Difference Between a Prototype and a Proof of Concept?

Difference Between a Prototype and a Proof of Concept? Image

Proof of Concept and Prototype, two terms that are often used interchangeably but have very different meanings and purposes. A Proof of Concept is at an earlier stage of the development process whereas Prototype is at a later stage of the process and both are done for different reasons. By using the appropriate approach at the right time, companies can save time and resources, increase their chances of success, and deliver high-quality products or services that meet the user’s needs and expectations.

What is a Proof of Concept?

A proof of concept is a preliminary demonstration of the feasibility of a new idea or technology. It is a way to test the core concept behind a product or service at a near idea point. A good Proof of Concept will demonstrate the limitations of your concept and validate if the underlying idea meets the target audience‚Äôs needs. 

The main goal of aProof of Concept is to validate the assumptions and hypotheses underlying the concept and to identify potential risks and challenges. It is an opportunity to gather feedback from stakeholders, investors, and customers and to refine the concept based on their input. A successfulProof of Concept can increase confidence in the viability of the idea. A proof of concept is best used to verify concepts before a lot of actual work is done.

What is a Prototype?

A prototype or very early version of a product or service that incorporates key features and functionality of the final version. It is a working model that allows developers and designers to test and refine the product or service before launching it to the market. A prototype can be a physical object, a software program, or a combination of both, depending on the type of product or service. A prototype is best used to test software ideas with end-users and key stakeholders with an actual model to use.

The main goal of a prototype is to simulate the user experience and to identify any flaws or shortcomings that need to be addressed before launch. It is an opportunity to test the product or service in real-world scenarios and to gather feedback from users and stakeholders. A successful prototype can increase confidence in the quality and usability of the product or service and reduce the risk of failure.


To illustrate the differences betweenProof of Concept and Prototype, let’s look at some examples that incorporate both:

Example 1:

A car manufacturer wants to develop a new engine that runs on a new fuel source. For the Proof of Concept, they build a small-scale model of the engine and test it in a laboratory and measure results. Based on the results, they decide to build a prototype engine for use in an actual test car. The prototype engine is then built that runs on the new fuel and is installed in an actual test car. The car is tested on a test track where the car is runs using the prototype engine. Based on the results of the prototype tests on the test track the car manufacturer can make further improvements and continue to refine the product before hopefully launching their new car to the general public.

Example 2:

A software startup wants to create a new piece of software to solve a problem in a particular target industry. For the Proof of Concept, they create some sketches that shows how the software would work. They show the sketches and get feedback with a small group of potential users in that target industry. Based on the feedback, they refine the concept and decide to build a prototype. The prototype includes all the features and functionality of the final software and is tested with a group of users. That is the users use the prototype, instead of just being shown some sketches like at the Proof of Concept stage. It is important to note the Prototype also isn’t a final version of the software to ships to end users.

Chad Jones Photo
Chad Jones Photo
About the Author

Chad Jones

Chad is the Founder and CEO at Push and was a former Apple Engineer before returning to Saskatchewan to revolutionize the mobile development world. Chad is passionate about creating efficient, well-designed software.