PoC vs Prototype vs MVP: The path to creating a promising product

Yomal Gunarathna

March 20, 2022


7 min

A successful product is the work of many minds and hands, and the path to creating it can be toilsome and demanding. However, there is one simple truth in nearly all great products that we see in the market today. Each of them started with one simple idea. A single person who perceived a lack in the world and envisioned what it would take to fill that space. 

In order to create a successful product, we often need to ensure that these conditions are met.

  1. Our product has validity in the market - A product that serves a need that no one has will die as soon as it is introduced to the market.
  2. Communicate our product to the intended audience - Demonstrate our product and get feedback on information flows, design, and UX
  3. Our product can be made market-ready as quickly and efficiently as possible - After all we are not the only ones who are building products and having great ideas.

To answer these concerns, we turn to 3 different concepts on the product development path.

Proof of Concept: Is the idea feasible?

Brainstorm your idea and build a PoC

Creating an innovative product, while exciting, also has a certain measure of uncertainty. Even if the ideas behind the product seem great to your mind, it's always good to vet the concept with other experts and potential users. This is where the PoC comes into play. Once you have captured your audience's pain points, study them and brainstorm on potential solutions that can be provided by your product. Then evaluate these solutions on a cost/benefit ratio taking into account things like time and effort to create these solutions, vs the potential pain reduction for users. Once you have a feasible list of solutions, go back to your potential users, and ask them for their feedback. Once you incorporate their feedback you should have a good starting point for your PoC. It's important to remember that a PoC can be many things, from a computer model to a whitepaper discussing the solution, or in extreme cases even a mini product. 

A PoC goes a long way in helping you to understand what you should and shouldn't build/include in your product. It is also extremely helpful in finding that out before you have spent too much time and resources developing features that will not be useful. It proves that what you are attempting to build can actually be done! 

When developing your PoC bear in mind that a PoC cannot be used to generate income, though it can be very useful for funding purposes.

Prototype: What will the product look and feel like?

A prototype must communicate what your product will look and feel like

Once you have the concepts and idea of your product nailed down, have a proposed solution, and have proven that your concepts and solutions are sound, the next step is to figure out how your solution will be implemented.

A prototype is for all intents and purposes a 'working' model of your proposed solution, but usually with nothing behind the scenes. It is meant to create a visualisation of how your product will work, and how users will interact with it, giving ideas about information flows, design, and navigation. A good prototyping phase helps you to iron out many kinks in your UX and ensures that the final product will be that much better and accepted by users. There are many products available in the market that can help with this phase; Figma, Sketch, Adobe XD, and Webflow are among the most popular tools in use today.

Prototyping is a valuable step in the product development journey. It helps to validate your ideas further among stakeholders without using up a lot of time and resources and really helps to create a design, in terms of flow, UI, and navigation, that resonates well with users, without having to worry how it affects the code behind (namely as there is no code behind). Similar to a PoC a  prototype is not meant to create any income. Successfully completing the prototype phase lands you in a great position to start the next step of your journey.

MVP: What are we initially taking to market?

Make it functional, forget the bells and whistles

An MVP or minimum viable product is different from the earlier concepts. In a nutshell, an MVP is a fully usable, functional product that has a set of features which solves a concrete pain point(s) for users. Typically, an MVP should only include features that make the product invaluable for customers, and we need to spend time deciding from the many pain points and solutions we come up with, which ones will be considered in the MVP. Any features outside of the main problem area we are trying to solve are shelved for the purpose of creating an MVP, while this may seem counter-intuitive, as we tend to think the more features we provide the more users are attracted to our product, the truth is by attempting to create a fully featured product, we are in fact creating a bloated product from the get-go, delaying the time to market, and possibly overwhelming our first adopters.

An MVP is a fully usable and functional product that solves a concrete pain point(s) for users.

One of the common mistakes that occur in creating an MVP is creating one that doesn't actually solve a real pain point. This results in low adoption of the product and ultimately the product can be labelled a failure and is considered not worth investing in further. It's important to avoid this pitfall by brainstorming with your team, test groups, and potential users.

A few great examples of MVPs and how they can help are found by looking at the MVP strategies for Airbnb, Twitter, Spotify, Uber, Amazon, and Facebook. These companies created lightweight MVPs that really held on to the concept of finding and solving a particular pain point before going on to become the global giants they are today. For example, were you aware Amazon started as an online bookstore that took orders online while buying and selling books from regular bookstores as orders came in? All of the other products and features came in once they had proven that they had a product that people were willing to use.

PoC vs Prototype vs MVP

Each step is important and gets you closer to your goal

A PoC is useful in ensuring you have a sound business idea that is technically viable. This is a first step in your product journey and is very useful to promote your idea to potential investors.

Prototyping is the next logical step in this journey. Prototyping helps users to view your vision, and helps you communicate the information flows, designs, and navigation of your product. It's an economical way of showing users what they are getting and capturing early feedback with little to no impact at a code level.

A PoC soundboards your idea, a prototype envisions your idea, an MVP is a functional representation of your idea.

Of all these concepts, only the MVP is a functional product that can be released to market. An MVP is a lean version of your full product, but it is important to note that the MVP must fully satisfy a user's needs and solve a pain point in order for it to be adopted. For example, if Amazon took online orders for books, but didn't actually post the books, it would have never worked.

In conclusion

These three techniques are used to validate the feasibility of a product, to shorten the lead time to market, and ensure you have a functional product that will promote adoption.

If you are aiming to build the next great product, you might consider following these concepts, ensuring that you get to market faster, and with a killer product. Our team can help you to plan your product journey from idea inception, PoC, Prototype, MVP, to fully fledged product, working with you every step of the way, to make your product idea a reality.

Yomal Gunarathna

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