Proof of Concept and App Development - What You Need to Know
Did you have an idea for a mobile app, and someone told you to create a proof of concept? If so, that's great news - it means that you may have stumbled upon a truly original idea.
Tech is everywhere and growing. Thanks to robust investing and open source projects, it is easier than ever to customize technology to your life and business.
That said, entrepreneurs continue to innovate and develop fresh new ideas. Even individuals with only mild tech know-how are thinking outside the box.
If you're an entrepreneur interested in developing a brand new mobile app, it's important to understand what a proof of concept is. In this guide, we'll define our terms and then walk through the app development process.
Feel free to reach out to our team members directly if you want to discuss your app idea.
What is a Proof of Concept (PoC)?
In short, a proof of concept is proof that your idea works.
While proof of concept requirements apply to any product or service breaking new ground, they are increasingly relevant to tech startups. With each new tech product launch, more technology is possible.
Before you fully invest in a truly original idea, you need to build a prototype, test the prototype, and demonstrate that your idea merits further investment from yourself and/or others.
Sometimes you're developing your proof of concept for a seed investor. But most of the time, you're doing it for yourself. PoC is the process of extracting an idea from your mind and tinkering with it in real life until it shows promise.
Who Needs a Proof of Concept?
Not every product, service, or mobile app needs a PoC. Many great business ideas are alterations of an idea that already exists. There's no need to prove it before moving forward with the next stages of the development process.
However, ideas that have never been tested may or may not work. It is far more difficult and expensive to realize that your idea doesn't work after you've spent money and years developing it. Rather, you can exert modest effort on the front end to test your idea and create a proof of concept.
Stages of App Development
In the world of tech and mobile apps, most startups follow an app development process. While our process below is not a hard-and-fast set of guidelines, it does illustrate the path one takes to build a new app.
Additionally, putting PoC within the context of the entire development process will clarify how your PoC works.
A great idea begins as just that - an idea. You and your partners have a vision for what you want to create. During the inception stage, you are wrapping words and wireframes around pictures in your head.
Source: Ohio State University
Also during this stage, you must identify the problems you're trying to solve. Apps that accomplish nothing have little future and don't merit further investment.
When you can identify what your app delivers - lowering costs, saving time, improving one's quality of life, general enjoyment, etc. - will help you achieve greater clarity during the development process.
Idea inception can transition easily into product design. If you've not already incorporated wireframing into your planning, now is the time to do so.
While sketching your app design, keep the user at the forefront of your thinking. Proper UX design prioritizes the needs and preferences of your target audience.
Also, consider how one design streamlines and enhances the user experience over another. Thinking carefully about these questions will help you deliver an actionable design ready for development.
Note: If you're creating something unique, you should consult a patent attorney. As you develop your app, you will need help from other experts. A patent will protect your idea from being stolen. Additionally, your attorney can provide you with contracts that maintain confidentiality among your developers and team members.
Armed with an actionable idea, you should bring in professional help to assist you with mobile app development. Even if you are a skilled programmer, you need reliable experts to widen your perspective and audit your work.
Once you've entered the app development phase, you may or may not already have a proof of concept. You must communicate with your developers about your needs and expectations.
In this stage, you are officially a project manager. As such, you should adhere to fundamental project management principles to include the following:
Identifying a Critical Path
Resource Allocation (that is, sticking to your budget)
If you have experience with project management, your background will help you immensely. That said, many developers are accomplished project managers (since that's what they do for a living). Where you lack skill and experience, lean on those with complementary strengths.
Proof of Concept
It is difficult to know exactly when you need your proof of concept. Depending upon your idea, you may have already created your PoC during the design phase or midway through development.
Regardless, achieving your proof of concept is a major accomplishment. Establishing your PoC takes serious critical thinking, teamwork, and trial and error.
Source: IT Vantage
Fear of failure often prevents entrepreneurs from achieving their PoC. "Failure" is part of the design process. The sooner you can discard ideas that don't work, the faster you will refine your ideas and produce a truly remarkable finished product.
If you've enlisted the help of subject matter experts, they will provide invaluable feedback to help you achieve your PoC.
Upon establishing your proof of concept, you should start thinking ahead. Most likely, you are planning to build a business.
It doesn't matter whether you want to build a business to sell or manage - either way, you need a business plan.
It's not enough to have a great product. You need to think through how you will leverage your product into a profitable venture.
There are two main reasons why you need a business plan:
You need to know how to move forward with your business launch.
And you most likely need funding.
Investors and lenders are unlikely to talk to you unless you have a business plan. If you want to scale your business quickly, you will need serious dollars to achieve your goals.
But even if you are bootstrapping, a business plan will save you enormous heartache and further ensure your long-term success. Traditional business plans force you to think about your mission, vision, team members (who you have and who you will need), and, most importantly, your financial projections.
If you're unfamiliar with building financials, many people can help you, such as someone in your local SCORE group, an accountant, or a startup incubator.
Sample of a One Page Business Plan, Source: The Startup Garage
After creating your business plan, you can format and design it to present to potential investors/lenders. These designs can look like the one-page business plan above, aesthetically-pleasing PDF handouts, or a Powerpoint/Keynote presentation.
Once you've built your mobile app, it's time for you to test the app with users outside your development team. The point of beta testing is to catch as many bugs as possible before taking your product to market.
Source: 280 Group
With the help of your first batch of users, you should begin to document all the ways your app is working and where your app is falling short. The more you can improve your product, the better it will perform during the product launch.
The keys to successful product launch are marketing and distribution. Depending upon your budget, you may or may not have a ton of marketing dollars to spend.
But when it comes to app distribution, establishing your app on the Apple and Android stores is vital. If you've chosen your developers carefully, they will make sure that your app meets Apple and Android OS compliance standards.
In time, your downloads will increase, and you will get plenty of user feedback. If your beta testing was successful, then most of your user feedback will be positive.
However, you can continue to be successful even in the face of negative feedback. Iterating your mobile app with bug fixes and updates will make it better and better.
Success problems are also something you should anticipate. Evaluating storage, hosting, and other operational logistics can help you make your product more attractive.
Most importantly, you can begin to refine your process for increasing revenues and lowering costs. This mindset will help your business (not just your app) last and grow.
Proof of Concept and Funding
If you are like most tech startups, you may need several stages of funding. Before a product launch, you will lean heavily upon your PoC to show investors that your idea is worth their attention.
Source: CB Insights
Once again, the more data and financial information you have, the better your chances of getting funding. And the more funding you have, the greater your chances of success.
Developing proof of concept for your mobile app is challenging, but it is also highly rewarding. At Exobyte, our goal is always to make you successful. It is always an honor to partner with tech entrepreneurs during app inception, development, testing, and launch.