Rapid Application Development (RAD): What Is It?

Rapid application development, sometimes known as RAD, is a software development method that emphasizes the planning and prototype stage to get immediate feedback from users. Compared to more conventional development approaches, which include early planning and subsequent execution, RAD necessitates greater adaptability. Regular rounds of user input and rapid incremental improvements are two factors that contribute to improved results at the end of the day.

In 1991, as an alternative to the strict waterfall techniques, fast application development was described by James Martin as “what is rapid application development.” The traditional waterfall method is an excellent choice for the construction industry and many other fields where modifications to the scope of work are uncommon and costly. It is doubtful that you would decide to switch to constructing a ferry in the middle of the process if you had already begun construction on a bridge.

The creation of software is far more adaptable. There is a greater variety in the approaches that may be used to tackle the same kind of business difficulty, and modifications can be made at a lower cost. Because of this, very comprehensive planning and design are often sacrificed in favor of an iterative process based on trial and error. In addition, people are more likely to submit valuable feedback only when they see a successful outcome.

Phases of Rapid Application Development Methodology

The time-consuming planning phase is replaced with the less expensive prototype phase under the Rapid Application Development technique.

Specifically, the RAD model suggests the separation of the process into the following four stages:


The customers and the development team will work together during this phase to determine the goals of the future system. The criteria are more relaxed than usual, and the primary emphasis is on achieving the business objectives. The capacity to modify or adapt them while the prototype is still being developed is essential.


The fast application development process is differentiated from the traditional waterfall model by including an essential component, user design. In this stage, the first thing the developers do is work on a prototype. The objective is to quickly and affordably show things to the customer, whatever needs to be demonstrated. It is not a deal breaker if the prototype can only satisfy some of the criteria or can only handle a subset of the possible situations. It is allowed to take shortcuts when it comes to coding.

After the prototype has been completed, it is shown to the users for feedback. The team gathers as much input as possible, and at this stage, the primary criteria are susceptible to unavoidable modifications. Something that made sense when written down could take on a different appearance when it’s put into practice. When developers have this input, they return to the prototype process and continue doing so until consumers are pleased with the end outcome.


At this point, we are fully aware of the requirements that must be met. It is time to complete the system’s development and testing in order to get it ready for usage in production. There will be no more shortcuts; instead, the emphasis will be placed on quality, scalability, maintainability, and other factors. However, even at this late point, consumers continue to interact by offering comments when new features are introduced. At this point in the iterative process of developing a quick application, there is still room for further fine-tuning.

Depending on the tool we wind up using and the other factors involved, everything we have created in the prototype stage can end up in the trash can.


This is the last step, which includes user training, acceptability assessment, and implementation of the new system.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Rapid Application Development

The focus moves away from predictability and towards adaptability due to RAD, which has both good and bad implications.


Superior in Quality

The final program will probably better apply to the users’ activities if they actively participate in the prototyping process. Moreover, regardless of the outcome, it will live up to their expectations.

Reduced Expenses and Dangers

Users can only view the outcomes of the method and offer comments once the project has been delivered to them. The unavoidable adjustments that need to be made at this point are both times- and money-intensive. The chance of having to rewrite half of the solution after it has been implemented is significantly reduced when using the fast application development process.


Inability to scale up effectively

The RAD paradigm presupposes that the team and the end users collaborate in highly close conjunction. The prototype process will always move at a glacial pace once either the team is too large, or there are an excessive number of stakeholders. Additionally, it becomes challenging to explain frequent changes in the project scope to all parties involved. Therefore, RAD is thought to function best for groups of medium or small size.

Poor design

When pursuing specific business needs and taking shortcuts during the prototype stage, you may find yourself going too far, resulting in a poorly designed overall solution.

Inability to exert control

Before the prototype stage of the project is through, it is not feasible to accurately forecast the project’s scope, budget, or timeline for apparent reasons. However, depending on the findings of the requirements planning process, you will still be able to establish some general expectations.

Commitment from customers on the back end

The rapid application development technique anticipates a substantial amount of user input throughout the project’s lifetime. This is particularly true for the most qualified professionals in the industry, who also happen to be the busiest individuals in the organization, according to the reports.

Agile Software Development vs. Rapid Application Development

The name “RAD” was coined ten years before the Agile development methodology, and due to its iterative methodology, RAD is sometimes referred to as a “parent” of Agile. On the other hand, this is not the situation. Agile is a philosophical viewpoint that encompasses much more than just software development, in contrast to RAD, which is a prescriptive development technique.

It is safe to assume that Rapid Application Development (RAD) is a member of the same family as other agile software development approaches, such as Scrum, Kanban, and many more.

Can I Employ Rapid Application Development In My Project?

As was just said, RAD cannot function correctly under restrictive settings. It does not apply in the following situations:

  • It is necessary to have prior knowledge of both the budget and the timelines.
  • You do not have consistent access to the users, or the users lack the motivation to invest their time and effort in the project.
  • The scope necessitates the involvement of a large labor force or an unusually high number of interested parties.

These restrictions often apply to huge businesses and organizations that the government runs. However, critical components of the fast application development technique may still be used even in these situations. For instance, projects with a defined price might allocate funds for the prototype stage and a certain number of revisions. If you have the appropriate users on board, you may be able to restrict the scope of the prototype to the portions that are the most unclear.

On the other hand, a fast application development framework performs very well for small and medium-sized organizations and departmental projects, provided that the business users own the money and are driven to achieve the desired outcomes. A typical illustration of this can be seen in the many Line-of-Company (LOB) apps built. LOB is an umbrella word that refers to programs designed to automate and operate certain aspects of a business more effectively.

In a similar vein, RAD lends itself very well to the development of websites. These are often modest projects with a limited group of stakeholders. However, it is essential to include them early on since design is a highly controversial topic, and everyone will have something to say about it!

Tools for the Development of Rapid Applications

The application of the RAD approach relies mainly on rapid prototyping and tight cooperation; hence, selecting the appropriate tools to assist these endeavors is of the utmost importance. To our good fortune, there is a vast selection from which to choose.


Examples: Figma, Balsamiq, InVision, Sketch, and Adobe XD are a few examples.

Rapid application development technologies like Figma and InVision allow visual designers and UX professionals to rapidly build together and distribute end users’ interactive prototypes with a complete design to gather their input. As soon as one of the iterations of the prototype is given the green light, the project may then be exported into formats that can be reused by front-end developers, marking the beginning of the Construction phase. Although the creation of websites is by far the most common use of these tools, they may also be used in prototyping the customer experience of more complicated end-user apps or portals.

Business analysts use other applications, like Balsamiq, far more often. They are concentrating on creating a prototype of the user experience using wireframes, and the final design may be implemented later. These are excellent options for the preliminary design of more extensive systems that include intricate user interaction.


The development phase of establishing an application often consumes the most time, is the most costly, and is fraught with the most significant uncertainty. Therefore, current platforms for rapid application development integrate tested architecture, ready components that implement standard functionality, and tools that make rapid development easier. Every one of them makes it easier for you to provide results more quickly, whether you are in the prototyping phase of the project or farther along in the construction phase.

Low/No Code Application Platforms (LCAP), High Productivity Application Platforms as a Service (HPAPaaS), and Multi Experience Development Platforms are some of the new terms that are being introduced by consulting firms such as Gartner and Forrester to differentiate between these different types of platforms (MXDP). However, in the end, each one of them may be categorized according to their intended readership.


Examples: Mendix, Outsystems

The fundamental concept behind these platforms is that they should make it possible for business users with no coding expertise (also known as power users or citizen developers) to provide functional applications rapidly. This simplicity, of course, comes with a lack of flexibility and various restrictions attached to it. In a recent piece, I discussed these limits and the hazards linked with them. Consequently, the target market for such platforms consists of either prototyping or straightforward solutions.


Embarcadero RAD Studio, Jmix, and Ruby on Rails are a few examples.

These platforms improve the speed and delight of software development primarily by supplying higher-level APIs and code generation. As a result, developers are shielded from the need to write boilerplate code and implement standard functionality repeatedly.

Embarcadero RAD Studio, formerly Borland Delphi, is one of the industry’s pioneers and is well-known for its visual user interface design. Borland Delphi was its last name. It was around before the advent of the web and can still only be used for apps on desktop computers and mobile devices.

Other quick application development frameworks focus on the web because of its preeminent status as a communication medium between companies and their end consumers. For instance, here at Jmix, we make an effort to combine the ease and swiftness of visual data models and interface design with the efficacy of today’s open-source technology. This method not only increases the pace at which prototypes can be created, but it also gives you the ability to develop your prototype into a full-featured corporate application with a stable and scalable architecture. 


One of the development approaches that adhere to the agile principle is referred to as Rapid Application Development (RAD). The active participation of end users and the development of rapid, iterative prototypes based on input from those users are two core tenets of the RAD methodology. After ensuring the satisfaction of the end users, the attention next turns to the supply of suitable software for production.

Selecting the appropriate tool(s) is essential to ensure rapid prototyping and, as a result, the effective use of RAD methodology within a given project. The good news is that there is a

diverse selection of tools and platforms designed to cater to various kinds of applications, phases of a project, and skill sets for teams.

Even though RAD is an old idea, it is now going through a revival as a direct result of the current digital transformation trends and the drive towards quicker time to market. When used to the appropriate kinds of projects and with the proper kinds of teams, the RAD approach may assist in achieving more customer satisfaction with fewer risks and in shorter amounts of time.


  1. https://www.jmix.io/rapid-application-development/
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rapid_application_development
  3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Martin_(author)
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