When it comes to creating a new product or implementing a new feature, you need to test it first. The best way to do so is to check your idea with the appropriate steps. There are several software product stages: PoC, prototype, MVP, etc.
What is the difference between proof of concept vs. MVP? Why are these stages essential? When should you build a Minimum Viable Product?
This article focuses on two fundamental approaches that help test your idea quickly and create a successful solution.
What is PoC?
Proof of concept: definition
Proof of concept, or PoC, is a small project designed to verify that a particular idea is feasible. Usually, companies develop it for internal testing. Various fields use proof of concept to test their innovations.
For example, Nick Swinmurn, a co-founder of Zappos, came up with an online store idea when he couldn't buy a pair of shoes that he liked in a local mall.
Instead of spending seed funds for inventory, he tried selling shoes first to see how his idea would work. When someone placed an order on his website, he would buy the shoes and send them to the customer.
Nick proved that people would buy shoes online. Also, he discovered which styles were in demand. With this proof of concept, Nick was confident enough to purchase inventory and scale his business.
Below you can see an early version of Zappos website.
Proof of concept: meaning
The whole aim of a PoC is to show whether it is possible to develop the functionality in the real world. It also indicates the potential obstacles for the product being developed and accepted by users. The final PoC design should not be flawless, but it presents the concept's viability before you jump into development.
Proof of concept answers the following questions:
- What problem does the project solve?
- What is the scope of the project?
- What technologies should be chosen for the project?
- What is the time and budget of the project?
- What is the feedback for the project from stakeholders?
Checking your solution with a proof of concept helps you understand its value for real people at the earliest stage. Whether for a feature or a product, PoC gives an idea of what technologies, budget, and time you need to develop it. This helps you plan your business strategy for the selected functionality.
Proof of concept vs. prototype
These terms may seem alike, but they refer to different stages of development. Proof of concept is the initial step, followed by a prototype. PoC proves the feasibility of the product, and a prototype is built after the feasibility has been confirmed.
PoC is the general proof and a brief plan of an idea. Proof of concept vs. prototype is a comparison of the idea draft and its visual realization.
The prototype includes main design elements and is a rough model that brings the PoC plan to life. It determines UX for the proposed software: the structure, functionality, and user flow.
For example, below you can see prototype images for a custom recruiting platform created by Codica Team.
What is a Minimum Viable Product?
A minimum viable product, or MVP, is an early product version that includes the core required features. This version brings enough value to get early feedback from customers before you spend tons of time doing something they don't like or need.
Why is MVP used in software product development?
A minimum viable product is a version that potential customers can use. It is not a raw product with a possible lack of features but an early workable form of your solution that iterates functionality in the future.
A minimum viable product can be released on the market. So, it is not a prototype that is used only by the product team but a model that can be sold to customers.
An MVP gives you an understanding of how your potential audience will accept your product. Users can try it, and if they like it, they will spread the word about the solution. Then you can decide on whether to go further with additional features or work on some improvements for your minimum viable product.
For example, before launching a global product, a company may release an MVP version for a particular region. Upon receiving positive feedback from the users, the company may expand it to other countries.
This is what happened with an accommodation search website that Codica helped deliver. The idea of the product was to make relocation for expats easier. To test this idea and get funding, founders decided to launch a simple MVP of the platform.
This approach helped save costs, launch and test the idea quickly. Take a look at the detailed case study, to learn about the business challenges and results, and the functionality that was included in the MVP of this house rent website for expats.
A minimum viable product has a modular structure. So, the development team can easily remove unnecessary elements and other weaknesses of your product. This improves users' journey.
Since the minimum viable product includes only the core features, it reduces the time and cost of releasing a solution.
Dropbox is a brilliant example of saving resources for product release. Drew Houston decided to discover if people wanted file-sharing software. So, he released a three-minute video explaining the service work process and targeting early adopters. The video attracted 75000 people overnight who wanted to get the solution as soon as possible. Now Dropbox is worth around $ 9 billion.
Proof of concept vs. MVP
The difference between proof of concept and the minimum viable product is that they serve different purposes. PoC gives theoretical ground to an idea of a solution or a particular function. Meanwhile, MVP implements the features designed at the stages of PoC and prototype.
PoC vs. MVP is like the idea draft and the idea realization. Proof of concept outlines the technologies for a solution and explores the idea's possible risks and technical issues. It's intended for analysis of the potential market demand for the product. On the contrary, MVP is created with the primary goal to check how customers react to the solution.
Further reading: Prototype vs MVP Comparison
When to choose Proof of Concept?
Although it may seem that skipping this stage saves time, proof of concept is crucial for your product development. It highlights essential aspects of your business idea. Is it possible to implement the intended features? What are the stumbling points? What would the revenue be?
Answering these questions is vital before putting your idea into reality.
Choose PoC when:
You have to check if your solutions work in real life.
Startup creators often believe that their idea will change this world for the better and solve the target audience's problem. Proof of concept helps you discover if your idea can be realized. If your theory appears to be unfeasible, it will be easier for you to find another solution at the PoC stage.
The Bitcoin whitepaper published in 2008 exemplifies how to support an idea at the earliest stage. It is a proof of concept where the author Satoshi Nakamoto described an issue and suggested a solution.
The document also explains what blockchain is and how Bitcoin benefits society. Thanks to this PoC, there is a field that gives new means of payment and trading.
You want to bring new value.
PoC helps you to differentiate your solution from similar providers. For example, let's say that products similar to what you want to build are already successful, like a messaging app. So, it would be best to have a proof of concept that shows unique functionality and sets your product apart from similar solutions.
A prominent example of using a PoC is the story of Walmart. They faced the problem of disease traceability for the products delivered from different farms. At the outbreak of food-borne disease, it could take a long time to trace its source. They needed a solution that would help trace the origin of products and detect only the farms affected by the disease.
Walmart decided to use blockchain technology for tracing the product origins. To test their hypothesis, Walmart, together with their partner IBM, launched two proof of concepts. One solution was for tracing mangos in the US stores. Another solution aimed to trace meat sold in Walmart's stores in China. Both projects worked.
Today Walmart implements blockchain technology for tracking the origin of checked products. The company's solution reduces the time for tracing product origin to seconds. This improves service and saves people's lives.
You aim to get seed fundings.
Before requesting resources, you need to prove to potential investors that your project is worthy. PoC may include a description of the core meaning of the project and explain that the proposed idea is practical and profitable. All this may help you persuade investors to contribute to the project.
For example, Airbnb started by accommodating people and providing them with an "airbed and breakfast".
The startup didn't succeed at once, but the founders were persistent and improved the service concept.
The commitment and an idea of the "world where you belong anywhere" brought the company seed funding of $600,000 from Sequoia Capital. This investment was one of the factors that directed Airbnb to exponential growth.
You need to assess risks.
When you discover a feature or a solution, PoC pinpoints potential risks and obstacles. This is essential for big projects with sizable investments. Proof of concept makes sure that you don't exceed the budget and schedule, and your features will work properly.
When to choose MVP?
You have proved the idea of your product and outlined the preliminary design in your PoC. Now you can develop the functionality of your solution in the form of an MVP.
The minimum viable product allows you to release your product as soon as possible only with core features. Your solution does not include multiple functions, but they are sufficient to sell the product on the market. So, you establish early relationships with your potential users. If they like your MVP, you know that working on it further is worth the effort.
Choose MVP when:
You aim to minimize and optimize expenses.
Since a minimum viable product includes the minimum crucial features, it takes less time for your team to create your project. This saves efforts and costs needed for the solution development.
Our experience of creating a service marketplace PlanMyKids can stand as an example. This activity booking platform allows parents to find leisure activities according to children's interests. Parents also can choose the time, location, and budget.
We needed to create a platform for kids' leisure within a set budget. So, we optimized the platform features, focusing on account management and administrative dashboard.
You test the project to get feedback from early adopters.
MVPs suggest the core value for the users. Launching a minimum viable product shows if your product solves particular users' needs. The audience response allows you to check your assumptions. Then you decide whether you proceed with iterating features or you perfect your product.
As eBay puts it, they aim to create fantastic products. But to become a reality, they understand that a core feature set is vital to be done first. That's how they made Promoted Listings Lite.
Developing an MVP for the promotion of sellers' items, they focused on functionality and user experience. They conducted early user research and found out that sellers needed a clear and hassle-free experience. This feedback helped the company to narrow their efforts to solving only critical issues.
You learn what fits the company's target market.
A minimum viable product requires the least effort and core features to enter the market. You don't need to develop a fully-fledged solution for your potential users, but it should contain the essential elements. It is easier for users to give feedback on the product that they use and get experience with. Knowing market perception, you can improvise your product.
You might also like: 5 Reasons to Start Custom Software Development With an MVP
This is how Etsy paved their way to the global market. Based on eBay's experience, they found their target audience. Then they discovered the most popular product categories and critical needs of handmade buyers using an MVP. As a result, Etsy focused on female audiences and C2C sales. Today, 81.9 billion active buyers and 4.3 million sellers use the platform.
Further reading: How to Build an MVP (Minimum Viable Product)
PoC vs. Prototype vs. MVP
Similar but not the same. They are used for individual tasks in software development.
What is typical for PoC and MVP is that they are the stages for the early launch of a product. They save time, costs, and effort when you implement your solution.
You need proof of concept if you have an idea and want to see if it works in the real world. Prototype and a minimum viable product are the following stages that help you to get early adopters' feedback. Though the three belong to the same process, they bring different conclusions. Let's see in the table below how they relate.
|What is it?||Theoretical proof of idea viability||Visual presentation of the proven idea||A basic workable version of a product|
|What do you create it for?||To define the feasibility of the project||To define basic features, structure, and user workflow||To present an early product version to users|
|How long does it take to develop it?||2 days - 1 week||1 - 4 weeks||4 - 6 months|
|What features should it use?||Description of technologies to be used||UX design, does not include UI||Core features, including UX/UI|
|When should you choose it?||When you want to check scalability, assess risks, define duration, budget, and revenue||When you need a draft for further development||When you need to launch early and get feedback from customers|
|How do you test it?||Internally||Internally and with a small target group||With target users|
|When do you show it to investors?||Pre- / Seed funding||Seed / A round||A / B round|
Coming up with an idea, you naturally need to test it. Here proof of concept and minimum viable product come to help you. Both allow you to try your theory and get early feedback. But the difference between PoC and MVP is the same as between a draft and an implemented project.
With PoC, you test the feasibility of your idea. In comparison, building a minimum viable product means creating a market-ready solution that will bring you feedback from early adopters.
Both stages are essential for building a product that helps with people's needs and can be scaled in the future.
Need a custom software solution? Codica is ready to help you at any stage. Contact us to discuss your idea and get a free quote.