- February 2, 2023
Table of Contents
Today, we’ll focus on the design phase, namely on: mockups, prototypes, and MVPs. These terms seem to be confusing for many, especially for those who are creating a product for the first time. However, they differ greatly in definition.
But before we start to go over any of these phases, you should first familiarise yourself with yet another concept — the wireframe. This is the most schematic outline of a product interface, without any styling.
The purpose of a wireframe is to show the layout and functionality of a product, as well as screen flows and user interactions, by using simple blocks as screen components.
Once a wireframe has been prepared, both the designers and developers can use it as a point of orientation for more advanced steps to come.
This is the first step toward a visual rendering of the final product — albeit one that is not yet functional, meaning that it is just a graphic representation of a web page or application.
Simply put, this is a lively version of the wireframe — with an additional layer of colour schemes, icons, spacing, navigational visuals, typography, and some placeholder content. It allows the graphic designer to see how all of the components work together. At this stage, everything can be easily modified, without having to turn the entire project upside down over any particular piece of software. It’s the best time to test and experiment on your design. More importantly, mockups don’t include any functional elements. They are more like screenshots — ready to be handed over to the developers.
Mockups give us a general idea of what the project will look like, revealing both its strong points and potential issues (e.g., accessibility). The latter can be spotted and fixed in no time, without having to edit any code.
These mockups tell the developers exactly what they should be working on. This allows them to focus on bringing the project to life by adding a layer of code.
The prototype is the most critical concept in the design process — because it’s more than just a sketch of an interface.
It’s based on wireframes and mockups, and focused on functionality. The prototype represents a sample version of the product — one that is truly interactive. That’s why it requires usability testing in order to get any user feedback. The prototype can also be used to attract new investors and show stakeholders how the project is progressing.
It is only when you have a working prototype that you can estimate how much time and money you will need to release an MVP (see below), followed by more advanced versions of the product.
The Minimum Viable Product (or MVP) is the most basic yet launchable version of the final product.
It includes just the core functionalities but still delivers value to early adopters whose role it is to test the product and provide feedback, allowing the product to quickly achieve a good product-market fit. The MVP should provide users with enough value to either use it or buy it. It should also offer a glimpse into future benefits, so that early adopters will continue to stick with the product and also recommend it to others, organically. Although the MVP only provides users with one or two key features, one thing is certain — these features should be absolutely refined in every detail! And last but not least — every MVP should be equipped with a mechanism for collecting feedback, which is essential in terms of further development.
Building the MVP is way less expensive than developing a fully-fledged product right away. After all, it’s not called “minimum” for no reason. Plus, taking such a cost-effective approach prevents the product from becoming too complicated for users to digest. Adding more features, iteration by iteration, is a well-known risk-mitigation strategy.
By launching an MVP, you can verify your business concept and market demand, as well as test your UX solutions. It gives you the opportunity to react quickly when something doesn’t seem to be working as well as it should.
Getting to know the needs of your customers is an endless process, and the MVP can help you understand what they expect from your product. Also, it’s a great way to build a relationship with them early on. You can make your first users feel special by granting them early access to new features every time you want to release an update, so that they feel important and needed.
Wireframes, mockups, prototypes, and MVPs — it all seems like a lot of work but… this is actually the most efficient way to design and develop a product. Well-established processes make the project run smoothly and prevent everyone involved from making costly mistakes. Plus, taking small steps instead of one giant leap results in better focus, less confusion and misunderstandings, and greater job satisfaction for the entire team.