PoC vs Prototype vs MVP: A Complex View
In this article, we are going to discuss three concepts identifying different ways of testing an idea of a product. It is dedicated to those who’d like to know more about software development from the business side: startup CEOs, product and project managers early in their careers, marketers, and anyone who works with digital products.
Even though the terms in the title look as if they were opposed to each other, it’s not always the case. Actually, these can be stages of product development. Then, a more accurate title would be PoC to Prototype to MVP. However, some skip PoC or/and Prototype stages and proceed straight to building an MVP. All in all, these terms can mean milestones in the development and independent idea-testing models at the same time.
Further, we’ll explore the concepts and benefits of each and see how to use them. Let’s start with a proof of concept definition.
Proof of concept
PoC (short for proof of concept) is basically a demonstration of the product’s feasibility to stakeholders in a simple form. Its main distinguishing feature is that it requires a minimum of effort compared to the prototype and MVP.
The “concept vs idea” difference explains the purpose of PoC quite well. An idea is something that is based on suggestion, whereas a concept is grounded on facts. To put it simply, you have to support your speech with figures and computations to impress investors.
What is a PoC process? It can start by collecting potential users’ feedback. The aim is to conduct a series of custdevs and collect data proving or disapproving the feasibility of the future product. A custdev stands for a customer development interview or just a customer interview, which is a method of validating your ideas by asking questions about future users’ needs and challenges.
Another thing that proof of concept deals with is whether the aim is achievable. Basically, PoC is a milestone testing the possibility of creating a product: Are there real technologies and resources that can bring your idea to life? That’s when you decide on (NB, not build!) the methods, user paths, a tech stack, and an architecture of a product that solves a user problem.
Both prototype and MVP showcase the minimum functionality of a product. Their development requires more time and effort and, as a result, costs more.
- Therefore, the first and obvious benefit of the PoC is its affordability as it doesn’t require too many resources to get investments and understand if the product is worth building or not.
- Another advantage is that it minimizes the risk. You can present the proof of concept to the investors in a Pdf or PowerPoint format — no coding is involved. Imagine how frustrating it would be to find out that customers don’t need a product once all the functions have been implemented.
- The proof of concept has a great meaning for startups with small budgets. You may present PoC with minimal effort and still get enough funds to grow your business.
Usually, companies come to us with their concepts ready. However, sometimes we help them to formulate the inquiry and study the target audience on the stage of analytics. But we’re happy to share some tips to help you to understand what a proof of concept is and what steps to take.
First, make a focus group and, as we’ve mentioned, conduct a series of interviews to know the request of the audience. It will help you to identify the problem and its solution.
Second, specify the resources you’ll need to achieve the goal. For instance, draw a timeline and set the number of specialists required for development and any other tools.
Third, present how you’re going to measure results. Investors will definitely want to know the criteria for your success.
Anyway, if you are struggling with defining your target audience or the uniqueness of the offer, we’re here to help.
If an app is a painting, then a PoC is an idea of what to draw, and a prototype is a sketch. It has the very core features that need to be tested. A prototype may require some coding, for example, to make a clickable app model. However, it’s not a fully working software yet. What is a prototype’s role in the development cycle?
Just like a PoC, a prototype has a short life cycle in product development. Its main goal is to create a GUI (graphic user interface) first for customers to test it. Also, it gives developers an opportunity to study the technical issues of a product or check risky features before implementing them.
Prototyping may take different forms from literal sketches on a piece of paper showing screens and buttons to clickable wireframes created by designers. In general, it’s an early version of a product. At this stage, the aim is to visualize the actual future user experience that you will further develop in the MVP.
Why make a prototype if it’s definitely costlier than just checking your idea with research? Well, compared to a PoC, a prototype answers the question of how you are going to make a product rather than what you are going to make. And these are some other reasons that distinguish a prototype from other models.
- By creating a prototype, you get the first vision of a product, which helps you to evaluate features that might have looked perfect at the PoC stage but turned out to be unviable or not meeting consumer needs.
- You can design a user path and predict the challenges of your product’s user experience.
- Skipping the prototype stage might increase the risk of failure when entering the market after the PoC. It doesn’t mean you have to check every new feature with the target audience; you can discuss a prototype within your team to finally deploy the best possible version of the MVP to the app stores.
At Ronas IT, we often offer the service of building a clickable design prototype in Figma. It’s a good opportunity for the client to test ideas before investing money in development. We worked with a startup that closed right after testing a prototype. We cannot name it because the project obviously does not exist anymore.
The idea behind it was to make a rental app for sharing rooms and apartments. The client realized that the competition in this industry was high, and it would be hard to make money with a service like that.
Nevertheless, we don’t see this case as a negative one. The earlier a startup founder understands that the idea isn’t going to work, the more money is saved. In our case, we made a detailed clickable prototype, showcasing the core features in a PoC, that allowed a founder to thoroughly test the concept and opt out of the product development.
An MVP abbreviation stands for the minimum viable product, which is a product with just enough features to enter the market. The main objective of an MVP that distinguishes it from a PoC or a prototype is to reach the end users and leverage ideas developed at the previous stages.
MVPs can be of different complexity, from a landing page to a ready-to-use product with the necessary features you’d like to test. By the time of the MVP milestone, you should know who your target audience is and what its needs are. In addition to it, you should have a list of features you’d like to implement first.
The next step is observation. First, you launch an MVP, then see if it works for the users, and finally start eternal bugs fixing and scaling up your product.
Read more about the process of building an MVP in the article Minimum Viable Product (MVP) Design: How to Validate Your Ideas Fast and Blow the Market?
Unlike a prototype, a minimum viable product is fully functional. Its launch is an exciting and exhilarating moment of your creation meeting the end user. And these are other benefits of developing an MVP:
- Because an MVP reaches customers, it is when you get a chance to start generating income. However, there should always be an opportunity for users to try the core features for free, otherwise, they won’t even know what they are subscribing to.
- Another upside is that your product exists in the real context. Now you can track and analyze users’ behavior, get feedback, work on relevant issues, and consider a plan of further development based on credible numbers and stats.
- An MVP is an even better way to attract investors. Perspectives of the product seem to be more persuasive and promising when it is tangible.
One of the representative cases in our practice was the development of the Lainappi app. When we started our work with Lainappi, they had an idea of a product that would let people take and give items for rent. Apart from the ready concept, Lainappi had a design prototype, and they wanted us to bring it to the MVP level.
However, to bring the app to the market at its best, we had to redesign the user experience and add a unique style highlighting the eco-friendliness of the app’s interfaces.
One of the big changes in the user path was integrating system notifications into a chat for interaction between the renter and the owner. Whereas, the prototype had different screens for tracking the status, actions, and communication. We also added a user profile, international authorization options, a language choice, a payment function, item descriptions, and other features that were not in the prototype.
Lainappi is a perfect example of how the product develops and changes from step to step: from the idea of renting household items to the design prototype by the Lainappi team and, finally, to the MVP built by Ronas IT.
Read more about Lainappi in our case study on Behance.
To sum up, the model you choose depends on several factors: your budget, time, and readiness to enter the market. If you are just starting your business and looking for a seed round of funding, then a PoC or a prototype are going to be your primary tools to draw investors’ interest to your idea.
Depending on your resources, you choose whether to present your concept at the stage of the idea (PoC) or at the stage of the composed user path (prototype). And if you are ready to test the core functionality with the target audience, an MVP is going to be your choice.
Or these concepts can be stages of your product development, and you’ll move from an idea to a prototype and then to the market.
Among other services, Ronas IT helps small businesses and startups take their first steps in product development. We take on projects of any complexity from PoC to enterprise level. See what we can do for you.