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PoC vs MVP vs Prototype: What Strategy Leads to Product-Market Fit?

PoC vs Prototype vs MVP: What do you Choose for Your Product’s Success

When developing a new product, you should emphasize on satisfying the end-users, i.e., creating products that will solve their problems. This, in turn, helps in achieving the product-market fit. The road to achieving it starts with understanding the difference between PoC vs MVP vs prototype. These three concepts help validate the product that further leads to its acceptance in the market.

The next questions that follow — When to use what strategy? What is the order of their execution? How are they different from each other?

Here is a detailed insight that answers all the questions and safely leads to achieving product-market fit.

PoC vs MVP vs Prototype — An Overview

The process of product validation should be a committed initiative that should follow the chronological order, i.e., PoC > Prototype > MVP. However, you can skip creating a PoC in case the idea has an existing validation in the market.

PoC vs Prototype vs MVP: What is their individual role in achieving product-market fit

There are times when businesses confuse between PoC vs MVP vs Prototype. This leads to a broken development process that fails to satisfy user needs and expectations.

There are over 30,000 new products introduced every year, and 95 percent fail. — Clayton Christensen, Professor, Harvard Business Review

So, to create an idea that proves to be a cash cow, you need to understand PoC, Prototype, and MVP — the three foundations for the new product development process. Let’s dig deep and see what each of them implies and their role in assuring product-market fit.

What is PoC (Proof of Concept)?

Goal: To find out whether the idea is technically feasible

PoC, an acronym for proof of concept, is the first step to consider before moving ahead with the development process. As the name implies, proof of concept is proof that the idea is feasible and can be converted into a product.

Flowchart for PoC (Proof of Concept)

If the concept pre-exists in the market, there is no requirement to build a PoC. But, if your startup is innovating and onto digital disruption — following the PoC strategy helps gather evidence for the practicality of the idea that can be presented to the stakeholders and investors later. When creating a proof of concept for a startup, understanding your expectations from a PoC becomes imperative.

What is the Purpose of a PoC?

  • Validate the practicality of an idea
  • Save money, time, and other resources
  • Convince stakeholders to invest in the idea
  • Get an idea about the impending risks from early on

PoC (Proof of Concept) Example

In 2009, Twitter released the rough version of OAuth as a closed beta (Application-Only Authentication) on Google’s discussion group. It was a proof of concept validation code that demonstrated the idea and the possibility of executing it.

Today, Twitter’s PoC code for OAuth is the reality of almost every application’s registration and authentication process.

What is a Prototype?

Goal: To demonstrate how the product will look

A prototype is a draft version of the product that focuses on its user experience and semantics. The word prototype originates from a Greek word that means “in a primitive form.”

In Product Development, prototype refers to the alpha grade, i.e., it is the first version that can run to showcase the flow of elements and the overall look and feel of the product. Always create a prototype before moving on to the MVP as you get an idea about what the product will be like from early on.

What is the Purpose of a Prototype?

  • Visualize the functionality and design
  • Validate the user experience design
  • Help gain early feedback on the product
  • Attract seed funding from potential investors

Example of Prototype

Twitter rolled out its new prototype app, “twttr” in early 2019, and urged end-users to try-and-test it. Twitter built this prototype to experiment around new features around responses, i.e., it is Twitter’s initiative to make long conversations easy to read.

Here’s an excerpt on how a user reacted to the new “twttr” feature for changed conversation threads.

What is an MVP (Minimum Viable Product)?

Goal: Launch, learn, and iterate based on user feedback

MVP, an acronym for a minimum viable product, is a workable product that is loaded with only essential features that define the product. MVP Development leads to a standalone application that is launch-ready. Any further product developments and feature additions are then based on continuous valuable feedback that keeps flowing in from the end-users.

It’s the smallest thing that you can create that proves a single premise through validated learning. It should be high quality because, if your premise is correct, you need to incrementally build it out. — Eric Reis, Author, The Lean Startup

We can say MVP in software development is a combination of essential microservices that focus on building one complete thing at a time. The most important thing to remember when building an MVP — do not create messy code in a hurry to launch. The lesser the cruft, the easier it is to iterate and maintain it later.

What is the Purpose of an MVP?

  • Gather early feedback from the end-users
  • Facilitate faster time-to-market
  • Save the product from failure
  • Save time, money, and other resources

MVP (Minimum Viable Product) Example

A podcast platform Odeo came up with an idea of creating a messaging-based platform that would help people communicate. The platform also called “twttr” supported minimal features and was for internal use only.

Initially, it looked something like this:

twttr is the real life example of an MVP launched by Twitter

This was Twitter’s MVP, which was later released for public, and was continuously refined based on end-user feedback.

PoC vs Prototype vs MVP: Differentiating Between the Three

There is a difference between a prototype, minimum viable product, and proof of concept. The approach is different, and so is the objective.

Here’s a chart that summarizes PoC vs MVP vs Prototype for your ease of understanding.

Proof of ConceptPrototypeMinimum Viable Product
Intent:
Validate technical feasibility
Intent:
Validate the UX and UI design and the flow of elements within the interface
Intent:
Validate the initial likeability for the product. The minimal feature product is launched early with a serious commitment to refactoring
Estimated Time to Build:
Days
Estimated Time to Build:
Weeks
Estimated Time to Build:
Months
Target Audience:
Developer groups
Target Audience:
Stakeholders, developer groups, limited end users
Target Audience:
End users
Intent:
Validate technical feasibility
Intent:
Validate the UX and UI design and the flow of elements within the interface
Intent:
Validate the initial likeability for the product. The minimal feature product is launched early with a serious commitment to refactoring
Best Use Case:
Aiming for digital disruption. That is, a concept that has never been tried before
Best Use Case:
Looking for opportunities to attract seed funding by presenting how the product will be built
Best Use Case:
Ensure faster time to market while sticking to the aim of analyzing, initial target audience response
PoC vs Prototype:
Checks whether you can convert an idea into a product or not. The answer is either yes or no.
PoC vs Prototype:
The first draft of the product that follows after a validated PoC. It gives an idea of the flow of elements within the application.
MVP vs Prototype:
A prototype is a skeleton version that is made available to the stakeholders for internal review on the look and feel of the application
MVP vs Prototype:
MVP is a ready-to-launch version of the product that is not rolled back but iterated with new features based on user feedback
MVP vs PoC:
The innovative features are implemented to check whether it is possible to execute or not
MVP vs PoC:
MVP is a basic version, embedded with workable, primary, innovative features and can be launched in the market

PoC vs MVP vs Prototype: Which one do you choose?

It is a good practice to rely on all the three strategies if you have the bandwidth, talent, and other resources to pull it off. The orchestration of PoC, MVP, and prototype saves you from the chances of product failure.

However, your business and functional requirements have an equal hand at deciding what strategy you pick when brainstorming between PoC vs MVP vs Prototype.

Here is an insight into when to use what strategy:

When to use Proof of Concept (PoC)?

  • If you want to make an informed decision before investing your time and money into the product development endeavor
  • When you are developing a new product with the idea that has not been tried and tested before
  • You need to represent the technical feasibility of the idea to investors
  • Need to encourage the teams with the possibility of the idea that otherwise seems tricky to implement

When to use a Prototype?

  • Need to visualize the look and feel of the product to see how it will turn out in the long run
  • Need to showcase the product’s design and UX flow to the investors to attract seed funding
  • You have a short deadline to represent your idea to the stakeholders and investors
  • You need to show the product to the end-users for their likeability before moving on with actual development

When to Use Minimum Viable Product (MVP)?

  • When you want to ensure faster time-to-market and offer immediate value through digital transformation
  • To gather early fanbase and feedback that can form the basis for further refinements
  • If you wish to understand the market dynamics and the response to your product in the market
  • You wish to create a product that is user-centric, i.e., developing a product — for the people and by the people

Conclusion

New product development is like experimenting with a vision in mind. It requires commitment, cadence, awareness, and knowledge of how you need to move ahead with the process. The process starts with laying the foundation right, i.e., creating a proof of concept, and a prototype, followed by an MVP.

In the sections above, we have tried to erase the thin line between PoC vs MVP vs Prototype and their role in validating a product.

Thus we can define the purpose of PoC, MVP, and Prototype — proof of concept for clearing your doubts about the feasibility of the idea. Prototype for clearing the doubts about the UX design and look of the product. And, minimum viable product for gaining continuous user feedback that forms the foundation for the full product.

The combination of these strategies can help you beat the odds of product development failure!

Consult our product development team for converting your idea into workable software

Lalit Singla

About the Author

Lalit Singla is working as Project Manager at Net Solutions since the last 5 years with over 10 years of experience in LAMP Stack. His expertise lies in Enterprise eCommerce and custom database driven development. In his free time, he enjoys listening to classical music.

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