Many products fail because their creators focus solely on their ideas without considering what customers want and are willing to pay for. To build a successful business, it’s crucial to understand your customers early on. In today’s digital economy, companies can and should test their product ideas with users throughout development to make necessary iterations that benefit customers.
This guide is designed to help our clients build market-ready digital products. We often work with clients who have a product idea, some requirements, and a Proof Of Concept but are still determining what comes next. While a Proof Of Concept can indicate whether an idea has potential, businesses and organisations should continue questioning and validating their assumptions as they progress.
We will look at the stages after a Proof Of Concept and provide validation methods to help shape your digital product into something customers will use and pay for. This guide is especially beneficial for founders, innovators, and product managers struggling to validate product assumptions, achieve product-market fit, and overcome other business challenges. Additionally, it may benefit those with existing web or mobile applications who want to enhance their product offering or pivot to something new.
First, we will review what a definitive Proof Of Concept should be and how to build one. Then, we will look at how to evolve a Proof Of Concept into a prototype, a minimum viable product, and finally, into production. A cheat sheet summarising these four validation strategies will also be provided to aid in the product development journey. Our ultimate goal is to help your product idea become a solution that achieves product-market-channel fit.
Proof Of Concept: A Quick Review
A Proof Of Concept (PoC) is a very early version of a digital product used to validate assumptions about the product idea. It is important to remember that a PoC is not a fully developed solution but rather a method of testing your hypotheses about the product. Extensive research and testing can determine if the business idea has market potential.
Goals Of Developing A PoC
The primary goals of developing a PoC are to validate that the product will address actual customer problems and that the proposed solution is technically feasible.
The ultimate goal is to find a fit between the problem and the solution.
Forms Of PoCs
PoCs come in many forms, such as wireframes, presentations, screenshots, sketches, or documentation.
Ideally, the PoC process should include a combination of these.
Next Immediate Step: Drafting A Proof Of Concept Report
After the PoC is developed, it is essential to assess its viability based on data.
This is done by drafting a Proof Of Concept report that includes research, PoC artefacts, and any data generated.
The report should also contain the following:
- Risk factors
- And other points of discussion
To demonstrate the technical feasibility of the solution, the PoC should be supported by documentation laying out the product’s critical functional and technical specifications.
The report should anchor stakeholders on the feasibility of the product idea and the market opportunities that may lie ahead.
This should empower the product team, founders, decision-makers, and other stakeholders to make informed and carefully thought-out decisions about whether or not to move forward with the product idea.
After The Proof Of The Concept
After determining that your Proof Of Concept demonstrates a promising solution, it’s time to proceed further in building your app. However, this doesn’t mean you should immediately call in engineers to code your PoC. Before total production, consider developing a prototype and a minimum viable product (MVP). Remember to adjust your approach to your situation, including limitations.
A prototype is an early version of a product developed to assess its functionalities and design concept by showcasing its visual form, simulating the user experience (UX), and implementing special vital features.
Elevating a product idea from a Proof Of Concept into a prototype serves several objectives. Prototypes help product teams articulate the most critical workflows in an application and the features that enable them. It also showcases and examines the UX and the design concept.
By the time you’re able to produce a prototype in your product development journey, you should be able to assess the product’s desirability as a solution and how it looks and feels.
If a Proof Of Concept validates for product-solution fit, a prototype begins to validate for product-market fit. To do this, prototypes should primarily test for usability and desirability assumptions. Will customers be able to use it? Will consumers want it?
2. Building The Prototype
Product teams must focus on the following areas when building their prototype:
How representative users interact with the product and the feedback they provide.
The needs and problems of target customers or users (building on and validating insights from the PoC process)
Testing And Validating The Product Workflow
- Evaluating key features and functionalities with actual target customers
- Getting user feedback on the design concept and user interface (UI)
- Prototypes are often shown or demonstrated to internal colleagues and representative users.
- Prototype artefacts typically come in the form of a user interface, such as a mockup or no-code prototypes, which aren’t linked with backend systems or mechanisms.
- Product teams can put these prototypes in front of selected customers to see if, for instance, they can navigate through a workflow or accomplish a specific task.
3. Minimum Viable Product (MVP)
A minimal viable product (MVP) is an early version of the intended production-ready application with just enough features to allow a limited number of customers to use it. The MVP is meant to be a simpler version of the envisioned product. It can offer a partial range of features in your product roadmap when testing it with early users. Development teams should focus on critical components for their MVP.
Businesses can avoid making lengthy and expensive changes further down the line if they decide to produce an MVP, as may occur when releasing a complete product to market without thorough testing. Sometimes, MVP is also referred to as the Minimum Viable Prototype.
Objectives Of An MVP
The primary objectives of releasing a minimum viable product are to test the app’s main features, assess its viability and desirability, and test distribution channels.
Unlike a PoC or prototype, releasing an MVP helps validate if you’ve chosen the proper marketing and distribution channels to acquire customers or users.
If a prototype validates for product-market fit, the MVP validates for product-market-channel fit.
To do this, you shouldn’t only test if consumers want to use your product (i.e. the value hypothesis). You should also try to create enough traction to unlock a profitable business model (i.e. the growth hypothesis).
Types of MVP
MVPs come in either a low-code product or an implemented solution limited in scope.
There are a few types of MVPs you could explore, such as:
- Minimum Viable Product (MVP) – Fastest development speed, minimum features to test the idea, cheapest, based on prototype
- Minimum Marketable Product (MMP) – Faster development speed, minimum features to sell or market the product, affordable, revised MVPs
- Minimum Marketable Feature (MMF) – Fast development speed, focus on critical elements that bring immediate value to customers; the cost depends on the features, based on the feature description
- Minimum Lovable Product (MLP) – Fast (but typically slower than MVP) development speed, minimum features to bring the “wow factor”; the cost depends on the features, revised MVPs
It’s important to note that the type of MVP you choose will depend on your specific goals and needs for your product. The MVP should be tailored to validate your assumptions and hypotheses about your development and its potential success in the market.
Production When determining when an app is ready for production, there is no one-size-fits-all answer. However, businesses have found success by listening to their customers and delivering what they need and want. If in your best judgment, your app is ready for public use, even if it is still only built for a limited set of customers, then it is time to move your product into production.
In a technical sense, an application is considered in production when it is deployed and operational for its intended use for target customers. However, it would help if you only thought your app was ready for production when it is a market-validated product based on its previous iterations as a Proof Of Concept, prototype, and MVP. This does not mean that all essential features and characteristics must be implemented, but rather that the product is ready to be shown to the world.
Production-ready applications should be a working products that can solve specific and actual problems through market-validated solutions. It can be marketed or released to the broader public, a limited market, or even those who signed up early. Even in early production stages, like alpha or beta releases, it is important to continue testing and validating for product-market-channel fit.
It is important to continue gathering user feedback to validate the product’s marketability, growth trajectory, and monetisation models. While focusing on the business side, paying attention to the product is crucial, especially when discovering new user pain points and solving them through iterations or new product capabilities. As your app moves into production, you should also test the proper distribution and marketing channels and further optimise the product for your formal launch.
The four stages of product development – PoC, Prototype, MVP, and Production – are typically done in sequence as a validation method. The table below compares these stages:
Answers this question
Impact on funding
Is the idea technically feasible?
Internal to the product team and a limited number of representative users
Reduces the risk of solving problems that aren’t important enough
Minimal resources to develop wireframes and other PoC artifacts
Facilitates small, internal funding
How will the product be used? What will it look like?
Test with a limited number of external representative users
Reduces the risk of solving the wrong problem and inefficient and frustrating workflows and UX
Some resources to develop no- or low-code prototypes
Facilitates additional funding to bring in engineers
Will the product be viable?
Release to a wider set of external representative users
Reduces the risk of wasting resources on further development when fully marketing or launching the product
Enough resources to be able to code an MVP
Ready to be shown to external investors
Will the product successfully grow in the market?
Can already be released to the broader public but only promoted to a limited set of users
Reduces the risk of using suboptimal distribution channels
Requires full investment commitment to develop a production-ready product or service
Ready to be shown to external investors
Adapt, and Course-Correct for Successful Product Development Developing a digital product is a complex process that may involve adjustments and changes. Take your time with prototyping if your Proof Of Concept requires changes or a different approach. Use feedback from customers to adapt or make corrections. Keep in mind that product development is not just about completing tasks but also about validating the readiness of your product. If you need help turning your product idea into a market-ready product, WTA Studios can assist startups, scaleups, and enterprises worldwide. Let us know more about your project.
Project Manager at WTA Process oriented tech enthusiast with a key eye on project metrics