Entrepreneurship is a risky venture in nearly all industries. In the newly emerged ones, such as eCommerce, AI, and other digital tech, the chances of failure are even high. However, this case is majorly true in unplanned startups. Whereas on the other hand, strategically developed startups can validate the demand and overcome idea failure risks beforehand. In idea validation, MVP and prototyping are two popular concepts.
In this blog, we are going to shed some light on both MVPs and prototyping to help you understand their requirements and usage in the software development industry.
MVP is an acronym for Minimum Viable Product, which is used to check the viability of a business idea. It only includes essential features to make the software product usable as per its intended purpose. All the other features are developed at a later stage after gaining insights from early adopters.
Let’s imagine a scenario where an entrepreneur advances to full-fledged development of a car rental store without market validation and then witnesses the lack of demand in the targeted region. This can result in a huge monetary loss as the consumer demand wasn’t properly measured beforehand. So the goal of MVP software development is to figure out the basic needs of the audience and build a product with its basic features.
As mentioned above, the approach of MVP software development includes filtering user needs to incorporate features specific to those needs. Once the feature specification is ready, a basic-looking design is prepared that incorporates them (features).
The MVP is then deployed to a small subset of the market, whom we can also call early adopters. They test the MVP software and provide honest feedback pivotal to improving the MVP. Based on the suggestions, the business owner enhances the MVP and re-releases it to the same subset.
If the MVP is liked by the users, then the market demand for the software is validated. On the other hand, if the MVP continuously fails to impress the subset, then its market validation is also disapproved. Whereas, approved MVPs are incrementally developed and launched into the market.
Like MVP, a prototype is also a sample product, but it is developed for testing and demonstration purposes. It has nothing to do with market validation and shows the original concept or idea behind the software in detail.
A prototype is prepared for various reasons, such as a pitch product to attract investors or demonstrate how the idealized software will behave. It can also be used for simulating the functionality of the software in real-world scenarios. Lastly, prototypes are also used for software development teams, for conversion purposes.
Unlike an MVP, a functional prototype (Hi-Fi prototypes) is developed with more features and looks somewhat closer to the final product. It has a fully functional UX inclusive of additional features that are more than basic.
Close attention is also given to the UI of a functional prototype as it is supposed to be a product that the testers can fully interact with. In brief, the prototype is supposed to represent the concept. Any iterations that are made in the prototype software are suggested by the owner instead of early adopters.
Note that there are paper prototypes (Lo-Fi prototypes) too whose sole purpose is product demonstration. Such prototypes are 2D diagrams of the final product and aren’t functional.
Mentioned below are the differences between MVP and Functional Prototype:
Purpose: While the MVP is developed to test the market demand for a product, the main purpose behind prototype development is to demonstrate the working of the software.
Number of Features: MVP development is only inclusive of a few essential features that are required to build the primary functionality of the idealized software. In contrast, a prototype explains the placement and functioning of all stated features. It is also not necessary for any or all features of a prototype to work.
Looks and Appearance: The final looks and feel of an MVP do not resemble those of the final product. In a sense, the appearance is ignored and only the basic functionality of the product is given importance. However, in a prototype, the look and feel are more important. User flows are properly developed to demonstrate how the product will look and work in real-world situations.
Identification of Issues: As the main purpose behind MVP development is to test market validation, it only assists in finding the shortcomings of the product and the scope of improvement. A prototype on the other hand assists in identifying problems with already existing features.
Resources: Although time and money-saving are major advantages of developing an MVP before the final software, it is still more costly and time-intensive than developing a prototype.
Although developing a prototype is in route to developing an MVP itself, there are some misconceptions about these two that entrepreneurs should clearly understand.
The reality is that a prototype can be developed for all stages of your software, even for minor design and feature changes. For example, your MVP will have a different prototype, its next increment will have another, and so on. This ensures faster and more accurate development of the software along with a well-defined concept.
In software development, developing a prototype is just a small step, though it can help you demonstrate the idealized features, appearance, and some functionality of the software, it cannot be used for market validation. Of course, entrepreneurs can revise the prototype, but it will still require the actual development, and in some cases, that too from scratch. Thus, for market validation, MVP is the only right approach.
It is undisputedly true that MVP development is only inclusive of all essential features. However, there are various types of prototypes designed for different purposes. We can divide prototypes into the following categories for a better explanation:
Low Fidelity (Lo-Fi) Prototypes: These types of prototypes only demonstrate features. They are mostly 2D drawings and are not functional. As there is no interface, it is also not possible to test the working of features. Lo-Fi prototypes are solely prepared for demonstration purposes.
High-Fidelity (Hi-Fi) Prototypes: Hi-Fi prototypes are fully functional and are also referred to as functional prototypes in this blog. Such prototypes closely resemble the final product and can be used for both demonstration and feature testing purposes. Once the testing is complete, the final step is to merely replicate high-fidelity prototype models in bulk.
Based on the aforementioned concepts, it is clear that as a business owner, you will require to develop both. While the MVP is only prepared once and iterated until the market is validated, a prototype is required in all iterations of the software and for MVP development too.
Out of thousands of software development companies available today, you can select the one that best suits your requirements by considering the following:
View Portfolios: Check out the portfolios of some handpicked companies and look for clients and case studies similar to your project. You can view the work done by the company for those clients and further, shortlist for the next round.
View Ratings and Reviews: Renowned websites such as G2, Capterra, and Clutch are actively reviewing software development companies and are providing entrepreneurs with reliable information. They have fixed reviewing criteria for which it is highly advisable to go through their websites.
Contact all Shortlisted Companies: Discuss your project requirements with all shortlisted companies to get a quote and know how they can precisely help you. In the end, it is after sharing the project details only that entrepreneurs can identify the potential of the company for their project.
Both prototype and MVP assist in reducing the market risk. They help you validate the idea and conceptualize every need. While MVP focuses on the former of the two, the latter is managed by a prototype. For launching a startup, entrepreneurs can get both MVP and prototype developed from the same company. This will be both time and cost-effective, plus it will help you maintain good relations with your technology partner.