What is the Difference Between Minimum Viable Product and a Prototype?

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Prototypes and minimum viable products (MVPs) are your best safety nets for a product launch. They allow you to test the waters before you float a full-blown product. They help you investigate the market demand for your product from a safe distance, and also to ensure that your finished product meets expectations. 

However, to explore the advantages of these phases of product development, you need to have a firm grasp of their scale and scope. In this guide, we’ll show you not only an analysis of minimum viable product vs prototype, but also how the two concepts can complement each other in your product launch toolbox. 

What is an MVP?

As the name suggests, a minimum viable product is a bare-bone product that you can use to test the viability of your original concepts and ideas with minimal risks. Creating an MVP entails putting together a version of a product with minimal features that will be released to the public.

 

There are no hard and fast rules about creating MVPs. That’s because, technically, there’s no blanket limit to the scale and scope of an MVP. Those factors vary depending on the size of the development. 

For instance, an MVP for an ecommerce app can come with just 2 – 3 pages for selecting products and checking out, but that of a ride-sharing app would require a whole lot more pages for the passenger app, driver app, and admin app. 

To make it effective enough, your MVP should contain features that create uncommon value for the user – something that would pique their interest and elicit positive, constructive feedback on how the final product can fully satisfy their needs.  

Why is an MVP Necessary?

Some 42% of startups take the plunge only to crash and burn because, contrary to what they thought, there’s no market demand for their product. 

To boot, 74% of those who survive the launching phase soon go bust because they scale their product prematurely

With an MVP, you can ensure that you’ll be introducing the right product to the right market at the right time. 

You can use MVPs to:

  • Accelerate the time to market of products
  • Decipher what users may or may not find valuable in your product
  • Gain valuable insights about your buyers to create an effective sales funnel
  • Warm up the market to the final product launch
  • Attract early investors to fund further development

What is a Prototype?

Like MVPs, prototypes are also a mock-up version of your product – the most obvious difference being that you don’t get to put up prototypes in the markets. A prototype allows you to visually articulate how your finished product will look, feel, and work. 

For instance, if you’re prototyping a website, you need to sketch the architecture of the site and layout of pages and how these will lead visitors to take specific actions on your site. 

With a prototype, you get to show exactly what you’re planning for your product and how every part fits together as a whole. You can use diagrams drawn on paper or graphic software – so long as it helps your team members and stakeholders to imagine what your final product would look like.

Why Is It Necessary?

A prototype enables you, your team members, and everyone involved in the project to have a good feel of what your product will look like before you even begin building anything. 

It puts everyone in the team on the same page with every aspect of the product and how they all fit together to avoid misrepresentations and miscommunications that might prove costly down the road. 

With a prototype, you can:

  • Test your products at a lower cost
  • Develop and implement better plans for your product
  • Check for technical consistency, ensuring all the parts work effectively towards the product’s objectives
  • Check for the usability of the product to ensure seamless user experience
  • Ensure the quality of your finished product
  • Minimize risks during your product launch
  • Gather insightful feedback from team members and stakeholders

What are the Differences Between MVP and a Prototype

Prototypes and MVPs have a whole lot in common. There are no blanket technical limits to the scale and scope of both, and they can feed into each other, with complementary outcomes that contribute to the success of the final product launch.

However, prototypes and MVPs represent two different stages of product development

Prototypes usually come first, but that’s not necessarily the case. Developers can bypass the prototyping phase to build an MVP that they test in the markets fast, before gaining insights to develop a prototype for the final product. 

With that said, here’s a quick run-down of the main difference between minimum viable product and prototype to help you understand how best to explore them:

The scope

With a prototype, you can simply convey your ideas with a paper sketch or an image file to your team members and stakeholders. 

But when creating an MVP, you’ll have to bring those features and elements to life in a real-life environment where users put them to use.

The workload

As a result of the wider scope, MVPs require more planning and efforts. The development team needs to pay closer attention to details and make greater commitments with MVPs. 

That’s why a prototype ought always to come first to help prevent any errors and misrepresentations that may detract from the MVP.

Insights

With MVPs, the aim is to get insights on how you can create more value for the users, while prototypes deal with the design and workflow of your product.

Returns on investment, Both prototypes and MVPs can be used to raise funds for the development. 

But while you can sell MVPs directly in the market, the only way you can raise money with prototypes is by showing them to investors to get financial support.

Should I start with a Prototype or an MVP?

While it’s important to grasp the difference between minimum viable product vs prototype, it’s also important to understand how the two can be used to guarantee a successful product launch. 

You can use a prototype to create a mock-up version of your MVP before you even begin developing anything. The entire development plan should go like this: 

  1. Create a list of features and elements that you think can make your product stand out, and then narrow it down to a few key features which are the backbone of your product. 
  2. Create a prototype of an MVP featuring these essential components, and then show it to your developer team and your stakeholders to garner support for it.
  3. Turn the prototype into an MVP and put it out in the market to gain feedback and raise funds for the full development
  4. Use the insights from the MVP launch to create a prototype for your final product, and then develop and launch the final product.

With this strategy, you can explore the difference between minimum viable product and prototype to ensure that your products provide the right type of value for the right audience and present attractive investment prospects for investors.

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