What’s the Difference Between Proof of Concept, Prototype, and MVP?

The First Step to Take An Idea to Reality

If you’re new to software development, you’ll certainly come across a wide variety of terms that will leave you somewhat puzzled. From the roles of the engineers and managers that will take care of your development project to the methodologies used to create your product, you’ll need to catch up with plenty of things. 


But one of the first things you’ll surely hear when you reach out to a software development company (especially if you come with a fresh idea) is that you should start your development journey by building a Proof of Concept (POC), a prototype, or a Minimum Viable Product (MVP). Understanding those terms and knowing what each of them implies can determine the success or failure of your project. That’s why at BairesDev we’ve prepared this handy guide to help you understand their differences.

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What Is a POC?

Proof of Concept (POC) isn’t a term exclusively used in software development, as it’s also used in many other fields, from healthcare to film industries. But the basic idea when it comes to software development is testing an idea to see if it’s feasible and practical to build it. As its name suggests, the development team proves if the concept you imagine (and that even looks good on paper) can become a reality.

How does that look? The engineering team analyzes the idea and checks if the software is technologically feasible, if there’s a market for it, and if there are potential gaps in the development process that might interfere with its construction. Since the whole team is involved, there are many takes on the idea, so it also serves as a way to detect weaknesses as well as a way to define how relevant the product actually is. 

Why go for it? A POC is an important part of development because it verifies theoretical concepts before any work is actually done. If an idea fails in this stage, then it can be easily discarded without much cost.

A Proof of Concept can be used in the following scenarios:

  • To check the value of a software idea
  • To make sure that the chosen software development method is appropriate 
  • To define if the idea matches the needs of the intended users
  • To identify limitations and examine its functionality

Benefits of a POC:

  • Possibility to choose the best tech stack
  • Practical demonstration of value for stakeholders
  • Validation of functionality
  • Valuable feedback before building anything

What Is a Prototype?

A Prototype is often seen as the same thing as a POC but that’s only because both of them have similar goals. While the POC is more of a theoretical process where the team checks your idea’s feasibility, when prototyping the team actually builds a working model of the software, albeit with very limited functionality. 

How does that look? The first thing a development team does when tackling a prototype is gathering the requirements to understand the basics of the software. Once that’s done, engineers move forward and build the actual prototype with just a couple of features and a (very) basic interface. You can then test how that prototype works, ask for changes, and wait for the team to refine it.

Why go for it? Unlike a POC, here you’ll be delivered something you can try. What’s more, you can pass along that prototype to a select group of members of your target audience to get enough feedback to define if your assumptions about your idea are right or if you need to course-correct. In short words, a prototype is like a draft that gives you and your team a first look at how the final product might look like.

A Prototype can be used in the following scenarios:

  • To test software that will have a lot of interaction with the end-users.
  • To design good human-computer interfaces
  • To prove the value of a product in a more practical way

Benefits of a Prototype:

  • Quick test of possible errors
  • Valuable feedback before building the full product
  • Cost-effective way to identify customer needs
  • Straightforward way of checking whether the software matches the specifications

What Is an MVP?

A Minimum Viable Product (MVP) is the most complete of these initial alternatives, as the development team builds a working product with all the core functionality. Thus, you can see an MVP as the closest of these options to a final product. In fact, an MVP can serve as a foundation on which you can later build a fully-fledged product with more bells and whistles. 

How does that look? When the development team sets out to build an MVP for you, they start by gathering requirements and doing some market research. After that, the engineers start designing the product while ideating its features. Once they have a feature list, they define which are the most important ones and work only on them. After that, they offer you the first MVP which you can evaluate and ask for changes. From then on, it’s an iterative process. 

Why go for it? An MVP is all about striking a balance between minimal design and maximum value stemming from an initial idea. In other words, a well-developed MVP can work as a functional product that you can market to your target audience. In other words, it can go beyond validating your idea but rather become the first version of your ideal product. 

An MVP can be used in the following scenarios:

  • To test a new take on a proven product type
  • To create a product with well-known specifications
  • To gather in-depth feedback from the target audience

Benefits of an MVP:

  • Good way to develop a client base through early adopters
  • Best proof of value for stakeholders
  • Early testing opportunities
  • Practical way to get user intelligence 
  • Budget-friendly

Make an Informed Decision

As you surely noticed, POCs, prototypes, and MVPs all pursue the same overall objective – to test how viable and appealing a software might be for its target audience. That’s virtually the only similarity between them, though. Each of these takes a different approach to achieve that goal and, in doing so, each fits varying needs.

Hopefully, this little guide can help decide which one is the best for you. And if you have any doubts, don’t hesitate to contact BairesDev. We have vast experience developing proofs of concept, prototypes, and MVPs, and can certainly help you start your development journey in the best possible way.

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