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Software Development

The difference between POC, prototype, and MVP

Building breakthrough solutions requires constant validation and user tests. The technical side of the process is difficult, but the key is to ensure the future product will be loved by the target audience. 

In digital product development, there are three concepts that are sometimes misunderstood and used interchangeably:

  1. Proof of concept (POC)
  2. Prototyping
  3. Minimum viable product (MVP)

Today we will look at each of them individually, and identify their use cases and key differences. 

What is POC?

POC is a method of validating the technical side of à potential solution. It is mostly used to test ideas that you can’t find on the market. At this stage, the focus is on the core functionality, while design and anything else are ignored.

However disruptive, the idea has to be supported by à real technology that can build it. With POC, project managers can verify relatively quickly if the concept can become a fully-functioning product. 

At Emphasoft, we engage a cross-team group of specialists to identify the best-fitting technology for the potential solution. Because we have developers from all niches, the process is fast and the success rate is high. 

The key goals that POC helps achieve:

  • Fool-proofing innovation
  • Optimal technology selection
  • Time saving 
  • Unique feature validation 

What is a prototype?

The POC identifies if a proposed solution is possible and can be delivered. A prototype focuses on the design element and helps us understand what the solution might look like.

The prototype turns an idea into something that can be seen, touched, and played with. It is usually a cross-functional effort that engages designers, developers, and even shareholders. 

The prototype can be simple or complex. At Emphasoft, we usually choose to create versions that you can interact with by “clicking” the buttons that redirect you to the other screen. Unlike simple images, such interactive prototypes allow us to get a feeling of what it will be like to use the solution, and we believe it’s a more efficient approach. 

The key goals that the prototype helps achieve:

  • Verifying the feasibility of the suggested design
  • Collecting initial feedback from test users
  • Securing funding from investors with demonstrations 

What is an MVP? 

An MVP is the first iteration of the product where both design and technology are considered. It gives users the opportunity to utilize the product and even enjoy it.

MVPs are constantly used in mobile app development. They include just the bare minimum of the features that make it a somewhat working solution. 

MVPs are not necessarily web applications, they can also be presented as a landing page or a physical product. Dropbox, for example, created a short intro video and used it as its MVP without building anything. 

MVPs are great for cutting project costs. The team gets feedback from users early in the game and avoids wasting time on building complex systems that are not what users want. Startups use MVPs to prove their idea, and if the chosen direction is not working out – they will pivot and create another MVP to test the new hypothesis. 

The key goals that MVP helps achieve:

  • Reducing startup risks
  • Getting user feedback early in development 
  • Securing funding rounds with investors
  • Acquiring the first paying customers

Tip: If you have a business idea but no development team yet, a good solution would be to outsource MVP development to an agency, such as Emphasoft. Agencies have a fully-stacked team of professionals who can create an MVP faster and with higher quality. Then, if it proves to be a success, you can either continue partnering with an outsourcing agency or invest in hiring an internal team

The key difference between the POC, prototype, and MVP 

All three help businesses create top-notch solutions, but each achieves it in a different way. 

POCs’ target audience is primarily developers, and the focus is on testing the technical feasibility of innovative ideas. A prototype is created by designers for a wider audience, including developers, stakeholders, and even users. MVPs are created primarily for end-users (and sometimes investors) to gather feedback and apply it to the development process. 

Unlike POC or a prototype, an MVP is a fully-functioning solution. Even though it only includes the core features and design, it is market-ready and can be distributed to potential users and clients. 

Are they all required to build a successful product?

Yes and no. Depending on your solution, niche, and industry, you might use just one of the three, or go for all of them. Naturally, the more tests you run at the beginning, the better chances you have of producing a number one solution. However, it is fine to mix and match the methods and only use those that best meet your needs. The Emphasoft team will be happy to consult you and help find the most optimised way that will make sense for your situation. 

Read next:
Super Apps: what they are, why they’re great, and the latest trends
Market research: predicting the product’s success


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