POC vs Prototype vs MVP: Which Approach Should You Choose?

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Starting up your first company can be daunting, but it is necessary. Don't concern yourself with semantics - all you need to remember is that whether you call your proof of concept a prototype, proof of market or minimum viable product, the most important thing to do is make sure your business idea checks out and can attract investors. In this article, we look at what exactly a proof of concept (POC), a prototype and a minimum viable product (MVP) are and what they're best used for. Also, learn about biz model canvas a tool that explains all the factors that go into building a solid startup idea!

#1. What is a POC?

A proof of concept (POC) is the first step in turning an idea into a viable and complete product. A POC demonstrates a small part of a project and helps startups to:

  • develop or test an idea, especially for new technologies not yet market-ready
  • design new products based on existing technology
  • attract investors by showing them that an idea can be implemented in a product.

Starting with a POC is very helpful in the product development phase.

The main purpose of a proof of concept is to test a product’s technical side or design concept, rather than testing its whole feature set. You’re validating a feature or functionality that raises concerns and you will either build the core technology yourself or find an external resource who can assist you.

Since this phase isn’t necessarily public-facing, your POC will never be available for others to test.

What you get with a POC

Proof of Concept (POC) is a great tool for validating a unique and never-before-seen product. Here are the benefits you get by using this approach at the very beginning of product development:

  • 1) Attracting initial investment. Investors are more willing to fund proven ideas and companies that have already produced successful products in the past. A working POC is a fantastic way to prove that potential investors can trust that your idea will turn into something good and profitable without putting too much time and/or money into your project's development.
  • 2) Saving time. In a short period, a POC can let you know if your product can be implemented from the technical point of view so you can proceed to the next stages of startup development.
  • 3) Making the right choice. You can create several Proofs of Concept using different technologies and test them. The results will help you understand what development approach to choose to save resources and reduce risks.
  • 4) Staying ahead of the competition. A Proof of Concept is a relatively inexpensive way to come up with a unique feature or product that will revolutionize your business. With this approach, you can continually test various technologies in the context of your business and become a pioneer who stays ahead of competitors and gains market recognition — as Walmart did.

Walmart POC success story

Blockchain technology was originally utilized to create cryptocurrencies. However, Walmart plans on applying this technology to track product origins for various reasons. Before implementing it into their logistics system, the team decided to create a proof of concept to ascertain if it was indeed the right direction to take.

In 2016, this development team created two small projects to track the origin of mangoes in the U.S., as well as meat sold by Walmart stores in China.

Walmart aims for high standards when it comes to its supply chain initiative. The blockchain allowed for this data previously to be obtained in 2.2 seconds, which was much faster than the week that was previously required. Also, using blockchain technology makes Walmart’s product delivery systems much more transparent.

Along with tracking where products come from, logistics processes can also be quickly checked and dates of dispatch and arrival at supermarkets are visible within seconds. Walmart is currently expanding the functionality of its blockchain-based system and then applying it across all areas of its business.

#2. What is a prototype?

A prototype is methodical planning of a product or a feature. It allows designers and developers to ensure clients have a seamless experience when interacting with your product’s user interface (UI) and user experience (UX). There are several kinds of prototypes you can employ for different purposes:

  • Paper prototypes are drawings of how an application will look, formatted for paper. These diagrams give the appearance of how the interface will work but aren't necessarily interactive. When it comes to usability, for example, allow users to click or swipe on parts of the screen to make sure that the application is intuitive and convenient.
  • Horizontal prototypes are helping UX designers visualizing the user experience in an application under development without any kind of backend. The most popular tools for creating interactive UX wireframes are Invision and Proto.io. Horizontal prototypes are used in product analysis when one would like to capture feedback or when gathered feedback is not yet relevant enough for other types of prototypes. They are applied more frequently than any other type of prototype.
    In this type of prototype, clickable screens are interconnected via special clickable zones or hotspots that are typically placed on buttons, dropdowns and other user interface elements that a user will interact with. You can then design your project to look like a real product through these connections.
  • A vertical prototype is used in the later stage of product analysis and is an implementation of a particular feature from many perspectives. A vertical prototype can be connected to a database to demonstrate a specific feature in detail.
    The most common types of prototypes are paper and vertical, which are created after the proof of concept stage (if there was a need to create a POC) to show how your product will look. You may create several low-quality prototypes and choose one that satisfies users’ needs.

As a proof of concept, a prototype isn’t a finished product and it, therefore, can’t be presented to the general public. It’s usually tested inside one’s company or among a small group of potential users. Once a prototype is in the hands of users it allows you to analyze how they interact with it. You can determine which parts of the design you need to rethink based on their remarks about those parts after the testing phase has been completed.

What you get with a prototype

Here are some valuable benefits a prototype can give to a startup:

  • 1. Design concept validation. Prototypes allow you to run many tests and make changes to a design until you get the desired result.
  • 2. Resource savings. Prototypes help you determine potential design flaws before developing the full product, prevent rework, and avoid unnecessary expenses.
  • 3. Fast feedback When testing prototypes with live people you can receive positive as well as negative feedback quickly which allows you to not only prevent problems down the line but also ensures that your product can appeal properly to meet consumer needs quickly and efficiently!
  • 4. Once you’ve tested a concept with users and made it look great, you can take your idea to an investor. Your goal is to convince them that your prototype is worth investing in.

This illustration here is a great example of the kinds of things we can help you with as consultants and developers if you’re building your eCommerce store. We’d love to create something similar for your company and we invite you to give us a call or send an email so we can work towards that goal!

#3. What is an MVP?

A minimum viable product, or MVP, is a sort of prototype with a minimum set of features that can satisfy users' needs. An MVP lets you know how users react to your product. Here at TechWaptesi, we use an MVP as a tool for testing different versions of our products by showing them to our customers so we can gather feedback and develop the right features for them. Being able to develop your MVP help you create better products sooner, but it also allows you to identify specific functions that need development sooner rather than later.

If you started your product with a proof of concept and then proceeded to a prototype, the next step would logically be an MVP. The MVP helps you modify your product until it achieves the desired results.

What do you get with an MVP?

The main benefits of an MVP include:

  • Minimization and optimization of expenses. Compared to a full-fledged product, an MVP requires less time and money for development. There are several reasons for this. The first is that getting user feedback fast allows you to map a development path. And with a clear development path, you can avoid investments in features and designs your users don’t need. Secondly, the MVP development process is gradual and allows you to invest money in parts, not all at once.
  • A powerful way to get your first paying customers. Not all of your ideas are fully featured, but you can release an MVP to bring in some income - making improvements along the way with help from client feedback.
  • A chance to draw investors' attention. Nobody wants to invest in an uncertain product with little potential in the marketplace. A successful MVP puts money right in your pocket, meaning you have financially-vested users which give your project more credibility for potential lenders or LLC members that share your passion for the idea you're bringing forth into the world!

Amazon’s experience with an MVP

The story of Amazon is the story of how an MVP successfully became a world-renowned hospitality club. Huge question marks were surrounding the concept of the internet in 1994, which didn’t inspire much confidence. As it happens, Jeff Bezos was surprised by the popularity of books and decided to start with them; we think we know why! The idea was that customers could place their book orders through the website and receive them by mail if they wanted.

After the success of Amazon’s initial website development, the marketplace grew and expanded not only in content but also in user experience. The focus from day one was for Jeff Bezos to provide a user-friendly experience, plus the growth of the marketplace over time had demanded frequent design updates which prioritized optimizing searchability of products amongst its users.

Thanks to their constant feedback on the software (even when they were simply customers), Amazon flourished into what is now considered one of the world’s largest online retailers.

How to choose the right approach?

To understand how to choose the right approach to validate your product, you need to figure out what stage of development your product is. Below we share a checklist to help you do this.

When to choose a POC

A proof of concept is the first step toward developing a fully functional program. Use this approach if the following statements apply to you:

  • - You're interested in proving whether or not an idea can be readily applied to your industry or specific situation.
  • - You've decided to move forward with the creation of a product and wish to confirm technical capabilities, feasibility and design implementation.
  • - You want to make sure no one has previously employed concepts similar to yours before investing further time and money into its realization.

When to choose a prototype

After developing your POC, you can move forward to the prototype stage. Here are some other indicators that indicate the need to create a prototype:

  • 1. You want to visualize how your product will look.
  • 2. You want to design a product with a great user experience and user flow.
  • 3. You're low on money but still want investors to see what your product looks like visually so that they can then envision how users will interact with it once released into the real world or marketplace.

When to choose an MVP

MVP is a common acronym for Minimum Viable Product. This approach helps you validate your product idea by testing the viability of your assumptions about customer demand for it.

  • - You want to test the reaction of your audience without investing too much money and with only the necessary features.
  • - In case you spot some demand for it, then you can go ahead and invest more with a greater chance of success.
  • - If not, then at least you know before going further - time won't be wasted on building an app people don't want!

Final word

The battle of "Proof of Concept," "Prototype," and "Minimum Viable Product" is a very tricky one. We have carefully reviewed each option to give you a clear picture of which one will work best for your needs. Your choice will depend on your product's development stage and your plans.

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