Design and prototype stage

Design and prototype stage

Transitioning from conceptualization to realization, Chapter 3 focuses on bringing your MVP to life. Here, we'll navigate the practical steps of prototyping, ensuring an optimal user experience, selecting the appropriate tech stack, and soft-launching your product. Let's transform your ideas into a tangible, testable product.

Visualizing your MVP

Wireframing and prototyping are foundational steps in visualizing your MVP. Start with rough sketches to freely explore different layouts and features. Transition to wireframing for a clearer structure of your interface, utilizing tools like Balsamiq for simplicity or Figma for more interactive wireframes. Let’s look at these steps closer. They are crucial for early feedback and help align your team's vision before moving to more complex stages of design.


Before prototyping your MVP, wireframes act as a blueprint, outlining the layout and user experience. They provide a visual representation of your product's screens and navigation flow, akin to a house's blueprint. Utilizing wireframing tools, like Balsamiq or Sketch, simplifies this process through drag-and-drop elements, aiding in design and functionality planning.

As a product owner, even if you're not a designer, engaging in wireframing can offer valuable insights, allowing for crucial feedback from your design and technical team, ensuring your MVP aligns with both user experience and functional requirements.

Mockups and Storyboards

After wireframing, develop mockups for a detailed visual representation. Use tools like Adobe Photoshop for high-quality mockups that closely resemble the final product. Complement this with storyboards to illustrate user interactions and flow.

Storyboards, created with tools like Canva, help stakeholders understand how users will navigate your MVP, making them ideal for presenting your concept to potential investors or team members.


Prototypes are early models that simulate your product's functionality, offering a realistic user experience with minimal effort. They can be mock-ups or interactive models made using tools like Adobe XD or Figma.

Prototypes are essential for gathering user feedback on product features and functionality, informing which aspects to prioritize in development. For instance, if user data shows a focus on certain functions, that’s where you should concentrate your development efforts.

Prototypes can range from low-fidelity, like wireframes or paper models, to high-fidelity digital models that simulate the final product's look and functionality.

  • Interactive Prototype: Digital model simulating functionality, no coding required. Tools: Adobe XD, Figma, Sketch

  • Wireframe Prototype: Low-fidelity digital model showing basic structure and layout. Tools: Axure, Balsamiq, MockFlow

  • Virtual Reality Prototype: 3D model in a simulated environment for usability testing. Tools: Unity, Unreal Engine, SketchUp

  • Physical Prototype: Real-life model for testing functionality and design. Tools: 3D printing, CNC machining, Injection molding

  • Video Prototype: Demonstration video showing user experience and functionality. Tools: After Effects, Premiere Pro, Final Cut Pro

  • Landing Page Prototype: Simple web page describing the product and its benefits. Tools: Instapage, Unbounce, Leadpages

  • MVP Prototype: Working model with essential features for early adopters. Tools: Bubble, Webflow

  • Wizard of Oz Prototype: Fake product appearing real for product validation. Tools: Zapier, IFTTT, Google Forms

  • Concierge Prototype: Real product solving one customer’s problem for validation. Tools: UserTesting, Userlytics

Landing pages

Landing pages are an effective way to test market interest. Platforms like Squarespace offer user-friendly interfaces to build attractive pages that highlight your MVP's key features and benefits.

Complement these with explainer videos, which can be crafted using tools like Biteable, to engage and inform your audience in a concise, compelling manner. Together, they form a powerful duo for capturing leads and gauging user interest.

Various platform types cater to different characteristics and needs for launching Minimum Viable Products (MVPs).

  • App Stores, such as the Apple App Store and Google Play Store, offer high visibility but are highly competitive environments reliant on user ratings, making them ideal for mobile-first MVPs seeking rapid market penetration.
  • Web Hosting Services like Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud, and Heroku provide customizability and broader reach with SEO benefits, making them perfect for web-based MVPs aiming for scalability and flexibility.
  • Crowdfunding Platforms such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo excel in audience engagement and funding opportunities, making them optimal choices for MVPs requiring initial financial support.
  • Social Media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter offer direct user engagement and viral potential, serving MVPs with a strong social component.
  • Dedicated Landing Pages crafted with Squarespace, WordPress, or Webflow offer complete control and a focused user experience, making them suitable for highly targeted MVPs aiming for specific audience segments.

With a prototype in hand, our next focus is on the user experience, ensuring our MVP is not only functional but also intuitive and user-friendly.


In anything related to design, our Merge team advocates for a user-centric approach, ensuring that every feature, design element, and decision is made with the end-user in mind.

A core principle in MVP UX design is the art of simplicity and focus. This concept is best captured by the words of writer Austin Kleon, "In this age of information abundance and overload, those who get ahead will be the folks who figure out what to leave out, so they can concentrate on what’s important to them."

For MVP developers, this means learning to say "NO" to features that don't align directly with the core vision of the product. It's about distilling a plethora of ideas into a few that truly matter. An effective way to achieve this is through the 'Blue Ocean Strategy,' which involves differentiating your MVP from competitors in a significant and meaningful way.

When it comes to balancing user desires with feasibility, it's crucial to start with a list of features that users desire while also keeping in mind their technical feasibility. Methods like interviews, surveys, brainstorming sessions, and engagement on discussion forums can provide valuable insights. However, it's important not to limit yourself to only 'good' ideas; sometimes, the most innovative solutions arise from ideas that initially seem unfeasible or unconventional.

Strategy components
Strategy components

Visual design in an MVP is a crucial element that often gets overlooked in the rush to develop a functional product. However, a design that adheres to the basic principles of visual design – such as unity, balance, hierarchy, proportion, emphasis, and contrast – is essential. A well-designed MVP not only appeals visually but also helps users understand the product easily, creating a positive first impression and building trust.

The usability of an MVP is another critical aspect. It's not just about including features; it's about ensuring that these features solve the real needs of your customers. This means focusing on critical pain points and avoiding the temptation to overload the MVP with features. The goal is to identify features that offer the highest ROI and then iterate the MVP based on user feedback and findings.

User journey

After exploring UX design, it's crucial to delve into the user journey aspect. It focuses on the user's interaction with your product from start to finish.

Creating a user journey map allows you to:

  • Better define and visualize priorities.
  • Align your objectives with user needs.
  • Place users at the center of your development process.
  • Facilitate more productive discussions about the product.
  • Validate the relevance of your User Personas.

The user journey is a visual overview of the customer's entire interaction with your product, encompassing not just the steps taken but also the emotions and experiences evoked. It's important to define:

  1. Stages. Identify the general state of mind of the user at different stages, such as Awareness, Consideration, Installation (for mobile apps), or Purchase and Advocacy (for web services).
  2. Specific User Actions. Consider actions like viewing an ad, watching a related YouTube video, or in-app activities.
  3. User Goals. Understand the objectives behind each user action.
  4. Storyboard. Visualize these actions and stages, potentially through drawings or sketches.
  5. Experience. Assess the emotions or thoughts triggered by different interactions.
  6. Problems. Identify potential user frustrations at each stage.
  7. Ideas. Brainstorm solutions to alleviate user pains.

For more insights on creating effective personas, these resources might be helpful:

Incorporating these elements into your MVP development can significantly enhance the user experience, ensuring that the final product resonates with your target audience's needs and expectations.

With UX design set, choosing the right tech stack becomes crucial, balancing functionality with the agility needed for MVP development, including no-code options.

Choosing the Technology for Your MVP

When selecting technology for your MVP, consider the following:

  1. Ecosystem interdependencies. If your product is part of a broader technology ecosystem, its interdependencies should influence your technology choice.
  2. Balancing speed, cost, and expertise. Aim for technology that meets your goals efficiently and cost-effectively. However, remember that no coding language is perfect, and often the key factors - scalability, costs, and versatility - are mutually exclusive. The expertise level of developers often trumps the choice of the technology stack, so prioritize teams experienced in your chosen language.

No-code and low-code platforms

No-code and low-code platforms bridge the gap between idea and prototype, especially for non-technical founders. Tools like Bubble or AppGyver offer drag-and-drop functionalities, making it possible to build functional prototypes without deep programming knowledge. These platforms can significantly accelerate the development process, allowing for rapid testing and iteration.

Advantages in MVP development

  1. Speed. No-code tools significantly accelerate the development process. They allow for rapid prototyping, enabling quicker testing and iteration cycles.
  2. Cost-effectiveness. They reduce the need for a large development team, thereby cutting down on development costs.
  3. Flexibility. These platforms provide a high degree of customization, allowing founders to tweak and adjust their MVPs with ease.
  4. Ease of use. Their user-friendly interface makes them accessible to individuals with little to no coding experience.

At Merge, we also understand the potential of these platforms and specialize in no-code development services, helping both startups and established businesses to efficiently turn their innovative ideas into tangible products. We have even developed an approach that streamlines the development process, ensuring that each project is adjusted to its unique requirements, from concept to launch.

MVP technologies
MVP technologies

With our technology selected, we move to internal testing and a soft launch, crucial steps for gathering initial feedback and preparing for market introduction.

Generating early interest and launch strategies

Inform prospective users about your upcoming product through platforms like ProductHunt, BetaList, and relevant subreddits to attract early adopters.

Understand the differences between soft launch, dark launch, and hard launch:

  • Soft launch. Target a limited audience or specific geographic location to test monetization strategies and gather feedback.
  • Dark launch. Release your product to a select group pre-official launch for expanded post-beta testing.
  • Hard launch. Suitable for businesses confident in their market understanding, involving aggressive promotional activities at scale. Generally, not recommended for smaller enterprises.

Methodologies for generating early interest:

  1. Community engagement. Utilize online communities and forums related to your industry to generate interest. This can include specific LinkedIn groups, Reddit communities, and industry-specific forums. Regularly engage in these communities by sharing insights, answering questions, and subtly introducing your MVP.
  2. Content marketing. Develop a content marketing strategy that includes blog posts, whitepapers, and infographics that provide value to your target audience while subtly promoting your MVP. Use SEO techniques to ensure this content ranks well in search engines, driving organic traffic to your MVP.
  3. Social media campaigns. Create a series of social media campaigns designed to build curiosity and anticipation about your MVP. Use teaser content, countdowns, and behind-the-scenes glimpses to engage potential users.
  4. Influencer partnerships. Collaborate with influencers in your industry to reach a broader audience. Identify influencers whose followers align with your target audience and work with them to create content that highlights your MVP.
  5. Email marketing. Develop an email marketing strategy to nurture leads and build a community around your MVP. Offer exclusive early access or special deals to subscribers, and keep them engaged with regular updates about your MVP's development and launch.
  6. Beta testing community. Create a community of beta testers who can provide early feedback and help refine your MVP. Offer incentives for participation, such as early access, discounts, or recognition within the product.
  7. Webinars and online events. Host webinars or online events that provide value to your audience while introducing your MVP. Use these events to demonstrate your MVP, gather feedback, and create a sense of community among potential users.