POC vs. Prototype vs. MVP: A Beginner’s Guide

POC vs. Prototype vs. MVP: A Beginner's Guide to Product Validation

Do you have a ground-breaking idea for mobile app development and you are about to kick-start its development process? You might be thinking having a great idea will lead to massive success in the app marketplace, and you decided to move forward with its implementation process. At this point, it's crucial to reconsider your approach by exploring these three core concepts of product validation, including proof of concept (POC), prototyping, and minimum viable product (MVP) to ensure your app idea or proposal is feasible, pinpoints the target audience needs, secure investor buy-in, and is product-market-fit.

In this blog post, you’ll explore these three concepts in detail, and understand how they differ in terms of their key features, use cases, and target audiences. Additionally, you’ll explore the real-world examples of these three concepts of app validation. Let’s get started.

Key Takeaways

  • POC validates concept feasibility and secures funding. Prototyping creates tangible designs and refines UI/UX ideas with feedback. MVP delivers minimal, functional products to validate assumptions of the product concept before developing a full-scale product.
  • POC's key benefit is assessing the technical feasibility and mitigating the risks of investing in unclear concepts. Prototyping fosters rapid iteration, and refines the design, and functionality with user feedback, ensuring user-centricity. Whereas, MVP enables early market testing, validates assumptions, gathers insights, prioritizes features, and reduces time to market, boosting success prospects.
  • Many well-renowned companies, including Google, IBM, Apple, Airbnb, and Dropbox utilized these strategies at different stages of their product development, ultimately contributing to the launch of a new concept that turned out to be a massive success.

What Is POC?

POC - Proof of ConceptPhoto by Austin Distel on Unsplash

A Proof of Concept (POC) is employed by businesses to assess whether their mobile or web app idea holds potential value and feasibility in the market. This process aids in understanding if the investment is directed towards the right product and whether investors are inclined to secure funds for the project. POC helps to attract investor interest by showcasing robust evidence and genuineness regarding the capability and acceptance of your app idea, rather than just presenting a vague concept that might divert their interest from investing in your project.

Key Features of POC

  • Using POC, you can narrow your focus to specific functionalities or components to ensure efficient use of resources and time.
  • POC helps you identify and address potential technical challenges and risks early in the development process to inform decision-making.
  • It allows you to test key technical aspects of your project to discover if the proposed solution can be built with current technology capabilities.
  • With POC, you can identify the product's limitations and anticipate its future resource requirements.

Who is the Target Audience of POC

The primary audience of POC are project managers, stakeholders, and potential partners. Project managers can identify the scope, budget, and timeline of the project, potential investors can determine their willingness to invest in the project, and project owners can develop a robust strategy to guide the project's direction and ensure alignment with organizational goals. They can also make informed decisions based on the insights gained from the POC.

Success-Driven Case Studies of POC

Here are a few examples of companies that successfully embraced proof of concept to validate their business idea.

Google's Self-Driving Car (Waymo): Google utilized proof of concept for its self-driving cars project to demonstrate the feasibility of autonomous vehicle technology. Through extensive testing and iterations, Google's self-driving car project eventually evolved into Waymo, a leading autonomous driving technology company.

Microsoft HoloLens: Microsoft HoloLens, a mixed-reality headset, showcases its capabilities in augmented reality (AR) and holographic computing by utilizing POC. It involves building prototype devices and developing demo applications to illustrate potential use cases in gaming, education, design, and enterprise.

IBM Watson: IBM demonstrated the advanced capabilities of its AI-driven system, Watson Studio, and Watson Explorer during its proof of concept to KPMG. This POC unlocked a novel opportunity for IBM to partner with KPMG and apply its technology across various operations, including workflow automation, data extraction, and cognitive content analytics.

What is a Prototype?

Product PrototypeImage by freepik

Prototyping involves creating an interactive and tangible representation of the mobile app UI/UX design to map out the user journey, test navigational flow, and gather end-user feedback. Digital design tools like Figma are commonly used to build prototypes, allowing designers to iterate on designs and identify usability issues early in the design process. Additionally, prototypes serve as valuable tools for demonstrating the final look and feel of the product design to stakeholders, facilitating better understanding and feedback that ultimately aids in refining the final product.

Key Features of Prototype

  • Prototypes enable flawless placement and organization of interaction elements and navigational layout.
  • In prototyping, you explore the concept and research the basic features and functionality of the design for validation.
  • Leveraging the benefit of prototyping, you can pinpoint UI/ UX flaws and usability within the app interface.
  • Prototyping supports the interactive design approach that helps in making changes to app design.
  • The early detection of usability issues and challenges ultimately reduces costly revisions of the app design before its final launch to the market.

Who is the Target Audience of Prototype

The target audience of the prototype involves coworkers, colleagues, stakeholders, investors, project sponsors, and end-users. It aims to engage these groups by providing a tangible representation of the product's envisioned features and functionality, soliciting feedback and validation to inform further development.

Success-Driven Case Studies of Prototypes

Apple iPhone Prototypes: The secret sauce behind the success of Apple products lies in its approach to testing each idea before launching it to the market. Apple engineers and designers built prototypes to validate, which app design idea is more effective by thoughtfully testing its design elements, features, and functionalities before choosing the final design.

Facebook: Facebook launched Facebook Prototypes, a new way of experimenting with its newly launched products and features by enabling users to download or activate and start testing the prototype. Once tested, users can share their reviews and real-time feedback directly with Facebook which helps them enhance their user experience.

Amazon: Amazon incorporates UI/UX prototyping in the design of its e-commerce platform and digital services like Amazon Prime Video and Amazon Alexa. Amazon’s UI UX designers meticulously built and tested the prototypes to ensure they deliver an effortless user experience to both mobile and desktop users.

POC vs. Prototype: What’s the Major Difference

Simply put, POC is the strategy that helps you validate assumptions and determine whether your idea is feasible and has a practical application in the real world. Conversely, a prototype refines the idea into a more tangible form to test the design concept. Prototyping engages end-users to test the app's usability by creating a visually interactive sample model or mockup, incorporating UI elements and screens/pages, before finalizing the final design.

What is MVP?

Minimum Viable Product (MVP)

As the name suggests, MVP is the minimum or an initial version of a new product released to the market with core features usable by early customers. The main benefit of MVP is that it helps startups validate their product concept earlier before investing significant resources and time in creating a full-fledged application that hasn’t received validation yet. MVP helps identify if there is enough demand and need for the product within the market. Moreover, MVP also enables pinpointing target audience needs and addressing them effectively in the final version of the product. Learn more about MVP in this tutorial:

Key Features of MVP

  • MVP is essential to identify the product-market fit, validate assumptions, mitigate risk, and gather early user feedback.
  • You can create a minimalistic and user-centric MVP design to seek user validation, meet their expectations, and enhance their overall experience.
  • MVP reduces time-to-market, as you’ll deliver your product with only its essential features to validate the concept and attract early adopters.
  • Customer feedback plays a pivotal role in MVP. You can capture their pain points and further improve the product based on their core needs.
  • Using MVP, you can make data-driven decisions to gain insight into your user behavior, usage patterns, needs & preferences.
  • MVP minimizes development costs, allows efficient allocation of resources, and reduces financial risks associated with building overly complex products.

Who is the Target Audience of MVP

Mainly the target audience of MVP comprises early adopters, potential customers, and key stakeholders within the intended market segment. These individuals play a crucial role in providing feedback and insights during the initial stages of product development, guiding further iterations and enhancements.

Success-Driven Case Studies of MVP

Dropbox: Dropbox stands as the leading example of MVP, which is now one of the most secure and reliable cloud storage platforms. The team simply tested the concept with a demo video demonstrating how the product would work. Through MVP, they were able to validate their idea, capture user interest, and gather feedback before investing in a full-scale product.

Airbnb: The well-renowned online marketplace, Airbnb began its journey by developing an MVP to test its concept of connecting people who went to rent their living space for short and long-term homestays. Airbnb built a website where the founders listed their apartments to accommodate guests. This experiment validated the concept of peer-to-peer lodging and helped them understand the needs of both hosts and guests.

Buffer: Buffer began as a minimum viable product with just a landing page explaining the concept of social media scheduling and a subscription button. Behind the scenes, the founders manually handled scheduling tasks for early users via email. This MVP approach helped them validate the demand for the service before investing in full development.

POC vs. Prototype vs. MVP: What’s the Major Difference

The major difference between the three concepts is that MVP is used to identify product-market fit, which means that you can better understand if customers are interested in purchasing or spending on your product, and whether your product would be able to survive in the market or is competitive enough.

However, you don’t have to necessarily think about this part in POC or prototyping. As mentioned earlier, POC is used to validate concepts and attract investors, while prototyping is used to test the UI/UX design of the product.

In MVP, you launch the first draft of the market with a small set of features to gather potential user feedback. Meanwhile, in prototyping, the internal team tests the design concept by visualizing screens and pages using digital tools. POC focuses on seeking validation and securing stakeholders' and investors' buy-in, typically without direct customer interaction.

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Ending Note

Each of these three methods—POC, prototype, and MVP—plays a pivotal role at different stages of mobile app or product development. POC is the first stage when you present your idea to stakeholders to gauge their interest and secure funds for your project. You'll also identify whether your product is technically implementable and what technology works best for your project.

Once you’ve successfully passed that stage, the next step is to visualize your concept and gather end-user feedback using prototyping. This stage assists you in mimicking the final look and feel of your product design by seamlessly mapping out the user journey along with pinpointing usability issues before designing the final product.

However, prototyping falls under the MVP stage where you validate your app concept and build a feasible minimum viable product by incorporating only the core features and functionality. At this stage, your main target is to launch the initial version of your product to identify its product-market fit, attract early adopters, and gauge real-time feedback from potential customers. You can further iterate and improve your product using MVP and stand out among your competitors.

Overall, utilizing these strategies with a strong proof of concept can drive successful project outcomes, attract a large pool of audience, and receive sustainable revenue while overcoming assumptions and minimizing the risk involved in investing in a vague app idea.

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