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Prototyping refers to an initial stage of a software release in which developmental evolution and product fixes may occur before a bigger release is initiated. These kinds of activities can also sometimes be called a beta phase or beta testing, where an initial project gets evaluated by a smaller class of users before full development.
Prototyping, as well as broad-spectrum testing and multiple software releases, is part of a more detailed process for producing sophisticated software products and services. The essential idea is that even when code features are complete on a project, the software, which is still in development, may have many bugs and user problems. For many of these to get ironed out, it helps if the software is actually in use, but developers face the issue of releasing a product that end-users can see as essentially flawed. Releasing the product to a smaller community or otherwise restricting its development in stages can be a very effective solution. In some cases, prototyping might involve volunteers, while in other cases, special clients or others with special status may be involved in prototyping. Development teams and tech companies will typically elicit feedback on a product during prototyping in order to fix problems before final distribution.
There are some best practices for prototyping. These include the idea of demystifying prototyping or making initial users more informed about the software itself. Another principle is to fully communicate all activities to process stakeholders in order to ensure that everyone is on the same page. Companies may also develop a more detailed strategy for team meetings and other events around prototyping in a more controlled chronology that can also help to make these activities more effective.