Last Updated: April 18, 2024

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Mrunali Gaikwad

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In the process of building a successful business, you will have to make various decisions time and again. No matter how small or big, these choices pave the way for growing software ventures like yours. While the technical world often operates around jargon, we find clients using a lot of terms interchangeably or getting confused when making choices.  

In this blog, we decided to clear the fog for Prototype vs MVP when launching a software/app from scratch. Or maybe redefining an existing one! Whether you should create a prototype or an MVP? What are these two? What are the major differences? Are there any specific use cases for them? Find all the answers here. 

As always, it’s better to start from the basics! 

What is a Prototype?  

In software development, a prototype is a preliminary, simplified version of a planned software product. It's like a rough draft that allows developers to test ideas, get feedback, and identify any potential issues before investing significant time and resources into building the final product.

Think of it like building a model airplane before constructing a real one. The model lets you test the design, identify flaws, and make adjustments before you commit to building the full-sized aircraft.

There are different types of prototypes based on their complexity:

  • Low-fidelity prototypes: These are very basic versions, often just sketches or wireframes that outline the layout and functionality of the software. They might be hand-drawn on paper or created with basic design tools.
  • High-fidelity prototypes: These are more advanced versions that may closely resemble the final product in terms of look and feel. They may include clickable elements and simulate some of the software's functionality.

Here's an example:

Let's say you're developing a new mobile app to help people order food. A low-fidelity prototype might be a hand-drawn sketch showing the different screens of the app, like a screen to browse restaurants, another screen to view menus, and a screen to place an order.

A high-fidelity prototype could be a digital version of the app that allows users to navigate through the screens, see mock restaurant listings, and even simulate placing an order (without actually connecting to a real restaurant system).

By creating prototypes and getting feedback early on, developers can ensure they're on the right track and build a software product that meets the needs of their users. Before deciding on creating a prototype vs MVP, you should know why exactly you need prototypes.   

Why are Prototypes Important? 

One of the studies by IBM suggests prototyping can increase the development speed by 2 times. That's a significant boost for getting your product to market faster. But that’s not the only advantage. Here’s how prototypes benefit software/app development projects: 

Benefits-of-Prototype

Visualization   

Imagine a blueprint for a house. A prototype acts like a blueprint for your software. It gives everyone involved, from developers to clients, a tangible representation of what the final product will look like and how it will function. This shared vision helps ensure everyone is on the same page right from the start. 

Valuable Early Feedback   

Instead of waiting until the app is fully coded to get feedback, prototypes allow you to test the concept with real users early on. This lets you identify usability issues, gauge user interest in specific features, and refine your design before investing significant time and resources into development. Around 66% of technology projects experience partial or total failure.  Effective prototyping can help identify issues early and improve your project's chances of success.

Design & Development Clarity   

The process of creating a prototype often clarifies ambiguities in the design and development process. By building a basic version, you can uncover potential roadblocks or areas where the design might not translate well into a functioning app. This early problem-solving helps streamline development and avoids costly rework later. 

Cost-Effective Risk Management  

Prototypes are essentially a safety net for your project. By identifying and addressing issues early, you can prevent problems that would be far more expensive to fix once full development is underway. This allows you to manage risk effectively and keep your project on budget.  

What is MVP (Minimum Viable Product)? 

MVP (Minimum Viable Product), is a bare-bones version of your application that includes just enough features to be usable by early adopters and gather valuable feedback. The core idea is to get something out to the real world as soon as possible to validate your concept and avoid wasting time and resources building features that nobody wants. 

Imagine you have an idea for a food delivery app. Instead of building a full-fledged app with features like restaurant reviews, advanced filtering, and in-app chat, you could develop a simple MVP that allows users to browse menus from a limited selection of restaurants, place orders, and track their delivery. 

This basic version would validate your core assumption - is there a demand for a food delivery service in your target market? You can then use the feedback from early users to refine your offering and prioritize the development of additional features. There are various minimum viable product examples that led to success and growth for popular brands and businesses. 

Before we discuss whether you should build an MVP vs prototype or vice versa, there’s more to know. 

Why Should You Build an MVP? 

Almost 90% of startups fail. However, MVPs can help you test the waters and analyze early performance to identify the best pathway to success. You can easily deliver an MVP at 10-15% less than what the development phase only costs for a full-fledged product. Not enough? 

Here are a few more reasons why you should go with MVP development:  

Benefits-of-MVP

Idea Validation 

An MVP lets you test your core concept with real users early on. This provides valuable feedback to see if your app idea resonates with the target audience and solves their problem effectively. Is there a market need for your app? Does it address a pain point in the way users expect?  By getting this feedback early, you can avoid wasting time and resources developing a full-fledged product that nobody wants.   

Early Market Launch 

MVP development allows you to get your product into the market faster. This gives you a first-mover advantage and helps you establish brand recognition before competitors launch similar products. Being an early launcher can also help you secure valuable early adopters who can provide ongoing feedback and become champions. 

User Acquisition 

By launching an MVP, you can start attracting users early. This allows you to gather valuable data on user behavior and preferences. You can see how users interact with your app, what features they use the most, and what areas need improvement. You can improve your product based on real-world usage and build a user base organically. 

Feedback   

An MVP acts as a springboard for gathering user feedback. You can directly engage with early users and get their insights on the product's usability, design, and overall value. This feedback is crucial for iterating on your product and ensuring it meets user needs. By incorporating this feedback early, you can create a product that users will love and continue to use. 

Get Investors 

A minimum viable product with a proven track record of user traction and positive feedback can be a powerful tool for attracting investors. It demonstrates the viability of your concept and reduces the risk for potential investors.  Having a functional product with a user base shows there's a market for your idea and that you can execute. This can make your business proposition much more attractive to potential funders.  

Build-your-MVP-or-Prototype

Prototype vs MVP: Deciding What Your Project Needs  

MVPs and prototypes play vital roles in the development process but serve different purposes. The table below summarizes the key differences between Prototype vs MVP to help you decide what your project needs: 

Prototype-vs-MVP

Based on the details in this blog, let’s summarize: 

A prototype can be considered as a rough sketch of your product. It's a basic representation that allows you to:

  • Test core functionalities and user flows: Is your idea technically feasible? How will users navigate the key features?
  • Gather early feedback on design and usability: Does the layout make sense? Is it intuitive to use?
  • Validate assumptions about your target audience: Are you on the right track with your problem-solution fit?

When to Build a Prototype? 

  • Your project is in the early stages of brainstorming and needs validation.
  • You want to experiment with different design ideas before diving into development.
  • There’s a need to secure buy-in from stakeholders on the overall product vision.

An MVP, on the other hand, is a fully functional product with a limited set of features. It's designed to:

  • Test your core value proposition with real users: Does your product solve a genuine problem for your target audience?
  • Gather early user feedback on functionality and user experience: What features resonate most? How can you improve the core offering?
  • Learn and iterate based on real-world data: What are user pain points? What additional features are most desired?

When to Build an MVP? 

  • You have a validated concept and a clear understanding of your target market.
  • You want to get your product into the hands of users as soon as possible.
  • The team is ready to gather real-world data to inform future development.

Launch a Custom Minimum Viable Product With Us 

While both prototypes and MVPs serve a similar objective, the choice between the two shall depend completely on the nature, stage, and goals of your project. Let reliable professionals help you decide whether you should build a prototype vs MVP. Our experienced team of design and development experts is all set to define your project’s roadmap to success. 

We, at Narola Infotech, don’t mind making extra efforts and spending a few extra hours when it comes to perfection, visible results, and client satisfaction. Leverage our 18+ years of experience for your project’s best. Want to discuss projects or queries? Fill out the contact form below and we’ll reach out to you!  

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

See the answers to some of our most commonly asked questions below.

Prototypes are generally faster and cheaper to develop because they are less complex. MVPs require more development effort but can still be built with a focus on core features to keep costs manageable.

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