What's the difference between a Prototype and an MVP

Both serve unique roles in the journey from product conception to market release. In this article we compare them and explain how their differences make both these tools extremely in the start-up process.
Written by
Sean Riordan
Published on
November 23, 2023
What's the difference between a Prototype and an MVP


When creating a new product, whether it’s a mobile app or a physical device, developers and designers can use prototypes and Minimum Viable Products (MVPs) to navigate the development process effectively.

Both of these tools serve unique roles in the journey from conception to market release. In this article we compare them and explain how their differences make these tools extremely useful in the start-up process.

What is a Prototype?

Think of a prototype as your sketchpad, where you can draw, erase, and redraw your ideas until they start looking like the awesome products you imagine. It’s not the finished masterpiece but a rough, sometimes very rough, draft that lets you play around with your vision.

Prototypes may not have full functionality but are pivotal in visualising and exploring concepts in greater detail.

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Benefits of Prototypes

  • Idea Visualisation: Prototypes help visualise product designs and functionalities, enabling clearer, more tangible conceptualisation.
  • Feedback and Refinement: They help early detection of usability issues and design flaws, allowing for modifications before final production.
  • Cost Efficiency: By finding and addressing issues early, prototypes help reduce the costs associated with late-stage alterations.
  • Stakeholder Communication: They serve as effective communication tools, helping team members and investors understand the product vision and functionality.
  • Market Validation: Prototypes are a lean market validation technique and supplies an efficient way to assess product demand and viability within the actual market
  • Investment: Visualising a concept can make it easier to attract early outside investment for your business

What is a Minimum Viable Product

A Minimum Viable Product (MVP) is a product version containing only the essential features necessary to satisfy early adopters. Its purpose is to validate the product’s market viability and collect user feedback for future development while minimizing the initial product development cost.

While prototypes are explorative models that help in refining and validating ideas, MVPs are market-ready, scaled-down versions of the product designed for user validation.

Benefits of MVPs

  • User Feedback: They provide invaluable insights from real users, allowing developers and designers to refine and enhance the product based on actual needs and preferences.
  • Reduced Risk: By focusing on core features, MVPs minimize initial development costs and risks associated with product failure.
  • Quick Market Entry: They allow for faster market penetration, giving the business a competitive edge by establishing a user base early.
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When to use Prototypes and MVPs

Prototype MVP
You’re in the ideation phase You have a solid concept, and you are ready to fully test market viability
You need feedback on functionality and design You want to focus on core value proposition that delivers the most value.
You’re presenting to stakeholders and investors. Your aim is to get the product as quickly as possible to gain a market advantage.
You are willing to experiment with multiple features and designs You want to prioritise features development based on user feedback

Wrapping Up

Prototypes and MVPs can both provide plenty of value when used at the right stages of your product development strategy. By staying focused on where you are in the product building process and what your goals are you can use each of these tools to its full potential.

Have you spotted a gap in the market? Or are you wondering if your business idea has legs and need an external expert point of view? Get in touch with us today for a chat with one of our subject matter experts.

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