04 Apr

Proof of Concept, Prototype, MVP and Final Product

Have you ever thought about the differences and connections between Proof of Concept (POC), Prototype, Minimum Viable Product (MVP) and the Final Product in the development process? For example, what is the relationship between a proof of concept and the final product and a prototype?

The purpose of this blog is to look at these issues and clarify the complex interactions that exist between these important phases of product development. Additionally, this blog will provide insights into how each phase contributes to the overall success of the final product. If you’d like to read it in another language, simply click on the flag below this post, and the text will be translated into your preferred language.

 


Understanding the differences between PoC, Prototype, MVP and the Final Product

In the area of innovation, each component is essential for bringing ideas to life. It is critical to understand the different roles of Proof of Concept (PoC), Prototype, Minimum Viable Product (MVP) and Final Product Delivery in this creative process. These components work together to transform abstract ideas into a material reality. Let’s take a closer look at each component:

Proof of Concept (POC)

  • Objective exploration: A Proof of Concept (POC) serves as the initial inquiry into the feasibility of a concept. It asks the fundamental question: “Is this idea feasible?”
  • Focus area: Focuses on confirming the technical feasibility of the main idea, often overlooking the product’s future market appeal or user interface (Harvard Business Review, 2024).
  • Outcome: The primary outcome is insight into whether the basic concept can work in practice, often resulting in a yes or no answer without detailed insights into user interactions or market dynamics. So the user interaction in a Proof of Concept (POC) is always minimal.

Prototype

  • Objective refinement: A prototype goes a step further by exploring how a thing functions and feels. It’s an exploratory design and interaction tool that asks, “How will this idea work and look in the real world?”
  • Focus area: Places importance on showcasing how the product functions, its design, and user interface; however, it is presented in a simplified or scaled-down manner for easier understanding (Nielsen Norman Group, 2024).
  • Outcome: Results in a physical model that enables user interaction, feedback, and refinement, offering a clearer understanding of the potential final product’s usability and appeal.
  • There are various types of prototypes, ranging from Low-Fidelity (such as paper prototypes, wireframes), Middle-Fidelity, to High-Fidelity (such as functional models, beta versions). You can find more information about these different stages of prototype testing here.

Minimum Viable Product (MVP)

  • Objective Realization: Minimum Viable Product (MVP) is essentially an experimental approach designed to empirically understand which product features are most valuable to users (Ries, 2011). Its main goal is not just to quickly launch a product, but to learn precisely which aspects resonate most with the target audience. This learning-focused approach shifts the focus from mere production to insightful discovery.
  • Focus Area: The MVP focuses on the essential, minimal features needed to engage early adopters and gather significant feedback (Blank, 2013). This focused strategy enables entrepreneurs to modify and improve their products based on real-world user feedback, lowering the risk and resources involved with large-scale product releases.
  • Outcome: Releasing an MVP leads to more than just a product launch. It initiates a cycle of feedback and adaptation (Osterwalder, Pigneur, Bernarda, & Smith, 2014), creating a product development environment that is responsive and resilient. This helps businesses navigate market demands with agility, ensuring that the end product not only meets but exceeds customer expectations. Additionally, an MVP prevents the unnecessary mass production of a product and tests whether the product is truly needed by consumers. Consider MVP (Minimum Viable Product) as an additional step before committing to mass production.

Final Product Delivery

  • Objective Realization: This is the highest point of the innovation process; transforming proven, prototyped ideas into fully working, market-ready products. It answers the bigger question, “How will this idea perform and be received in its intended market?”
  • Focus Area: Involves detailed attention to manufacturing, market placement, scalability, and sustainability of the product, ensuring it meets both user needs and business objectives (Project Management Institute, 2024).
  • Outcome: Results in the delivery of a complete product, ready for consumption by the end user, with all features, functionalities, and market strategies fully implemented and tested.

To summarize, a Proof of Concept (PoC) ensures an idea can work, a prototype makes it real to see how it works, and MVP & Final Product Delivery brings it to market (Nielsen Norman Group; Harvard Business Review). So, while a proof of concept evaluates the technical aspects and feasibility, a prototype aims to address how the product will appear and function, and the final product is the completed version ready for mass production and sale.


Understanding the connections between Prototype, PoC, MVP and the Final Product

In the product development journey, the stages of Proof of Concept, Prototype testing, MVP and Final Product delivery are intricately connected, each enriching the others. These stages do not unfold in a linear fashion but rather influence and inform one another. For instance, low-fidelity prototype testing not only helps refine the product but also provides valuable insights for the proof of concept phase. By testing requirements such as feasibility, desirability, and viability, the prototype provides a clearer and more detailed preview of what the proof of concept might include. This helps to clarify the idea and obtain understanding of its potential implications.

In turn, the proof of concept serves as a crucial validation step, providing compelling reasons why the final product will succeed. It offers tangible evidence of the product’s feasibility, its desirability to users, and its viability in the market. By iteratively refining and validating ideas through these interconnected stages, teams can ensure that the final product meets both user needs and market demands. In other hand, building upon a high-fidelity prototype, an MVP provides an opportunity to test whether the product is truly needed, and can deliver value and profit before mass production of the final product begins. So the MVP crucially validates the product/service in the real market, gauging actual user interest and gathering invaluable feedback that will inform the final iterations of the product.

In conclusion, the processes of Prototype, Proof of Concept (PoC), MVP and Final Product development are closely intertwined and sometimes occur simultaneously, rather than following a linear progression. It feeds each other with valuable insights and information, providing opportunities for improvement by iterating and making changes when necessary.  Simply put, a Proof of Concept (POC) can be refined through testing various prototypes, while the final product delivery can be fine-tuned by continuously gathering insights through repeated testing as necessary. This interconnectedness allows teams to make iterative improvements and collaborate across all stages of product development. Below, you can find more details about these interconnections.


Link between Low-Fidelity Prototype and the Proof of Concept (POC)

In the process of innovation, how can we differentiate between the early stages of a Low-Fidelity Prototype and a Proof of Concept? Do they mirror each other in creation, or do they have separate functions in bringing ideas to life?

A Low-Fidelity Prototype simplifies design using basic materials like paper or digital tools, allowing rapid exploration and feedback on usability without technical complexity (Walker, Takayama, & Landay, 2002). In contrast, a Proof of Concept (POC) tests the feasibility of an idea, validating its practical potential (Ries, 2011). It assesses whether the concept can become a reality, focusing less on user experience. The difference between a Low-Fidelity Prototype and a Proof of Concept is clear: one shows how a product will work, while the other tests if it can work at all. But they’re not separate. A Proof of Concept might lead to a prototype, turning ideas into visuals. And a prototype might uncover problems, helping to test if the concept is feasible and, in this way, improving the Proof of Concept. So keep always in mind that creating and bringing ideas to the market is never a straight line; rather, to successfully negotiate the process’s complexities, flexibility, iteration, and constant improvement are needed.


Link between High-Fidelity (Hi-Fi) Prototype, MVP and the Final Product

You might also ask, what is the difference between a High-Fidelity (Hi-Fi) Prototype, MVP and the Final Product?

Well, at its core, a High-Fidelity Prototype is an advanced model that closely replicates the final product in terms of design, functionality, and user interaction (Walker, Takayama, & Landay, 2002). It represents a sophisticated draft, offering a realistic preview of how the product is intended to look and operate, enabling detailed user testing and feedback. The Hi-Fi prototype, thus, serves as a visionary tool, providing a tangible glimpse into the future, allowing designers and stakeholders to iterate and refine before finalizing.

As stated earlier, building upon a high-fidelity prototype, an MVP offers an opportunity to test whether the product is truly needed and can deliver value and profit before mass production of the final product begins. Contrastingly, the Final Product is a find tuned version based on insights from MVP, polished and ready for the end user. It transcends the MVP by being fully functional, optimized, and integrated with all necessary systems and services.

So the journey from a High-Fidelity Prototype to MVP and than to a Final Product involves addressing the feedback collected during user testing, finalizing the design, ensuring compliance with standards, and preparing the product for mass production or deployment (Virzi, Sokolov, & Karis, 1996).

To conclude, think of a High-Fidelity Prototype as a rehearsal and the Final Product as the main event. The prototype allows for adjustments without the complications of altering a finished product. It’s a crucial step in the design process, smoothing the path to product success. So essentially, every test with a High-Fidelity Prototype and MVP is an opportunity to refine and pivot, ensuring that the final product is not just a solution, but the right solution for the intended user base. This important proces from prototype to final product demonstrates also the effectiveness of design thinking, highlighting our ability to anticipate user needs and create solutions specifically tailored to meet them (Sauer & Sonderegger, 2009). Within this connection, iterative improvements act as a pulsating heartbeat, propelling innovation forward (Blessing & Chakrabarti, 2009). Within this nexus, iterative improvements are a pulsating heartbeat, driving innovation forward (Blessing & Chakrabarti, 2009).


Checking Requirement assessment across development phases

At each level of prototype testing, it is critical to regularly review and validate the project’s fundamental requirements. These criteria serve as guiding principles throughout the entire development process, from prototypes to final product delivery.

For instance, imagine a scenario where a mobile app’s initial requirement illustrates a simple user interface. During prototype testing, user feedback might reveal a need for additional features, resulting in an update of the requirements. Similarly, during the proof-of-concept phase, market research may reveal new customer preferences, requiring further modifications of the initial requirements.

To conclude, recognizing the dynamic nature of requirements is essential. Adjustments might occur not just during prototype testing but also in later stages such as proof of concept. By understanding how different development stages connect through requirements, teams can adapt effectively, ensuring project goals remain on track (Hoda, Noble, & Marshall, 2012).

Keep in mind that the requirements that need to be tested are determined by the desires and demands of various stakeholders, among other factors. You can learn more about the requirements here.


Sources:

  • Blessing, L. T. M., & Chakrabarti, A. (2009). DRM, a Design Research Methodology.
  • Harvard Business Review. (2024). Retrieved from https://hbr.org/
  • Hoda, R., Noble, J., & Marshall, S. (2012). Developing a grounded theory to explain the practices of self-organizing Agile teams. Empirical Software Engineering, 17(6), 609-639. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10664-011-9181-0
  • Nielsen Norman Group. (2024). When to Use Which User-Experience Research Methods. Retrieved from https://www.nngroup.com/articles/prototype-fidelity/
  • Osterwalder, A., Pigneur, Y., Bernarda, G., & Smith, A. (2014). Value Proposition Design: How to Create Products and Services Customers Want. John Wiley & Sons.Blank, S. (2013). Why the Lean Startup Changes Everything. Harvard Business Review.
  • Project Management Institute. (2024). Retrieved from https://www.pmi.org/
  • Ries, E. (2011). The lean startup: How today’s entrepreneurs use continuous innovation to create radically successful businesses. Crown Publishing Group.
  • Ries, E. (2011). The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses. Crown Publishing Group.
  • Sauer, J., & Sonderegger, A. (2009). The influence of prototype fidelity and aesthetics of design in usability testing: Effects on user behaviour, subjective evaluation, and emotion. Applied Ergonomics, 40(4), 670-677. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.apergo.2008.06.001
  • Virzi, R. A., Sokolov, J. L., & Karis, D. (1996). Usability problem identification using both low- and high-fidelity prototypes. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (pp. 236-243). https://doi.org/10.1145/238386.238460

 

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