Prototype vs Minimum Viable Product

When should we use a prototype or a Minimum Viable Product?

Thinkers Co Blog - Prototype vs Minimum Viable Product


Differences between a Prototype and Minimum Viable Product

Many times we get confused when we have to use a prototype or a Minimum Viable Product (MVP). But it is important to know the differences between them, and most importantly, when to use each one.

First of all, we need to be clear in which point we are as a company or startup. This is the key to understand which of the two tools, is going to be used.

Stages of a project by Thinkers Co.

When we are at the initial phase, working with ideas and concepts or generating a business opportunity, we are in the area of the Design Thinking methodology. . Here the objective is to identify which are the problems or opportunities to define a solution. For that purpose, there are different techniques of prototyping.

On the other hand, we can find ourselves in a phase of business validation, where our goal is to test our solutions, learn from them and redesign our business as learned. That is the moment of Lean Startup and its MPV (Minimum Viable Product).

Although these methodologies lead to confusion sometimes, asking the right questions, can help to distinguish when to use the prototype and when the MVP. Everything depends on what we want to validate.

PROTOTYPE – Design Thinking

  • Have I discovered any problem?
  • Have I discovered any business opportunity?
  • Do I really know what the user needs?
  • Is my solution desirable by my user?

Design Thinking talks about problems, needs, concepts, and ideas, and the prototype is responsible for validating the solutions provided.

MVP – Lean Startup

  • Would our user be willing to pay for the value we created?
  • How do we make money with our solution?

At this point, we talk about the business (channels, resources, and others) and how to validate the business model created and its scalability.

Prototyping tools and types of MVP

Now that we can locate ourselves and know what technique to use, let’s see what prototyping tools and types of MVP can be very useful to us.

In Design Thinking, we have different models of prototypes depending on what we want to validate from our problem-solution:

  • Concept Sketch: are a set of drawings that show and exemplify a complex idea or concept that is difficult to explain with words.
  • Cardboard Model: is the first volume execution of a 3D concept. It gives us a real view of a product to make adjustments in an agile way.
  • Desktop Walkthrough: is an agile way of communicating and visualizing, how the solution works and acts on its own environment.
  • Storyboard: is a set of illustrations that, through drawings, tells a story with the objective of exemplifying a process.
  • 3D infographic: is a digital image to visualize and understand the final appearance of a product before we manufacture it. Therefore, it should be as realistic as possible to resemble the future reality of the work.
  • 3D printing: is a process that allows us to obtain low-cost volumetric pieces or models.

In Lean Startup, the Business Model Canvas helps us find different combinations of the basic elements (customer, value proposition, key resources, income, etc.) for our business and finally reaches the configuration that best fits for our client.

On the other hand, we find the MVP. We can see different types of MVPs that allow us to validate and test different aspects of our business with our client.

    Is a simple web page that shows your product and its features and also, the option to subscribe with the available prices. The reality is that the service does not exist yet, but will serve to measure the interest of users in contracting the product. A famous example of this tool is Buffer (1), the social network users management company that tested its service through a landing page.
    Measures the interest of consumers for a product or service like a landing page, but through other marketing techniques such as, a video for example. One famous case is Dropbox. This well-known multinational, tried their service through this explanatory video (2).
    Is a learning activity designed to test the specifications of the business model devised. It usually starts being a very manual and personalized task, as it gets features validated and gains customers, it is automated. This is the case of Food on the Table, currently called Mealplanning (3), whose founder began personally carrying out the task of preparing personalized menus, making shopping lists, comparing prices in supermarkets, etc. He was especially useful in dealing directly with the client to get good feedback to add value to their service.
    Is a tool similar to the janitor, the difference is that the client thinks the interaction with the product is real, although behind the scenes are humans, who are doing the work that will be in the future automated by the system. The best-known example is Zappos (4). the online shoe store that began with its creators going in person to the shoe stores to acquire the shoes that they would later send by courier to satisfy the orders received from their website.
    Is a method to share your product or concept to measure the amount of audience interested in it and, in turn, start receiving funds to continue developing the product. Pebble (5) is the sports watch brand that launched a crowdfunding campaign through Kickstarter and won more than 10 thousand dollars in 8 weeks.

Whether you are going to test your prototype or perform an MVP, the important thing is to be able to listen to your client’s voice and know how to transfer it to your product.

(1) Buffer
(2) Dropbox Intro Video
(3) Mealplanning
(4) Zappos
(5) Pebble

Updated at 27/11/2020

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