub


Here is a list of tools for UI and UX prototyping that could be useful and are very easy to use: (Figma, Balsamiq and Adobe XD are suggested which are free or free for students). is also useful for flowcharts.

Ensure that when you design your UI for clients having accessibility needs, you take into considerations the colours you use.

Here is a list of platforms that require minimal coding experience to use:

Here is a list of useful websites with code syntax and libraries which can help you get started:

  • W3 Schools (HTML, CSS, JavaScript, SQL, PHP and more!)

Here is a list of other platforms for building apps or websites which you would need more coding experience to use:

Apple development

It is more complicated to develop apps for iPhone or Mac then for Android or Windows. You can get an Apple developer account which allows you to publish to the Apple store or to Test Flight however it costs 99$ USD/year. Publishing to these platforms also entails rigorous testing and must abide by Apple's high standards which does not usually make it a very feasible choice for a semester-long project.

It is recommended to make progressive web apps(PWA) when developing for Apple devices. These websites are able to be 'installed' on phones as if they were apps and there is a lot of documentation on it. Here are a few resources to get you started: