When developing a new product, you focus on a large number of goals. Of course, you want to satisfy both your ambitions and impress your target audience. No app will be popular if it doesn’t solve problems.
It means you need the right strategy to avoid mistakes and reduce costs.
There are three main concepts that help validate a product and make sure the market needs it today. These are a prototype, PoC, MVP.
Each of these strategies actually works. But when? In what order? Together or separately?
We have prepared a detailed guide for you to help you learn more about each of these approaches. Read on, and you will find answers to the most important questions and get one step closer to your goal: to create an amazing software product!
What is a PoC?
Proof of concept (PoC) is an approach that helps you understand if your idea or technology is working. This format is even closer to research than software development. You can even come across this term in other areas.
Since your main task is to make sure the concept works as quickly as possible, most of the aspects can simply be left out. All that is subject to testing are critical functions without which your product simply cannot work. Once the team receives confirmation at the PoC stage, it can start working on the project from scratch. You do not need to show this version to your prospects.
What can you get with a PoC approach?
- Attract investment. It’s crazy to talk to investors about ideas that have not received any validation. By providing PoC results, you go to a whole different level.
- Save time. You don’t have to spend months and years to find out that this product is not eligible for sale due to various technical features. Find out right away and work on another idea. Or get confirmation of the feasibility of your ambitions.
- Make the right choice. If you have different scenarios, just create multiple PoCs. So you will get a clear answer: which technology is better, under what conditions the risks are minimal, and resources are spent sparingly.
- Steal the show. Getting ahead of the competition in our time is not at all easy. You need a unique, revolutionary product. PoC will help you achieve this. Take a look at Walmart’s example for inspiration.
Initially, blockchain technology was used exclusively to create cryptocurrencies and smart contracts.
But Walmart decided to go further. They wondered if this technology would help trace the origin of goods? If so, this could significantly improve the logistics system. But how can this theory be tested? With a PoC approach, of course.
In 2016, Walmart developed two small projects:
- tracing the origin of mangoes in the USA
- tracking the sinking of meat sold in China
The tests were successful, the process of determining the origin of goods now takes… guess how much. It used to be a week. Now it’s 2.2 seconds!
At the same time, PoC has helped make the delivery system more transparent. Basic processes take only seconds, giving the company a considerable advantage in the market.
5 Steps of the Proof of Concept
Below you will find a list of 5 steps to help you understand how this approach works.
1. Start of the project
You develop an idea and hire a team to help you find the most effective solution. The analyst defines the purpose of testing, selects the most complex and innovative functions, and fixes possible limitations.
2. Development of use cases
Now that you have more information, you need to list the scripts to test. This will help determine how the product will be used by users. If it has many innovative features, more research can be done.
3. Drawing up a road map
Having decided on the full scope of tasks, break it down into milestones and iterations. At this stage, it is crucial to think not about creating a finished product, but about speed and small investments. Sometimes ready-made modules that help to reduce the time are used for this purpose.
4. Development and testing
This stage can take several people. His final achievement is the creation of a demonstration stand. Keep in touch with your development team as this is the time to evaluate your assumptions, make adjustments, and transform your idea.
You will receive an opinion from experts who will find limitations and offer recommendations for further development. If you don’t get the green light to launch a project, you will definitely get new insights and ideas to help you continue working on the product, even if it will be a pretty different product.
What is a Prototype?
A prototype is essentially a drawn application. To make the prototype interactive, the designer creates all the screens of the future app. The one uses the tool that assembles these screens into a single model, establishing relationships and links. The output is such an application model in which, for example, buttons work. We can compare an interactive prototype with a 3D model of a house. An architect develops it long before the builders start working on the construction.
The prototype allows you to try the application in action in the early stages (before programming and testing). All screens are visible to the customer, and there is an opportunity to evaluate (click) buttons and other interface elements.
At this stage, it is possible and even necessary to understand whether the scheme of the application’s interaction with the user requires any modifications.
What can you get with a Prototype?
The prototype allows:
- see the application in action and understand whether the developers understand the idea and technical specification correctly;
- evaluate the future application from the user’s point of view;
- determine if you need to make changes to the user interaction scheme of the application;
- avoid additional financial and time costs if inconsistencies are identified.
Having a ready-made application model is also useful if:
- you act as an intermediary and should present the prototype to the customer;
- the future mobile application is the backbone of your startup, and a working prototype will be an advantage when looking for funding sources for further stages;
- you want to test your application in a focus group before doing the most expensive programming and testing.
3 main steps to create a prototype
The prototyping process itself is relatively straightforward. For simplicity, it is conventionally divided into three components:
- Creation. The simplest sketch based on the wishes of the customer. The basic principles of interface design and usability are used;
- Evaluation. Discussion with the client how accurately you understood one’s requirements and wishes;
- Refinement. Revision of problem areas of the sketch or changing the layout completely.
The original prototype can only consist of general blocks with minimal detail. In the process of development, it will “grow” with additional elements, gradually approaching the final layout.
The speed of this process plays an important role: the time between iterations should be minimized. In general, creating and finalizing a prototype can take from a couple of minutes (for example, for a sketch while discussing an order with a client) to several days. In any case, the time spent on prototyping will help you get the job done faster and better.
What is an MVP?
A minimum viable product (MVP) is an initial release of a product that has its basic features and functions. An MVP can help users, and potential investors get familiar with the whole idea and test specific product features.
For example, you have a picture of your future application in your head. You already know what features you want to add for a fantastic result. But how can you be sure? Your target audience may have very different needs and wishes. And you don’t know for sure about them yet. Plus, the market is continually changing. What is in high demand today may not be relevant tomorrow.
What can you get with an MVP approach?
- Minimum budget and maximum speed. The cost of developing a basic version is significantly less than the classic one. The whole process takes 6-12 months.
- Feedback and insights. This approach allows you to understand what the target audience likes / dislikes, how the client perceives it, and what it generally represents on the market. You don’t start baking a wedding cake without cupcake feedback.
- Implementing an Idea. This is a huge advantage for startups. Instead of applying the entire set of functions, it is worth selecting a few main ones that will be present in the MVP. Worse than failure can only be the successful implementation of your idea by someone else.
- Collaboration with future investors. When you have a fresh idea, you can easily attract investors. If you give them a starter version of the product that is impressive, you have a lot more room to add new features. By abandoning this approach, you run the risk of creating a complex application that will take a lot of time and money, and will be completely useless.
Amazon success story
There are many companies that have succeeded in using this approach — for example, Amazon.
It sounds incredible today, but in 1994 people didn’t really trust the Internet. An online platform where you can buy different goods seemed to be something complicated and unimaginable.
Fortunately, Jeff Bezos knew what to do. He started small and chose the five most popular books to sell. It was the first version of Amazon.
Users appreciated this, and only then Bezos moved on to expanding the range of products. Gradually, he also worked on improving the design for interacting with the audience.
You see where Amazon is now. And you know what to do.
5 Steps of the Minimum Viable Product
1. Identify the problem you want to solve
The first thing you need to do is understand: why are you creating this product? What problem does it solve?
Many successful startups say that they have developed an application that they personally lacked. Think about why your idea should attract the attention of the audience? Are you one of its representatives? What pains of potential clients do you know and want to eliminate?
2. Do your research
You cannot create a product that is equally good for everyone. At least not now.
Choosing a narrow audience will increase your chances of success. You need to get a complete picture of these people: who they are, how old they are, they study or work, how much they earn. By knowing specific hobbies and habits, you will find useful insights that will lead to unexpected solutions.
Another vital point is competitor research. Do not think that your product is unique and exclusive. Most likely, someone has already implemented this. Analyze the market to understand who your competitors are. Their strengths and weaknesses will help you develop a basic version of your product. You will gain a fuller understanding of what you need to do and what you don’t need.
Apart from competitors, it is crucial to analyze yourself. For example, with the SWOT analysis. Do you know your weaknesses and advantages? What is the threat to your product? What options are available? Answer these questions, and it will push you actively forward.
3. Define a user journey map
Make sure you understand the journey your prospect goes through when interacting with your product.
It doesn’t have to be guesswork. You need a clear map that contains guidelines for the main sections and aspects of your application or website. You can even run a couple of small focus groups to get more information about the audience’s concerns and challenges.
4. Make a list of functions, graded by priority
You probably already have a list of cool features in your head that you want to implement. But we have to disappoint you, not all of them will see life. At this stage, so for sure.
Jeff Patton developed one of the good methodologies to prioritize features. It is a Narrative Method (User Stories)
Detail your priority ideas with a user story, design sketches, constraints, and business rules on a user story map by sharing and discussing with the team what people and stakeholders need at every step of the process. Leave the rest of the ideas in the feature backlog. You can come back to them later.
5. Choose the most appropriate method for managing and developing MVP
It can be Lean, Schrum, Kanban, XP, etc. Rely on the professional software development team who will have your back along this way.
After you have the first iterations, go to alpha and beta testing.
Remember that the MVP is like an airbag. You feel desperate because you don’t know whether your idea is good, whether you can earn on it, and amaze people. You don’t know whether your startup is a new Groupon. It can be. Use the right approach based on facts, not assumptions, and you’ll definitely make the grade.
We’ve also prepared a table that reveals the features of each of these three approaches. Understanding the difference, you can choose the best solution to steal the show with your product!
|What is it?||A piece of evidence obtained from testing a technology or a novel design that demonstrates the feasibility of a product concept||A preliminary version of a product that demonstrates its look and feel||A product with a minimum number of features needed to meet users’ needs|
|What is it for?||Demonstrating a product’s feasibility or testing technical solutions with the aim of verifying their potential||Verifying design concepts||Seeing how the product can be improved and if there’s market demand|
|How long does it take to develop?||1 day to several weeks||2 weeks to 1 month||2 to 6 months|
|When should you create it?||When you aren’t sure about your idea’s feasibility or when you have several options for how you can implement something||When you’re confident in the feasibility of an idea and want to test a product design concept||When you’re sure of a product’s technical possibilities and its design and want to launch it on the market|
|How is it tested?||Within the company||Within the company and with a small audience of target users||With a wide target audience|
|When should you show it to investors?||Pre-seed / seed||Seed / round A||Round A / B|
What approach do you need?
Determining the right approach is not an easy task. First, find out at what stage of development your product is. Below you will find a few tips for each approach to help you make the right decision.
When to rely on a PoC
Proof of Concept is what you need if you are thinking about creating a complete product. This approach will be the best solution if it has the following goals:
- You want to know if your idea is feasible before starting development;
- You need to prove technical feasibility in order to receive investment in product development;
- You sure your technology or design concept is unique.
When to rely on a prototype
If you have succeeded in creating a POC, you can move on to the next stage, and that is prototyping. Here are some signs that you need to get started:
- You want to see how the first version will look like;
- You are interested in the flow of users and want to provide them with great user experience;
- Your resources are limited, but you still want to attract investors through visual representation.
When to rely on MVP
It is important to understand that MVP is not a mature product yet. But you definitely need it if you want:
- analyze the market and assess the relevance of your idea;
- save resources by releasing a product with the most important functions;
- map out future product development and reduce the risk of failure.
We won’t provide you with a direct answer to what is best for you: POC, Prototype, or and MVP. All these approaches are necessary and have their advantages. The truth is simple: if you’re going to launch any product, you should know your goals and expectations. They will help you to define the next steps.