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The Beginner’s Guide to UX Prototyping →
Prototyping, as a concept, has been around since before the Internet.
Typically, people developing a new physical product would first build the thing, and make sure that it worked as intended. The first version would be patented, perhaps, and shown to potential investors.
If the inventor had access to their own means of manufacture (if they worked in an existing company, for example), they’d just go right ahead and work out the bugs until they had a production-ready model.
Remember those old demo disks? You know, the ones that came with programs with limited functionality, or the first level or two in a game? Prototypes are a lot like those demos, only even simpler.
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