Prototype vs. MVP Which One Do You Need

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Prototypes and Minimum Viable Products (MVPs) are an integral component of product development. IT business consulting may be tempted to dive right in and spend months developing an expensive product with all the bells and whistles, only to discover at launch that nobody wants it, or you built something completely incorrectly or could have built something far superior had you pivoted at any point midway through.

Underestimating the importance of testing ideas is one of the easiest ways to be wrong and fall flat on your face. That's where MVPs and prototypes come in! They help you find Product-Market Fit, get stakeholder and user feedback, build buzz around an upcoming launch event and establish communications channels between designers/tech teams, as well as assist in understanding what it is that you are making.

An MVP (minimal viable product) is an early version of your product designed to gather feedback. MVPs and prototypes may seem similar at first glance; both are part of agile product development practices. However, there are a few key distinctions. Here in this blog, we will walk through everything you need to know about prototypes and MVPs.

What Is MVP (Minimum Viable Product)?

MVP, short for a minimum viable product, refers to the simplest version of your software product that can be released publicly for public feedback from your users. An MVP focuses only on core functionality with enough features to attract early adopters and validate product ideas at the early stages of product development processes. Companies release minimum viable products so as to:

  • Launch your product as quickly as possible onto the market.

  • Evaluate new ideas with real users before spending too much of the budget.

  • Collect user feedback quickly - finding out what early users think of your software can help guide product design decisions.

  • Save resources and money - by not including all features in an MVP, development work is reduced drastically.

  • Attract investors - an MVP can help attract more investment by showing how appealing the product is and gathering user feedback.

So, with every iteration of your minimum viable product, you gain more insight into users' problems and can continue refining its solution. To craft a successful MVP, be clear about your business objectives, identify user problems that you wish to address and then translate these features into a development plan.

Types of MVP

There are two general categories of MVPs.

Type 1: Low-fidelity MVP

A Low-Firmness MVP (or Minimum Viable Product, MVP) is an essential step in understanding customer demand for your idea, for instance, by creating a paper sketch showing its features on mobile app devices.

  • Main Objective: Efficiently solving customers' problems

  • Complexity Level: Basic; it only requires basic or no development.

  • Goals: Recognizing customer challenges, ascertaining whether solving the issue warrants your time and energy and discovering an efficient solution.

  • Examples: Landing Page, Marketing Campaign or Email Campaign.

Type 2: High-fidelity MVP

A high-fidelity MVP is more sophisticated and seeks to determine how much people are willing to pay for your product or service. An example would be an online food ordering app in which users can only place orders with participating restaurants.

  • Main Goal: Establish what customers are willing to pay for your product or service.

  • Complexity Level: Requiring complex development.

  • Objectives: Engaging early adopters, establishing customer acceptance for your product offering and gaining valuable insight for optimizing business growth & marketing strategies.

  • Examples: Single-feature, Pre-order and Concierge MVPs

Benefits of MVP

Here are some benefits of MVPs:

Benefit 1: Saves Time and Money

Building a fully-fledged product takes both time and money. Sometimes, years can pass before it becomes commercially viable, draining resources like time and effort from your efforts if your idea proves futile. Time and money savings become tangible benefits that save both resources and efforts in time spent developing products for sale or use in businesses that may never make money in the first place.

On the other hand, MVP can be developed much more rapidly. Typically, it only takes weeks and costs only a fraction of what creating a product would. You can test your idea without spending too much money or time. If it works well enough, you get a strong base from which to build upon. Otherwise, it doesn't cost too much, so it is a win-win situation for both parties involved.

Benefit 2: Attracting Investors Easier

An idea alone provides little value; to appeal to investors, you also must demonstrate that customers are willing to pay for it.

An MVP is an ideal way to demonstrate the merits and market demand of your idea, convincing investors of its viability and making sales pitches. An MVP also helps show investors your product in action and can be instrumental in convincing them it will be successful.

Benefit 3: User-Centered Development

Users care little for extras in early app development phases; all they want is an easy solution for their issues. By building an MVP app with user needs in mind, the foundation for an end-user-oriented application will already have been laid.

After receiving feedback on your MVP, use it to enhance it further with new perks and features that make it appealing. Making modifications to an MVP requires fewer resources than revamping a larger mobile application.

Benefit 4: Early Testing Can Save Your Idea

Imagine spending an entire year developing an app, only to realize later it wasn't what users wanted after you released it into the market - spending both money and time for development but never recovering the investment made into the product! Loss may even become irreparable.

Conversely, if you spent one month creating and launching an MVP before realizing there's no demand for it, the losses should be manageable. After all, this development time and expense were relatively minor, giving you ample opportunity to optimize it before finally unveiling the final product.

Thus, testing an MVP is much simpler than trying an entire mobile app.

Benefit 5: Quicker Time to Market

The quicker a product can reach the market, the sooner customers will appreciate its capabilities. Therefore, developing an MVP is much better than investing time and resources in creating something fully fledged.

Benefit 6: Gain faster user feedback

Nothing beats feedback from real customers to gather insight into what their needs and preferences are without guessing games or assumptions being made about what works for them.

An MVP is one of the fastest ways to gather user feedback. Development takes less time, connecting you more quickly with customers while gathering crucial intelligence that will allow you to improve it over time.

What is a Prototype?

A prototype is an abstract representation designed to test a product's UX/UI concept and core functionality. It serves as an easy way to demonstrate the software's design without being fully operational yet.

Businesses create prototypes in order to identify user flows and design issues before building the final product. Prototypes come in all shapes and sizes, from paper prototypes to sketches or fully functioning interactive versions - with usability levels depending on detail levels ranging from mere demonstration of what the final product will look like up until fully functional interactive versions exist.

Once tested and the feedback collected, the software can proceed through SDLC stages to become the final product. It should be noted that prototyping does not equal proof of concept (POC); POC evaluates technical aspects while prototype answers aesthetical queries about how the product will appear.

Types of Prototype

There are four prototyping model types to consider when building your prototype:

Type 1: Rapid Prototyping

Rapid prototyping works like this: the developer builds a prototype taking into account initial requirements. Rapid prototype development provides a quick solution, with feedback being shared from users for further revision. Furthermore, each prototype may not form part of the final product.

Type 2: Evolutionary Prototyping

This model involves incremental prototyping. Each prototype builds upon and improves upon previous ones according to user feedback.

Type 3: Incremental Prototyping

A final project concept can be divided into small components that each need to be tested individually before being combined to form the final product. Each prototype needs to be built and developed separately before finally merging as one complete product.

Type 4: Extreme Prototyping

This model is widely utilized in web development. Developers create multiple web prototypes in HTML format with service layers before testing each of them to integrate into the final product.

Benefits of Prototype

Prototyping can be an integral component of the launch of a final product or service, as well as offering multiple advantages that come with prototyping your future product or service. Here are some benefits of prototyping that should be considered when planning its creation:

Benefit 1: Assess Technical Feasibility

Prototyping allows users to explore an idea and understand which aspects prove difficult or impossible to implement. Thus, revealing any unanticipated physical, technical or financial restrictions that arise during implementation.

Benefit 2: Improve Website Quality

With an average degree of study prototype in hand, it is possible to:

  • Conduct usability testing of the website.

  • Check site navigation

  • Consider ease of information access on the website.

  • Correct placement of visual accents -- what should be seen first and second turn by users -- can allow for faster edits to a prototype project and potentially yield improved outcomes.

Obtaining data quickly allows quick editing efforts as opposed to waiting months or years to make improvements to an idea that has already taken shape.

Benefit 3: Communicating Your Idea to Potential Customers More Concisely

A prototype allows you to present your future offer more concretely to potential customers, providing invaluable feedback from them on its final launch date. By collecting their opinions, testimonials, and recommendations gathered through prototyping, you will have accumulated a valuable advantage before going forward with the full launch of your offer.

An attractive prototype helps you better plan and launch marketing-communication actions and pre-sales efforts.

Benefit 4: Risk Reduction

One of the less obvious advantages of prototyping lies within its central importance - risk reduction is significantly lower for projects where prototyping was completed than for those without.

Prototypes directly impact three key elements of any project: resources, time and budget. Prototyping allows project leaders to discover hidden deficiencies as well as functional gaps so they can accurately estimate necessary resources and development time requirements.

Benefit 5: Iterate at Lower Cost

Hearing from customers allows organizations to optimize their offers and develop an optimal product.

Before embarking on mass production, it is recommended to create multiple prototypes in order to mitigate additional costs such as unsold inventory or reprogramming the production line.

Benefit 6: Simulate the Real Product

One of the greatest advantages of prototyping is resembling and simulating the actual and future product, helping attract customers before allocating resources for implementation. You can test:

  • Whether your design is accurate before production begins

  • Discover design errors

  • Test its correctness prior to implementation

  • Discover any production-related design problems that arise later

Also, providing prototypes to a sample of users beforehand allows you to see how their interactions work with this prototype and meet user expectations more effectively.

Benefit 7: Provide Focused Feedback

Every individual has their vision of the product they would like implemented, and, generally speaking, this should manifest in the final product. Exposure to the prototype helps unify all ideas. It enables beneficiaries to see it from different perspectives, providing more precise feedback on desired details and seeing that their ideas have materialized into reality.

Feedback is critical in understanding user needs and business requirements and creating a roadmap for where a product should go next.

Benefit 8: Planning

Teams responsible for implementing designs receive essential information that allows them to plan what needs to be implemented. A prototype should often serve as the project specification, helping the entire team create user stories and meet user needs more efficiently. Doing this early enough, prior to starting Sprints, will only bring benefits.

Benefit 9: Quick and Easy Creation

Even product beneficiaries can help develop prototypes quickly and easily. A sketch, illustration with buttons for websites or any simple idea will allow a designer to understand its functionality and logic, which they will then transform into an implementation-ready product.

Prototype VS MVP

Prototype vs MVP: each prototype and MVP serves to test a product's viability by answering three essential questions about profitability, implementation feasibility and scalability.

These issues must be taken into consideration if you wish for your software project to succeed. MVPs and prototypes allow us to assess whether a digital product is viable prior to beginning its full-scale development; both serve to save time, lower risks, and minimize future technical debt.

MVP and prototype often need clarification, as both serve to validate product ideas. Here, we outline their key distinctions.

Factor 1: Functionality

An MVP (minimum viable product) should feature a complete yet minimal set of features; on the other hand, a prototype is typically an imitation of software meant to resemble its real product. However, it doesn't contain full-fledged capabilities.

Factor 2: Purpose

An MVP is intended to gather feedback from its early users of a software product. At the same time, prototyping serves to explore an idea's feasibility by validating the problem and design of solution concepts. While prototypes provide stakeholders with product overviews, MVPs offer core features of products that are ready for market launch.

Factor 3: Complexity

Prototypes are simpler than minimum viable products (MVPs), which are fully constructed products delivering the core value of software applications.

Factor 4: Time

MVPs take longer to develop than prototypes. An MVP serves to test an idea's efficiency and obtain feedback from its target users, while prototypes serve to test product assumptions.

Factor 5: Target Audience

MVPs typically target public audiences, while prototypes tend to remain private. An MVP allows potential customers to experience what it will be like as actual customers and allows users to test drive it themselves as potential customers would do before investing any real money into developing it further.

Factor 6: Cost

Whilst prototype development costs tend to be low - an MVP requires careful budget estimation in order to succeed successfully.

How to Pick the Best Approach for Your Start-up: Prototype or MVP?

Prototyping and MVP development are distinct strategies; each applies at various points throughout the product development lifecycle and may be appropriate depending on multiple conditions.

But which approach should you start with? Here are a few pointers to help you select the appropriate method.

Prototyping is needed when:

  • You want to visualize the flow

  • You require seed-stage funding

  • You would like preliminary feedback from focus groups

  • There is an imminent deadline to display your idea

MVP is needed when:

  • Early users are necessary to assess market reception

  • You need a quick start with reasonable development costs

  • Your idea needs monetizing rapidly

  • You want to minimize the risks of failure

Going gradually through these concepts may be optional but can help minimize risk and ensure your product will enter the market smoothly.

Tips for Building Your Prototype or MVP

Now that you understand the distinction, you may be considering how best to construct either your prototype or MVP. Although resources and data requirements will differ for each, here are a few general tips you should follow when developing one of either type.

Tip 1: Stay Customer-Focused

Many of the world's most successful companies credit customer focus as the cornerstone of successful product creation. Remember, your goal should always be providing value, so make sure to pay close attention to who your product will benefit most from being created for.

Tip 2: Stay Data-Driven

A Product Manager can be something other than a data scientist but don't believe numbers don't matter to them. Even if this is your first product ever, consider what data can help during development and future releases if necessary.

Tip 3: Kill your darlings

Even though you might love your prototype/MVP, if no one else does, then it might be time to reconsider! Launching something nobody wants can only fail both parties involved.

Tip 4: Build It

Prototyping can take much of your energy, so much that it may even take months of tinkering before an MVP is ready for launch. But eventually, it's important to avoid getting stuck in, letting people see your products!

Conclusion

MVPs and prototypes can provide quick and cost-efficient ways of testing business ideas quickly and cost-effectively. If you want to increase the chance of software launch success and decrease software development timeframes, using either may help test key concepts, technical capability, and marketability validation.

Each method plays an essential part in software development, but each has specific goals that may differ from another approach. Business owners must carefully weigh all options available to them and select one based on their particular requirements - be they cost, time to market, customer feedback or complexity considerations. There's sure to be something available that fits everyone!

Careful consideration and sound decisions allow businesses to produce successful products that satisfy customers while helping them meet their goals.

If you want to pursue multiple goals while limited in both time and budget, choosing an approach may seem daunting. Don't worry! As an custom enterprise solution provider, we are here for you and will help you select the ideal method for your project. Our team is always happy to chat and help you with your challenge, so feel free to contact us!

Author

Assim Gupta

Saurabh Sharma linkedin-icon-squre

VP of Engineering

VP of Engineering at Closeloop, a seasoned technology guru and a rational individual, who we call the captain of the Closeloop team. He writes about technology, software tools, trends, and everything in between. He is brilliant at the coding game and a go-to person for software strategy and development. He is proactive, analytical, and responsible. Besides accomplishing his duties, you can find him conversing with people, sharing ideas, and solving puzzles.

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