Prototype or MVP? How do I start my app?

This is some text inside of a div block.
Min reading
Share this article
Mobile app screensMobile app screens


    A project in mind? Let's work together.

    Start a project
    Merci pour votre confiance=
    Vous allez recevoir un mail de confirmation.
    Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
    Start a project


    What should be the first version of your application - a prototype or a minimum viable product (MVP)? What is the difference between the two and what are they for? This article explores the definitions of these two testing options for digital products and their relative benefits, including how we understand and use them here at 40/60 studio.

    Interfaces mobiles

    The development of digital products

    At 40/60 studio, we are convinced that an approach, called “agile”, is the most effective for designing a digital product (application, software, website, etc...) This approach not only ensures a user-centric approach, in line with user needs, but it offers a high degree of flexibility during design. This means that projects can pivot quickly and easily if the intended product does not match the needs of users and the market.

    Digital product development becomes even more effective when agile methodology scrum is combined with the approach Lean Start-Up. Lean start-ups can integrate both prototyping and MVP steps into a structured process that transforms concepts into concrete and detailed proposals. With the Lean Start-Up, we carry out tests in order to collect data to refine the vision of the product. Afterwards, Scrum's iterative sprint-based approach is ideal for creating the product and evolving it later.

    Depending on the product you want to develop, its scope and the target audience, we find that to validate an initial idea, the creation of a prototype Or of a MVP will be sufficient. Both approaches can save you time and money, so there's no need to invest heavily in a huge platform and/or a complex application without going through one of these steps (or both) first.

    A prototype is like a first draft of the product. Not quite a sketch of the corner of a terrace table (although theoretically it may be a valid prototype) — but more like a kind of “clickable illusion to test the main functionality”. A prototype is a way to quickly test the basic ideas and hypotheses of the product and therefore of your concept.

    On the other hand, an MVP is a usable version of the product with only the basic feature (s), ideal for testing, for collecting useful feedback and data, but with a minimum of time and money invested at this stage.

    The big differences between the prototype and the MVP

    1. A prototype tests the idea. An MVP is testing the product.
    2. A prototype tests the basis of the concept. An MVP tests the functionalities, considering the basic concept as already proven.
    3. An MVP is functional, it can be used. A prototype shows the visual appearance of the product.
    4. A prototype can be used as the basis for designing the MVP (in some cases, it is a good idea to validate the basic assumptions using the prototype and then develop an MVP)

    Depending on what you want to do, it turns out that in practice, these definitions can be unclear. A prototype may be more detailed, or an MVP may be more basic. At 40/60 studio we know that we tend to make fairly complete prototypes, but there is always a clear difference between them and our MVPs.

    • An application prototype is a non-functional visualization of the product but it can be interactive. It is intended to identify usability defects during navigation.
    • An MVP application is the functional version, highlighting the value proposition. The aim is to bring this value directly to the market by focusing on essential functionality.
    Etapes d'un cycle de développement d'un produit
    Product development cycle

    You might be interested in this article:

    Lien vers article Scaler son produit

    Focus prototype: Prototyping your product

    At the heart of the lean startup approach, and of any agile development methodology, is the user. After all, how can you really know if you're building something that people will want and use unless you ask them to?

    The main difference compared to using an MVP is that with a prototype, you are testing the concept and the navigation experience and the visual of the product. A prototype has no functionality, no engineering (or very little). It is something to put in front of users (or stakeholders, or investors because it is very often used as a pitch tool) in order to validate the appearance of the product. It's your first “real world test” of your concept, and as such, it's done quickly, with minimal development, time, or resources. If it seems a bit “light” and doesn't give users much, that's okay because a prototype aims to get feedback, not detailed feedback. You just need to know their reactions to the product concept idea - is there an audience for that? are you on the right track? These are the key questions...

    Focus prototype: The benefits of a prototype

    Besides the main benefit of testing the reaction of your proposed product with real users in a way that makes efficient use of time, money, and resources, there are a number of other benefits to creating a prototype of your digital product.

    Get a commitment — Each project has stakeholders, people interested in the project and an influence on its progress. Many projects also have investors, people to put the necessary funds to make your digital product a reality and put it on the market and into the hands of users. A prototype can be a great way to ensure stakeholder and investor engagement.

    Better understanding — Reactions to your prototype will help you better understand your design and its potential impact on the market. You may have the best team in the world working on your design, but as long as all of the product thinking is done within a team, you're not dealing with the so-called real world. Hearing what future users have to say is a reality check that can highlight the risks and flaws in your product, and simply confirm that your product idea is worth pursuing. Or not, as the case may be.

    Faster time to market — Based on our experience, without some form of testing during the development process, it's unlikely that your end product will be ready for the market; not so “final” after all.In the words of Jc, John Zeratsky, and Braden Kowitz, authors of “Sprint: How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas In Just Five Days”:

    “Of course, you could take longer to build a more perfect prototype, but that would only slow down the learning process. It might not matter if you're on the right track, but let's face it, not every idea is a winner. Whether you're taking a risk with a bold idea or you're not sure, it's best to find out early.”
    - Jake Knapp

    Focus MVP: the MVPs more ready

    One of the key principles of the lean startup approach is data-based learning; that is, measurable (and useful) responses from your intended users that influence design. We're talking about quantifiable data, such as revenue, user engagement, and evidence-based feedback, leading to real improvements in future product iterations. Eric Ries, inventor of lean startup, defined MVPs as “... a version of a new product that allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated customer information with the least effort possible.”

    The word “minimum” is important here. There is nothing superfluous in an MVP. In fact, another definition of an MVP would be a product that has just enough features to gather validated knowledge about the product and its necessary further development.

    Unlike a prototype, which could possibly be a sketch on a napkin, an MVP is still a functional version of the product. Generally focused on one or two main features, an MVP can be used, tested, played with. You don't ask theoretical questions to your test group, you observe their use of the MVP, and gather specific practical feedback. However, let's be clear... an MVP is not just the end product with a few missing features; it's also not an early version of the final product (although it could very well drive one). An MVP is an experiment, testing part of your solution with the people who encounter the problem with the resulting data guiding you to produce a better, more marketable version of the final product.

    Like the prototype, MVP is a method for testing and collecting feedback; it's all part of an effective digital product development process. This effectiveness is demonstrated in several ways.

    Time — No matter how much effort you put into your final product, without prior testing or feedback, you will almost certainly need to refine it further once it comes into contact with the market. (Or worse, rethink it completely!)

    Better understanding of the “problem” — In simple terms, is the problem you've identified solved by what you've developed so far? Are you on the right track

    Confirm and engage with your user audience - You're not just testing the product, you're also testing the audience. Are they adapted to the final product? Have you identified the people who really need your product? In a nutshell, are you doing this for the right people?

    Profitability — Responses to an MVP can be an indicator of future interest in the final product, including potential sales.

    Technology - An MVP with little functionality also allows you to test the right technology to use to further develop your product.

    Finally, let's not forget the development team. Publishing an MVP is motivating: there is a tangible representation of the future product; an MVP means progress.

    Prototype and MVP, the Hjaelp customer case

    Hjaelp is a Danish multi-service application. We accompanied them for several weeks to create a prototype and an MVP.

    Discover the customer case below.

    Cas client Hjaelp

    So what should you use: Prototype or MVP?

    Both are techniques used to test the product earlier in the development process, without having to commit to building the entire product first. As such, prototypes and MVPs can be used to reduce costs, reduce risks, and even reduce future technical debt. If you need to test the basic concept of the product and are working on a very limited budget, create a prototype. If you want to compare the performance of a feature and validate uses, create an MVP.Do you want measurable feedback from users or a first instinctive reaction? Do you need a response and commitment from investors? There is no clear winner. The best option depends on the stage of the project and the audience you have. When our team is working on a proposal, they always choose the solution that best fits the user's needs, budget, and business goals.


    Let's talk about what we can do together.

    Do you want to chat in person?
    Photo de Quentin Da Silva
    Quentin: 06 32 41 68 82

    Do you still have questions about your project?

    Specify my project using the Product Calculator
    Flèche bleu qui pointe vers le haut à droite

    Learn more about 40/60 with a good old PDF

    Icone de fichier
    40/60 Studio for startups.pdf
    Icone de fichier
    40/60 Studio for corpo.pdf
    Thanks for your message.
    We will get back to you as soon as possible!
    Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

    Un projet en tête ?
    Travaillons ensemble !

    Commencer un projet
    Personne autours d'une table qui participe à un atelier