The first version of your app: Prototype or MVP? underline

This article explores the definitions of these two testing options for digital products and their relative advantages, including how we understand and use them here at MuchMore.

Natalia Migdal
Marketing Specialist

What should the first version of your app be – a prototype or a minimum viable product (MVP)? What’s the difference between the two and what are they used for? This article explores the definitions of these two testing options for digital products and their relative advantages, including how we understand and use them here at MuchMore.

##Agile methodology in product development

Our extensive experience has shown that adopting an Agile approach is paramount when it comes to developing digital products. This methodology not only ensures active involvement with users and their evolving needs but also offers a remarkable degree of adaptability. This flexibility empowers teams to swiftly pivot projects if the initially planned product doesn't align with emerging requirements.

Furthermore, the efficiency of digital product development can be significantly enhanced by amalgamating the agile scrum methodology with the lean startup approach. By integrating lean startup principles, such as prototyping and Minimum Viable Product (MVP) stages, into a structured framework, abstract business concepts can be transformed into tangible, well-defined propositions. This method harnesses testing and data analysis to refine the product vision. Subsequently, the iterative sprint-based methodology of scrum is well-suited for the actual construction and subsequent scaling of the product.

The choice between a prototype and an MVP depends on various factors including the nature of the product, its scope, and the target user demographic. However, for validating an initial business idea, either a prototype or an MVP application suffices. These approaches not only economize time and resources but also provide invaluable insights. Thus, there's no imperative to invest extensively in a large-scale, intricate platform without first undergoing one or both of these crucial stages.

A prototype serves as an initial draft of the product, offering a tangible representation albeit with limited functionality. While it may not be as rudimentary as a sketch on the back of a napkin, a prototype typically features basic engineering and functionality—a clickable preview of the primary features. It serves as a rapid means to assess the fundamental concepts and assumptions underlying the product.

In contrast, an MVP represents a functional iteration of the product, featuring only the core features necessary for testing and garnering feedback. By investing minimal time and resources at this stage, teams can efficiently gather data to inform subsequent development phases.

##Difference between a prototype and an MVP

A prototype serves to test the fundamental idea behind a product, while an MVP assesses specific features, assuming the validity of the core concept.

Functionally, an MVP can be used, but it might not do everything you want. A prototype mainly shows what the product might look like.

In some cases, a prototype lays the groundwork for MVP development, validating hypotheses before progressing to more advanced stages.

In practical terms, the distinction between prototypes and MVPs can sometimes blur. At MuchMore, our prototypes often boast enhanced functionality, yet the disparity between prototypes and MVPs remains evident:

A prototype of an app offers an interactive, functional visualization intended to uncover usability issues in the design.

Conversely, an MVP app embodies the core value proposition through essential features, prioritizing rapid market delivery.

##Prototype vs MVP: Prototypes

At the core of the lean startup philosophy and any agile development methodology lies a central focus on the product's intended users. After all, how can one truly ascertain if they're constructing something desired and utilized without soliciting feedback directly from those who matter most?

The primary disparity between utilizing a prototype and an MVP lies in the testing focus. With a prototype, the emphasis is on evaluating the conceptual framework and the potential user experience of the product. Lacking in features, functionality, and substantial engineering, a prototype serves as a visual representation to be presented to users, stakeholders, or investors for validation of its aesthetics and overall feel. It serves as the initial litmus test for the concept's viability, executed swiftly with minimal development efforts, time, or resources. While it may seem sparse in substance, this intentional brevity allows for capturing reactions rather than detailed feedback. The objective is to elicit responses to fundamental questions surrounding the business idea and product concept, steering towards understanding the target audience's resonance and the project's alignment with their needs.

###The Advantages of Prototyping

Beyond the primary benefit of promptly gauging real user reactions in a resource-efficient manner, several other advantages accompany the creation of a prototype for your digital product:

  • Securing Commitment: A prototype can effectively garner commitment from stakeholders and potential investors, ensuring their buy-in and support for the project's progression.

  • Enhanced Insight: Feedback garnered from the prototype aids in deepening comprehension of your design and its potential market impact. While your internal team may possess exceptional skills, soliciting input from future users provides a valuable reality check, illuminating potential risks and flaws while validating the pursuit of your product idea.

  • Accelerated Market Entry: Drawing from extensive experience, it's evident that without some form of testing during development, the final product may not be adequately primed for the market. Delaying market entry in pursuit of a more refined prototype only serves to impede the learning process. Especially when navigating uncertain terrain or contemplating daring innovations, expediting the discovery process proves invaluable in swiftly determining the idea's viability. In essence, it's preferable to uncover potential roadblocks early on rather than prolonging the journey with uncertainty.

##MVP vs Prototype: MVPs

Validated learning is a big idea in lean startup thinking. It means getting real, measurable feedback from the people who might use your product. This feedback helps you make the product better. An MVP is a version of your product that helps you learn the most with the least effort.

An MVP is called "minimum" for a reason. It only has the most essential features needed to learn about the product and what needs to be improved. Unlike a simple prototype, an MVP is a real working version of your product. It might only have one or two main features, but people can actually use it and give you feedback on how it works.

###The Benefits of MVPs

  • Saves Time: By testing your product early with an MVP, you can avoid spending lots of time fixing things after it's already out there.

  • Better Understanding: MVPs help you see if your product is solving the problem you set out to solve.

  • Confirms Your Audience: By testing with real users, you can make sure you're building something people actually want.

  • Shows Profit Potential: Feedback from an MVP can give you an idea of how well your final product might sell.

  • Motivates Your Team: Releasing an MVP gives your team something concrete to work towards and shows that progress is being made.

##Conclusion: Prototype or MVP?

Choosing between a Prototype and an MVP depends on your goals and resources. Both serve to test the product early, reducing costs and risks.

If you aim to test the basic idea and have limited funds, go for a Prototype.

If you're keen on comparing a feature's performance with user preferences, opt for an MVP.

Consider whether you need measurable feedback or just an initial impression. Are you seeking investor commitment? There's no one-size-fits-all answer. Your choice should align with your project stage and available audience. Our MuchMore team selects the approach that fits user needs, budget, and business goals when crafting proposals.