MVP vs. Prototype: The Difference

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MVP vs. Prototype: The Difference

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February 21st, 2024

An MVP (minimum viable product) and a prototype are related concepts often used in the early stages of product development. There is some confusion about the difference between the two, so this article aims to clearly define MVP vs prototype and explain when each is appropriate.

Understanding an MVP vs. prototype’s unique purpose and characteristics will enable product teams to utilize both techniques more effectively. Utilized properly, MVPs and prototypes can save development resources and gather valuable early feedback from real users.

The main goal of this article is to distinguish when a prototype is suitable versus when building an MVP is the better approach. Read on to learn the key differences and when to use each strategy.

MVP Definition

A minimum viable product (MVP) is a version of a product with just enough features to be usable by early customers, who can then provide feedback for future product development. An MVP aims to test a product hypothesis with minimal resources and start the learning process as early as possible.

An MVP focuses on developing the essential core features the final product needs to function. It provides value to customers while gathering important learning about customers’ problems, needs, and behaviors.

The reduced feature set enables a product team to ship an MVP quickly, gain actionable insights from users, and validate their assumptions. It also determines what to build next before committing more time and resources to features that may not be useful. Following this strategy ensures the apt implementation of MVP development solutions, nurturing efficiency while meeting user needs effectively.

Key aspects of an MVP:

– Focuses on the core essential features of a product

– Strips away non-essential features

– Developed quickly with fewer resources

– Used for learning about the market

– Validates product hypotheses

– Gathers feedback from early adopters

– Enables data-driven decisions on future product development

The goal of an MVP is not to have a finished product but a vehicle for learning and iteration using real-world data. It represents the most simplified product version that can still provide value to customers and gather meaningful insights from the market.

Prototype Definition

A prototype is an early sample, model, or release of a product built to test a concept or process. The preliminary version is not yet ready for full production and release to end users. Underlining the user experience importance, a prototype’s primary purpose is to highlight possible issues and accumulate feedback. It allows designers, developers, and product managers to examine the user experience, experiment, and validate the product direction before incurring manufacturing expenses.

Prototypes can range in fidelity from low to high. Low-fidelity prototypes may simply be wireframes, paper mockups, or early diagrams. It allows discussion and revision before any coding begins. Higher fidelity prototypes look and function closer to the end product. A high-fidelity prototype typically involves code and is much more interactive but still limited in features.

The purpose of a prototype is to identify potential problems and gather feedback from users and stakeholders before committing to full production. Rather than investing a huge amount of time and money upfront, prototypes let you fail fast and resolve issues early. This iterative approach reduces risk and results in a better final product. Prototypes are discarded or continuously improved upon until the design and user experience meet expectations.

The Key Differences:

In this section of the guide for your better understanding, the experts of The App founders have curated a list of some key differences between MVP vs. prototype. With these differences, you will be able to make an informed decision.


The main purpose behind an MVP vs. prototype differs significantly.

An MVP is created to learn if a product idea is viable in the real world. The goal is to build a basic product version with just enough features to collect user feedback. This early feedback helps validate whether the product solves a real user problem.

In contrast, a prototype aims to test aspects of the potential product, such as visual design, user flow, or technical feasibility. Prototypes enable creators to experiment with different ideas without investing too much time and money upfront.

The key difference is that an MVP aims to learn whether the product concept works by releasing it to real users. A prototype seeks to test certain assumptions about the product before committing to full development.


An MVP vs. prototype has the core, must-have features that address the main needs of early adopters. It focuses on solving one problem extremely well. Extra features are cut to simplify the product and eliminate anything unnecessary at the early stage.

A prototype provides simulated or fake versions of all intended features. It demonstrates user flows and the desired end-state of the product. Prototypes often lack functionality behind their features, which are designed to look real. The emphasis is on the complete user experience.


An MVP vs. prototype focuses on designing the minimum functionality needed to test the core value proposition. The goal of an MVP is not to impress users with an appealing visual design but to build the simplest thing that can get validated learning. Thus, MVPs often have a rudimentary design that is good enough to convey core functionality and get user feedback.

In contrast, a prototype focuses extensively on visual design, user experience, and look and feel. Prototypes aim to give users a realistic simulation of the final product, including its graphical design, overall aesthetic, and the way the application flows.

While a prototype’s core functionality may be limited, its visual design is much more refined and polished than an MVP. Prototypes enable designers to quickly test ideas around the optimal layout, visual hierarchy, color scheme, typography, imagery, and overall style.


An MVP vs. prototype targets early adopters willing to accept an incomplete product to be among the first to try out an innovation. Early adopters provide valuable feedback that helps shape the future iterations of the product. MVPs tend to have a smaller pool of test users, but those users feel invested in the product’s success.

In contrast, a prototype targets a sample of potential mainstream users to test assumptions about the product. Prototypes resemble the final product, so the test users should represent the broader target market.

More users test prototypes compared to MVPs, but they are not as invested in the product’s success since it is still undergoing significant development and changes. The feedback from prototype users helps refine core product features to appeal to the mainstream market.


An MVP can usually be built much faster than a prototype, as it focuses on developing just enough core features to validate the product concept and get user feedback. The goal is to build a working product with minimal features.

In contrast, developing a prototype may require more time, effort, and resources. Prototypes are often built to simulate the user experience and showcase more detailed functionality and design elements. The prototype development may involve things like:

– Creating visual mockups and wireframes

– Programming simulations of product behavior

– Building interactive click-throughs

– Integrating with other systems

– Extensive UI/UX design

While an MVP aims to validate the core product value and market, a prototype seeks to demonstrate a much more complete vision of the end product. So, prototyping usually requires more time, money, and engineering resources than a basic MVP version.


The key difference in how MVP vs. prototype is tested stems from their different purposes. MVPs are tested through real user feedback, while prototypes are tested for technical functionality.

An MVP is tested by getting it in front of users and customers as early as possible. The goal is to validate the core assumptions and hypotheses behind the product idea.

Feedback is gathered through interviews, surveys, usage metrics, and other methods to determine if the MVP solves a real user problem. This testing focuses on learning rather than perfection. The learnings are used to modify and iterate on the MVP.

In contrast, prototypes are tested from a technical standpoint to see if the designed solution works as intended before investing in full development. Prototypes allow developers to test ideas and check feasibility early on.

Different technical tests are run to debug issues and identify improvements to the prototype design and architecture. The focus is on simulating real-world technical conditions to fix problems and optimize performance before launch.


An MVP vs. prototype serves different purposes in the product development process.

An MVP is a minimal product version that allows validating core features and assumptions with real users. The goal of an MVP is to collect user feedback and data to determine if the product concept is viable, often before major development efforts.

In contrast, a prototype aims to simulate the user experience and showcase the vision for the final product. Prototypes are designed to look and feel like the end product, with representative user flows, visual design, and interactivity.

A common route followed by start-ups and companies—particularly seen with a business development specialist at the helm—is creating an MVP first to confirm the market need and core functionality. Once the MVP shows promise, they will invest more resources to build a higher-fidelity prototype that further refines the product direction and user experience. Prototypes require more development effort and design polish than an MVP.

Going from MVP to prototype allows startups to get to market quickly with a basic product while supporting longer-term evolution toward a full-featured product. The initial user feedback from the MVP informs the prototypes and future development cycles to create something users love. This way, MVPs and prototypes work together to bring a product from idea to reality.

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