What’s The Difference Between Software Prototype and MVP?

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Considering a prototype and an MVP as exchangeable or mutually exclusive approaches may be easy. In reality, they are neither. Both of them are incredibly valuable when it comes to software development. And yet they offer different sets of benefits for different goals. If your time and budget allow it, you can opt for using both a clickable prototype and a minimum viable product.  

But often, the budget is limited, and the choice between the two may be on the table. And this quick explanation should provide you with general pointers on where to start digging to make a correct decision.

Minimum Viable Product (MVP)

MVP is a piece of experimental software, unlike the clickable UI/UX prototype. The name is pretty self-explanatory: a Minimum Viable Product includes only the essential things that software and business model need to work.

Here are some of the most common reasons behind opting for an MVP:

Validate functionality

You can focus on something very specific to see how it will perform in real life. Usually, MVPs offer a carcass of the future service and, based on the performances, allow quick changing, improving, and building upon the set of basic functions.

See the user reaction to the product

MVP can help you understand the potential of your business idea and the depth of the problem you’re solving. Uber, for example, focused on connecting drivers and people who needed a ride in San Franciso. The experiment confirmed the market’s need for such a service. It was only a matter of time before Uber became a global superpower.

Enter the market

Releasing a finished product is often very risky. What if the users need something else? What if the business model is not sustainable in real life? MVP is the thing you need to make yourself visible and gain an initial pool of users who will then guide you through their needs and requests.

Create traction

If the users like what you’re offering, they will power through imperfect design, bugs, and lack of quality-of-life solutions. An unfinished product can generate support from real users throughout development. And when the release date comes, you will have a loyal customer base and a product that incorporates their feedback.

Build a better product

MVP is not a guarantee of success. But it will give you the info on the users’ problems and more efficient ways to solve them while retaining the business part of the deal. Developing a piece of software is much easier when you know what the target audience expects from your product.

Software Prototype

Prototypes allow visualizing the product’s look and feel. You can click through the whole thing as if you were using a released software. You can’t make a beta release of the prototype as you do with software, but you can use it to improve your success chances in multiple ways. If you need more reasons why building a prototype may benefit your business, we have compiled a list of major benefits for your convenience.

Test ideas and concepts

Software prototype is great for evaluating ideas. You can experiment with user experience and interface while gathering feedback from focus groups. This approach allows going through ideas quickly without spending too much money. Prototyping helps validate the final concept without massive time and money investments.

Design wireframes and user flows

This determines the interaction between the customer and the product. While MVP is a basic practical application of the concept, the prototype is the one that sets the rules. First, a sketch or a digital low-fidelity wireframe, then a full-fledged clickable UI/UX prototype. This is essentially a template for the development, simplifying the process and eliminating coding risks.

Make a pitch

Developing the whole product before presenting it to investors, the board, or internal stakeholders would be extremely inefficient. Prototyping allows creating a full product experience without spending on software development. That’s how you can attract initial investments or get a green light for development.

Collect user feedback & make rapid changes

Prototype is also a good way to learn the opinion of your target audience. The system is much more flexible at that time, and any changes are less taxing for the budget. Jumping between user feedback and product alterations is a fast-paced process that prevents issues when your ideas are not really interesting to the customers.

What do MVP and Software Prototype have in common?

MVPs and prototypes cover different software development stages and offer distinct benefits. But there are some things that they have in common.

Save time and money

Prototyping takes care of the software logic, user experience, and visuals. MVP tests the functionality in practice, offering tangible data and building traction. But both of these methods result in faster development and easier change management. That’s exactly what prevents you from busting the budget.

Streamline development

Both MVP and interactive prototypes become a template for the developers. The product’s vision is backed up by user feedback and many stages of meticulous iteration. Instead of going in blindly, you can use the data provided by the prototype and MVP to set clear milestones and pursue the important (and already tested) ideas.

Help build a successful product

With all the information you will have by the time of development, it’s much easier to predict risks, discover the user needs, match the market requirements, and manage the software changes while staying within the budget.

How do you choose between a Software Prototype and an MVP?

In a perfect world, you don’t. Prototyping happens way before the development stage. It covers the whole product. It’s vision, user flows, UI elements, market research, and many other aspects. It has its own set of strengths and is fairly quick and cheap to build and adjust.

MVP involves actual software development. Everything non-essential goes out of the window. The focus is only on the basic functionality, and that’s how you make yourself visible on the market. A minimum viable product is all about getting maximum data with minimum effort.

The ultimate choice depends on the specifics of the product. Based on your business goals, the target audience, available time and money, and a number of other factors, we can help you decide on the optimal course of action. The one that benefits your business and sets it up for long-term growth and allows predicted scalability.