Software Prototype vs MVP – What’s the Difference and Why Should You Know?

Software Development | 0 comments | by Erin Quilliam

Are you confused by what the difference between an ‘MVP’ or ‘software prototype’ is, or simply don’t know what it can bring to you and your business?

You could be missing out. Both bring a host of benefits to your product and business, but the scale will vary depending on which you use.

This article will tell you all you need to know about these terms, their applications, and their benefits.

We will introduce you to software prototyping, then similarly define and explain what an MVP. We’ll also tell you all about the use for both, and the advantages they have.


What is a Software Prototype?

A software prototype is exactly what you would expect from the name. It is an initial mockup of a software product to demonstrate the feasibility of a feature.

The level of detail and useability of the prototype can vary. It could be a quick sketch on paper, a digital demonstration of how a single feature would work, or a full working model of the app.

Software prototyping has become increasingly popular as an invaluable way for developers to understand the client’s needs, and for clients to demonstrate to investors and clients what they will be offering.

Depending on the specification of the prototype, it can be clickable and “work”. However, it is not a working product, simply a demonstration of what it will look like.

Plus, the prototype might differ a lot from the final product, but that’s to be expected. This is because the prototype is meant to gather data, not to be the fully-fledged application.

After the prototype is tested and feedback is gathered, the software will then go through the next stages of development to be improved into the final product.


What are the Benefits?

The benefits of using a software prototype are clear and show at every stage of development. To surmise, these can be:

  • Developers can better understand their client’s specifications.
  • Clients and users can see how their ideas transfer to working software.
  • It’s time and cost-effective. Problems and misunderstandings are found and fixed earlier.
  • Boosted user engagement, and more specific feedback from users regarding the software.
  • Users and clients can be more specific about their expectations and specifications. Leading to more bespoke software.

Find out more about the benefits of developing a software prototype in more detail.

What do the Benefits of Prototypes Mean?

The use of prototyping in software development has various advantages in terms of the creation and use of the software.

On the one hand, by using the prototype, designers are helped to better understand what is expected of the software and its technical and functional specifications. From this, they can understand the best approaches to adopt in the development process to create software more precisely to the client’s needs.

The advantages don’t stop with the developers though, and having a working prototype of the software in early development brings a lot of benefits for you and even for your customers.

By prototyping your software, you have the opportunity to see what your vision will look like as a functioning application, beyond a conceptual idea or diagrams on a piece of paper.

This also means that users too can evaluate the designs too, through testing it for themselves and giving your invaluable feedback on your idea.

Therefore, both the client and user can see if the initial software fits their specifications. Plus, any misunderstandings between the client and the developer can be found early in development and rectified.

It also means that the program’s workflow and user-friendliness can be tried and tested. Any services or features that are missing or are confusing can be fixed.

This is great for developers and clients because it proves to be time and cost-effective because any problems can be found and fixed early in development. Meanwhile, it benefits the customers as it creates an app that provides a better experience for them.

Because the prototype is constantly monitored by designers, and tested by the users, any misunderstandings or problems can be found and fixed far earlier. Thus proving a more cost and time-effective strategy.

Significantly, this also means that the final product will be greatly improved and more closely match the requirements of the client and its users.

As the prototype is a working model of the software that users can interact with and use, they can give more specific and improved feedback regarding the software.

This means that by taking the feedback on board, the final product can be better tailored to meet the users’ specifications and expectations, proving an altogether more satisfying and user-friendly product. Not only that, but user involvement with the software is also boosted, since the use of the prototype demands user engagement.

Sounds like a winner all round to us.


How does the Minimum Viable Product fit into This?

With ‘minimum viable product’ – or MVP for short – the name suggests what it is.

It is a product creates with the minimum number of feasible functions or features for it to still work and provide value for users. It is a fully functional product that can be taken to market.

In terms of software development, this means a piece of software with enough functionality to go to the market and to satisfy users.

Therefore, it is a balancing act between enough functions to have the characteristics wanted of the software, but still limiting the product to prevent superfluous features and keep development to a minimum.

Here’s a more detailed explanation of what an MVP is, and the benefits they can bring.

An MVP is not a Prototype

Some people think an MVP is a prototype, which isn’t true.

An MVP is to develop a marketable product, whereas a prototype is simply to test the functionality and feasibility.

The prototype will need to be discarded to make way for the final product, whereas the MVP can be the final product and will remain as the base for future features of the software.

You’ve probably come across examples of this more often than you think.

A lot of apps can be released with limited functionality, with just enough features to let you use the software.

Later on, updates are released bringing improvements and new features.

That is a visible process of software development. Moving from the MVP phase to more sophisticated software with greater features and functionality, all while it is available to users.


Why use a Minimum Viable Product?

But why use an MVP, and what makes it so important?

There are definite benefits to using the minimum viable product during development. To briefly surmise, these are:

  • It’s time-effective. By creating the bare minimum, you can create your product quickly, and get feedback sooner.
  • It’s cost-effective. Using the MVP, you limit engineering, resources, and time.
  • You can have a product live for testing as soon as possible. And gather feedback on functioning software fast.

An MVP phase can be brought into the software prototyping, by launching a live product featuring the minimum viable functions. This means that the benefits of using a software prototype can be combined with the efficiency and speed of using an MVP.

Be assured that minimum does not mean low quality. It is simply limited in size and complexity so that we can better understand your requirements and users can provide feedback on the product in greater detail.

Using the minimum simply means that development time and cost is reduced.

In addition, creating an MVP provides many of the same benefits as a prototype. Such as increased understanding between designers and clients, increased user-friendliness, and early user feedback.

In fact, gathering market data and feedback is the key principle of developing a minimum viable product.

To better understand the specific benefits of an MVP, you can read more about them here.


If you’re thinking of developing bespoke software you should also make the most of prototypes or minimum viable products to ensure you develop a solution that is fit for purpose and best meets the needs of you and your consumers.

To develop your own bespoke software take advantage of our prototyping and development services or our fixed-price MVP development service.

It only takes a minute to get a free quote and learn what we can do for you and your business. Now that you know about the advantages of software prototyping and minimum viable products, why not see for yourself the benefits it can bring to your business!

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