DECEMBER 19, 2023
8 min read
It is crucial to understand the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) and Prototype and differentiate between them. These two terms often find their place in the early stages of a project, but they serve distinct purposes and cater to different needs.
In this article, I will explore prototype vs MVP, discuss their types, and what projects benefit from each.
What Is An MVP?
As the name suggests, a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) is a minimum version of a product that includes only its core features. It is fully functional as software and can be used by end-customers, and its primary purpose usually is to propel the product release.
However, MVPs can serve different purposes. Some startups decide to create it, as I suggested above, to deliver value to users while requiring minimal resources. Others create MVPs to attract investors, and some view this version of their product as the final goal of their business’ first step.
MVPs serve as a testing ground to validate ideas, gather feedback, and make informed decisions for future development. They can be as defined and sophisticated as the customer pours the efforts into their creation; however, usually, they have simplified design and exclusively core features.
What Is A Prototype?
A prototype is a preliminary version or a mock-up of a product, system, or concept used for testing, evaluation, and demonstration purposes before it is finalized for production or implementation.
Prototypes are used to get feedback from stakeholders, users, or customers to help gather necessary data for improvements or adjustments before the final version of the software is developed.
They allow designers to test and validate the functionality of a product or system, providing a visual representation of a final product.
Prototypes can vary widely in fidelity, from low-fidelity models that are simple and inexpensive (like paper sketches, basic mock-ups, or a design prototype with simple gray squares instead of complicated blocks) to high-fidelity models that closely resemble the final product (often made with advanced materials and technologies).
The choice between prototype vs MVP depends on the project’s specific goals and stage of development.
Types of Prototypes
There are endless types of prototypes, as each project brings something new to the table. However, I aim to go through a quick overview of all the major options you have as a business owner.
- Low-fidelity prototype. These are basic, simple to the core representations of a product, often in the form of sketches or paper mockups. Usually made in early design stages, they are brilliant for brainstorming and generating new ideas.
- High-Fidelity prototype. High-fidelity prototypes closely resemble the final product in terms of design and interactivity. They can be clickable mockups that provide a more immersive user experience. Different software tools might be needed to create this type of prototype, like Figma or Invision Studio.
- Digital prototypes. Digital prototypes are created using specialized software and tools. They offer a higher level of interactivity and can simulate user interactions with the product. They only exist in digital environments and usually would be preferred by companies that create digital products.
- Physical prototypes. In some industries, like construction or robotics, physical prototypes are essential. These are tangible representations of a product, like a 3D-printed model or a physical mockup, used for testing and validation.
Exploring the Difference Between Prototype and MVP
The main difference between MVP and a prototype is that a prototype delves into the fundamental idea and visual aesthetics; the primary goal of the prototype is to conceptualize and test the foundational elements of the product’s design and appearance. On the other hand, the MVP’s objective is to swiftly bring core value to the market by emphasizing functional aspects.
- Prototype: Tests the fundamental concept and visual appearance.
- MVP: Evaluates the product’s core features and functionality, assuming the basic concept is proven.
- Prototype: Primarily a visual representation with limited functionality.
- MVP: Fully functional, providing a usable albeit basic version of the product.
- Prototype: Can serve as a foundation for MVP design, particularly for validating hypotheses.
- MVP: Represents the next stage after proving the basic concept, focusing on the core value proposition.
In practice, nuances exist. A prototype may be more detailed, while an MVP might retain simplicity. We emphasize functional prototypes at DashDevs, maintaining a particular separation from our MVPs.
|Tests fundamental concept, appearance
|Evaluates core features and functionality
|Visual representation, limited usage
|Fully functional, basic version of the product
|Can inform MVP design, hypothesis testing
|Proceeds after basic concept validation, focuses on core value proposition
|May have more detail in practice
|Emphasizes functionality with a clear distinction from MVPs
Which Projects Need An MVP?
In all truth, I believe every project would benefit from an MVP. Essentially, it boosts time to market and marketing quality, allows you to find an audience before rolling out your product’s first version, or pivot if things go rooked — there are no downsides to it if you do it right.
However, it would be wise to believe that some businesses need MVP more than others.
According to recent research, 90% of startups fail. The most common reason for failure is an inability to reach product-market fit. Low demand, poor market conditions, and limited resources needed to pivot churn up many ideas, making us forget about them or never even learn about them in the first place.
One more great benefit of an MVP solution is that you can start earning money on it by launching it and only polishing it later.
Developing an MVP contributes to testing their ideas, gaining early traction, and securing funding before committing to a full-scale product. This can help a fresh young idea evade withering in the cold, unresponsive market.
To know what people want and need, you have to ask them. What is a better way to ask others than give them a product to use?
Releasing New Features
When introducing a new feature or product within an existing business, an MVP helps gauge user interest and acceptance, minimizing risks associated with development costs. It helps validate whether the new feature or product concept resonates with users. You can gauge initial interest and gather valuable feedback by releasing this simplified version.
Building an MVP is often quicker and less resource-intensive than developing a fully-featured version. This allows you to get a product into the hands of users faster, enabling speedier iteration and refinement.
An MVP forces you to focus on the core value proposition of the feature by prioritizing essential functionalities. You can ensure that the feature serves its primary purpose effectively. Then, you can iterate and improve the feature over time based on user feedback. This iterative process leads to a more refined and user-friendly final product.
Highly Innovative Ideas
Innovative and groundbreaking ideas are always a risky business. MVPs provide a safe way to test the waters and make necessary adjustments based on user feedback.
For the investors, it might even serve as a proof of concept, providing concrete evidence that the innovative idea can be implemented and successful if you can see people’s interest early on.
Through the MVP development and evaluation process, you may discover that certain aspects of the idea need adjustment or that the concept isn’t as well-received as anticipated. This early knowledge empowers you to decide whether to pivot, refine, or persevere with the idea.
Which Projects Need A Prototype?
A prototype is, as well as an MVP, needed by everyone. It is hard to dissect why one product needs more than another since prototypes are made to save resources and significantly reduce the number of mistakes and redos.
A prototype will benefit every business type and idea to depict the final product. Many companies are following the design thinking and lean product development approach, hence wanting to test hypotheses before pouring loads of money into the development.
For fintech products specifically, prototypes can help identify the visual style and correct positions of different elements to check user experience, comfortability of use, and conversion to the main action elements.
So, my personal suggestion, based on experience, is if you don’t want to spend resources on MVP development, do invest in the prototype. If you want your project to have the most obsolete evidence that it is needed in the market and will 100% comply with your needs, you can create both.
How To Choose Between An MVP And A Prototype?
Ideally, you don’t choose because both are equally important at different stages of the software development lifecycle. But we don’t live in an ideal world with unlimited resources, so let’s look at specific cases where you might be either an MVP or a Prototype.
Choosing between the two depends on your project’s specific goals, stage, and nature.
- Market validation. Choose an MVP when you want to validate your product idea in the market, gather user feedback, and assess its viability.
- User interaction. An MVP is a way to go if your project requires real user interaction and feedback to prove its viability or improve its features since you can integrate analytical instruments into it.
- Testing. MVP allows you to test different monetization strategies and see which resonates with your target audience.
- Iterative development. With an MVP, you get a product out quickly, gather feedback, and continuously improve.
- Complex user interfaces. Creating a prototype for projects with intricate or complex user interfaces allows you to refine the user experience and ensure it’s intuitive and efficient.
- Fundraising. Prototype helps investors evaluate the product’s appearance and propels your chances of getting funded.
- Design-centric projects. If your project’s success depends heavily on aesthetics, branding, or user experience, a prototype is essential for fine-tuning these elements.
- Visual conceptualization. Prototypes are great for visualizing design concepts, especially in industries like fashion, architecture, or graphic design, where aesthetics are crucial.
- Hypotheses validation. Prototypes can be essential for hypothesis testing, as they allow you to gather customer feedback, analyze the engagement, and even do a pretend-to-own experiment.
Ultimately, the choice between MVP vs prototype should be guided by your project’s specific objectives and where you are in the development process. Both MVPs and Prototypes play vital roles in product development.
MVPs are lean, functional versions of products that help validate ideas, while Prototypes focus on design, aiding in the visualization of the final product. Understanding when and how to use these tools can significantly enhance the efficiency and success of your project, ensuring that you deliver products that meet user needs and expectations.
Contact our experts to discover the services the DashDevs team can provide for your business!