The Ultimate Guide to Rapid Application Development

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When thinking about software development, a method that many are familiar with is the waterfall approach or waterfall methodology. Now considered a classic style of software development it has been supplanted by a new technique known as Rapid Application Development or RAD.

The popularity of rapid application development (RAD) is directly correlated to the pace of progress in the modern world. Today businesses are forced to create new products and services at an extremely rushed pace. Partially this is due to increased competition and access to global markets, but it is also due to consumer behavior. Customers today are always looking for the newest, latest, and greatest, and companies that want to survive and grow are forced to accommodate these needs.

The rapid application development model has helped businesses, looking to launch new products and services quickly. In fact, this model has gained popularity not only in development but within the business environment as a whole.

What is Rapid Application Development?

When discussing software development, there are two main types that are often talked about. Waterfall as an older style depended on detailed requirements and long planning cycles. 

Agile development characterized by the rapid application development methodology is focused on iterative releases. With rapid application development, the emphasis is on smaller sprints where small incremental pieces of a project are delivered. Overall this helps speed up project deliverables as rework is not needed due to changing requirements or business needs.

What is the rapid application development model and why should you use it?

Steps in RAD

When considering the rapid application development methodology there are some key steps that need to be understood. These steps are as follows:

  1. Understand the requirements – starting a project without a clear understanding of what the outcome should look like is a recipe for failure. In this step, you are trying to define the goals of the project as well as the budget and delivery timeframe. After this step is complete and all parties are satisfied then you can move onto the next one.
  2. Create a MVP – a minimum viable product or MVP is the initial prototype, you should build as you begin developing. The chances of a successful prototype are significantly higher when the development teams, project leads and clients all work closely together throughout the build phase.
  3. Solicit feedback – during this phase, developers are looking for users’ feedback. This could be on the usability of the product or even its interface, look and feel. As developers gather information, adjustments can be made to better tailor the product to user needs.
  4. Testing and Presentation – during the testing phase, the solution needs to be checked closely against all client requirements to ensure that it is functioning as required. In addition, testing should also review any third-party integrations within the software, as changes made in one area can impact others. Once your finished product is ready to go live, you need to train users on its use and ensure that all of the correct data is loaded into it.

When Should You Use the Rapid Application Development Model?

There are certain times when the rapid application development model is definitively the best option. These times include:

When the project needs to be done fast

If your deadline is very tight and you have little room to maneuver, the rapid application development methodology is the way to gon. By choosing a RAD solution planning and design phases can be reduced and as result significantly speed up the project.

When you have enough budget

It’s not that RAD is more expensive than a waterfall or other methodologies. However, in some instances, resourcing costs can be higher if in-house expertise is not available. In this instance, having a flexible budget provides you with options and can help make the project more successful.

When you can test easily

Rapid application development requires feedback and testing at all phases of a project’s life cycle to be effective. If you have access to a pool of users, available to provide feedback on your prototypes and MVPs you’re much more likely to succeed with RAD than otherwise.

RAD vs Waterfall

The classical waterfall methodology is very different from the rapid application development methodology. In waterfall, business requirements are discussed at the earliest project phases, after which work begins. During the project life cycle, there is little to no interaction between the business and the development team, and the final product is only delivered after all phases have been completed.

What is the rapid application development model and why should you use it?

RAD, however, offers much more flexibility. One of the major advantages of the rapid application development model is the possibility of interaction between the development team and the business. This communication helps make sure that any changes in requirements can be immediately taken into account saving considerable rework time. 

In addition, with RAD, developers are able to produce prototypes at many different stages of the development process, thus helping ensure that the final product actually matches requirements and expectations.

What is the rapid application development model and why should you use it?

Rapid Application Development Advantages

When considering rapid application development advantages and disadvantages, the pros far outweigh the cons. Some of the most relevant advantages to consider include:

  1. Speed – with an ability to quickly produce prototypes and MVPs, rapid application development offers businesses the ability to see their product in the real world significantly faster than through other development models.
  2. Clearly visible progression – RAD with its focus on sprints and iterative work lets developers continually show progress. This is very different to older methodologies like a waterfall where companies would need to wait till the final phase before they were able to see the product.
  3. Consistent feedback – the rapid application development model with its focus on user feedback helps ensure that as development progresses, prototypes are constantly refined based on user needs and requirements.

 

Other pros to consider with RAD include its adaptability as well as its ability to integrate with other systems at the early stage of a project’s life cycle. This helps identify issues early in the development process so that they can be resolved quickly.

Rapid Application Development Disadvantages

While RAD offers many advantages to other, older methodologies, there are still some disadvantages that need to be considered.

  1. Large scale projects – while RAD is excellent for fast turnaround, the constantly changing nature of requirements leading to adjustments in design could derail some larger-scale projects.
  2. Requires feedback – user feedback is a requisite for rapid application development but if those users are unavailable or unable to consistently work on the project, it could impact the quality of the solution delivered.

 

Other cons to consider with RAD include its reliance on skilled developers and its need for a modular system. 

Rapid Application Development Programming Languages and Frameworks

There are several different development frameworks that are suitable for the rapid application development methodology. Three of the most popular are Ruby, Flutter and Python.

Ruby

Ruby on Rails is quite possibly the best option when it comes to a RAD programming language. This free, open-source solution has been growing in popularity since its launch in 2005 and is a language that allows developers to quickly start work. 

Some of the reasons for this speed include the complete framework it affords developers with all key elements included out of the box. Another advantage of Ruby for rapid application development is the extensive and still growing collection of third-party components that are available to developers.

Flutter

Flutter is a solution that was built for coders by Google and is another framework growing in popularity amongst developers. Already available as a tool to build apps for Android, iOS, Linux, the web and Mac, Flutter now allows developers to build apps for windows too further extending its functionality.

Flutter with its hot reload option makes for a very useful tool when iterating software. With hot reload developers can quickly test applications without having to rebuild and restart.

Python

Python and its Django framework help with rapid application development through the automation of many different processes. For developers looking to build complex data-driven websites, this can be a real benefit leading to dramatic process acceleration.

Rapid Application Development Tools

Based on the information from Google Trends, the popularity of Rapid Application Development with low-code development platforms is increasing rapidly. However, finding the right tool to help you be successful with RAD can be complicated as there are many options to choose from.

What is the rapid application development model and why should you use it?

Design and Prototyping

With these tools, developers can create prototypes quickly and easily. In some cases, the tools enable cross-browser capabilities which expand the capabilities even more.

What is the rapid application development model and why should you use it?

User Testing and Feedback

With the rapid application development model, feedback from users throughout the development life cycle is a key requirement. These tools help enable that feedback making it easier for developers to understand what needs to be adjusted.

What is the rapid application development model and why should you use it?

Rapid Application Development Tools

To help your team onboard the rapid application development methodology quickly, you need to have the right tools available in your toolbox. These tools are what you are looking for.

What is the rapid application development model and why should you use it?

Conclusion

Are you ready for rapid application development and everything that it can offer? To see if your org is RAD ready, review this checklist.

  • Do you need to develop software quickly? Are you looking to create a product within a very short period of time? If so, RAD might be the solution you are looking for.
  • Do you have in-house resources that are skilled with the RAD methodology and have familiarity with RAD tools? Are they able to work to your timeline?
  • If you are a software development company, is your client open to the adoption of RAD? Will they be available to you throughout the development process so that they can provide feedback?
  • Do you have the right tools available to you so that you can successfully deploy RAD?

If you need help answering any of these questions contact us. At NIX, we have successfully deployed multiple projects using the rapid application development model and we have a strong command of its use. Let us help you determine if RAD is the right solution for you and your requirements. Our software engineers and business analysts will gladly assess your project and offer a range of recommendations designed specifically for you.