3 terms to know when you're just starting out

Phase Idea
Photo by Christin Hume on Unsplash

If one of your goals for making an app is to grow a business, there are 3 terms to get familiar with as you get going. You’ll start to hear these terms being thrown around if you’re becoming more embedded in the world of tech startups. These terms are:

  1. Validate
  2. Prototype
  3. MVP


Validating your app idea is about testing the viability of your idea by testing your riskiest assumption using techniques that allow for initial feedback from users. A risky assumption refers to an assumption you're making about your target user, which you have little information to back up, but is integral to your app solving the problem your users have.

For example, an assumption Airbnb made is that people wouldn't mind sharing their homes with strangers who are traveling.

When you’re thinking about raising money, validating your idea is key to attracting potential investors. They want to know you've taken the time to determine if your app is really what people want. Two common ways to validate an app idea are through the use of a prototype and an MVP.


A prototype is a low or high-fidelity version of an app created to test a concept. It is a preliminary visual mock-up that looks like a real app, and that demonstrates an app's fundamental design and function, but typically does not contain functional code. A prototype can be as basic as sketches on paper or as high-fidelity as a clickable, digital model that works on your phone. It can illustrate one key screen, a complex flow, or all the main features.

A prototype is typically used in conjunction with user interviews to elicit a reaction to the app with a visual aid. A user’s reactions and responses while using the prototype will help validate if your app is on the right track.

For example, Airbnb might've made a prototype of what the process would look like to book a stay on their platform and used it in user interviews to elicit a reaction from potential users.


A minimum viable product (aka MVP) is the simplest or scaled-back version of your app that's released publicly to gain feedback from your first users. It focuses solely on the core features that offer value and is devoid of all the bells and whistles. It’s similar to a prototype except it’s fully functional with minimal features and released to a private group of beta users or the public.

An MVP is helpful for gaining feedback on your app with additional insight into usage — which can't be observed with just a prototype in a user interview.

A number of well known apps of today actually started out their journeys as an MVP. It was only after hitting the market did they undergo significant changes, made successful pivots, and ended up where they are today.

For example, Airbnb initially offered a platform where you could book an air mattress, but solely to the people visiting San Francisco for a design conference.

These terms are just to get your feet wet.

These 3 terms are helpful as you start thinking about how to approach making your app. They are just a few of many terms you'll come across but are some of the most important to know. These are steps that are typically overlooked but can save you a lot of time, money, and resources in the long run if done right.