What is the difference between a prototype and an MVP?

Thoughts By 6 days ago

Go to any Agile or a Digital Product meetup or read any product management blog and you can be about 92.37% sure that you WILL hear the term MVP.

So what exactly is an MVP?

MVP simply expanded is Minimum Viable Product. Let’s break it down further…

Minimum means the absolute bare minimum that you can build that still delivers customer value. So if it contains more features than what is required, or isn’t the smallest thing you can build that delivers customer value, then it’s not an MVP.

Viable means feasible or practicable. Translated to business terms it’s something you can make available to users to provide feedback on.

Product in our case is a piece of software that is built for customers or users.

Putting all of this together, an MVP is a product with just enough features to satisfy early adopters, and to provide feedback for aiding future feature decisions.

So is a prototype an MVP? What is a prototype anyway?

A prototype is a product concept or idea that can be used to test feasibility. It does not need to be functional, it can be simply a mockup or a presentation to just prove a concept or present to stakeholders. It is mostly discarded after testing and is not ready to go out into the world yet.

To sum it up, an MVP is a functional product to maximise validated learning with the least effort, while a prototype is merely a proof of concept. An MVP has the potential to be made better in the future, but at the moment is just good enough, while a prototype is not.

A prototype is not meant to be out in the market, or be used by customers. If a prototype was released into the market for consumption it would more than likely  either entirely fail, or generate dissatisfaction and subsequent disengagement from customers.

Given its 3:00 pm and I’m hungry already, all the analogies I can think of relate to food, so here is a prototype vs MVP pizza analogy…

Prototype

MVP

Concept of what the pizza will look likeSimple pizza with just enough ingredients for it to be called pizza. It’s ready for consumers and can be used to validate and learn what customers want

Product after a few iterations

Pizza developed based on feedback from customers on their likes and wants