Building Custom Applications Using Rapid Application Development (RAD)
What is rapid application development (RAD)? RAD brings your ideas closer to fruition rapidly. It enables faster development and reduces the risks involved.
Join the DZone community and get the full member experience.Join For Free
The traditional waterfall model of software development often proves to be a buttoned-down and inflexible approach. Over the years, developers have realized that the waterfall model’s strict planning routine makes it difficult to maintain client timelines and incorporate their feedback. Hence, the Rapid Application Development (RAD) model was introduced.
RAD (Rapid Application Development) not only removes the shortcomings of earlier methodologies of software development but also enhances the flexibility and agility of your development processes.
RAD: An Introduction
At a time when Waterfall methodology was driving software development towards a dull phase, RAD invited swiftness into the life of developers. As the name suggests, Rapid Application Development is an agile methodology that involves rapid prototyping and quick iterations to your software development processes. As a result, you can offer quicker releases and swifter development, thus giving your clients an edge over their competition.
The significant difference between RAD and waterfall is that the latter requires many resources, while RAD can survive on teams smaller in size. RAD is specifically useful when you need to quickly deliver a product and update the features as and when necessary.
What makes this methodology unique is that it is process-driven, which helps create a thoroughly defined product at the end of the cycle.
The Four Phases of RAD
Every application developed using this methodology has a defined cycle that it is processed through. Let's discuss in detail the steps involved in rapid application development and how they help build the ultimate product.
1. Requirement Planning
Planning is critical for every methodology that you adopt. It helps define the project development blueprint. However, the planning in this agile methodology is precise and concise compared to other proven methodologies.
- Understand the problems faced by the business.
- Why do they need a software product, and what is the premise for this product?
- What are the business requirements and goals defined by the business?
Once you have defined the requirements and the goals, make sure to get them approved by the business stakeholders. Streamlining communication from the requirement stage helps ensure smooth development.
2. User Design
The user design is the most crucial phase of this methodology. It drives quicker iterations and ensures an edge over the competition. During this phase, the development agency works in tandem with the client to design prototypes for the application. Testing the wireframes ensures that the prototypes align with the goals and requirements.
- Are there any bugs within the prototypes?
- Do they look intuitive and user-friendly?
The developers will tweak and customize the designs such that they meet the end user's requirements.
Once the client has approved the user design, it is time to build and convert the prototype into a product. The user design phase helps remove the probable bugs and issues from the product. As a result, the development phase is faster and helps accelerate the launch.
- The developers concentrate their efforts on creating rapid development.
- This phase includes application development as well as defined coding processes.
- Defined testing methodologies to remove bugs that exist.
At this point, coders work in tandem with testers, developers, strategists, and clients to release the best outcome.
Implementation is the final phase of this methodology. During this time, the testers and the deployment engineers work towards releasing a refined and perfectly tuned product.
- Final testing before the launch.
- Changes and approvals from the clients incorporated.
- User training before the product is available for use.
The cutover phase gives the final touch to the product.
Advantages of RAD
1. Swift Development
Continuous iteration, constant feedback, and immediate testing help develop products faster and accelerate their launch. This methodology ensures that every little aspect is considered from the user's purview so that the product doesn't fail at any point. The development cycle is smaller and swifter compared with traditional development.
2. Measurable Growth
There are frequent iterations involved in this product development, ensuring quicker releases of the components and prototypes. As a result, you can measure the project's progress and realize whether it will be completed on-time or not. In case you need to adjust the timelines, it is much easier with this methodology.
When you are into an iterative process, with the client's involvement, you will realize that the components and solutions used are in sync with the business needs. Fewer to nil changes will be required at the end of the process, making the process efficient and effective. The overall cost of development is in line with the budget.
4. Low-Risk Methodology
You can add new features or specifications to the development process, after its initiation, with the RAD methodology. This low-risk model automatically adjusts and adapts to the latest specs received. It also renews the timelines and budgets accordingly.
Disadvantages of RAD
1. Inefficient with Large Teams
There is a constant need for communication and collaboration in this methodology, which is challenging in large teams. While RAD's overall structure is flexible, you tend to lose control when dealing with too many people, which proves to be a disadvantage. Eventually, the script for development becomes unpredictable, leading to major developmental issues.
2. Frequent Client and User Interactions
The best part of this methodology is that it requires you to stay connected with the users and clients. However, it can also prove to be a disadvantage. Your client or the users may not be as interested or enthusiastic in offering their inputs and insights.
3. Need for Flexible Systems
It comes with a modular structure and needs every component to be flexible and adaptable. It is possible that the software requirements mentioned by the clients cannot be modularized or are not adaptable, which can lead to developmental delays. Some elements cannot be swapped, and this methodology may not allow the use of such components.
Should You Use the RAD Model?
While there is no denying that RAD can help enhance software development, there are certain limitations to the model that you cannot ignore. You can use this agile methodology for specific business requirements alone.
- If you believe that the software development components can be modularized, you should use this methodology.
- Flexibility in business requirements can be accommodated with RAD, as it can adopt new requirements within an ongoing project with ease.
- If you have expert engineers who can process your needs into a controlled application, RAD is for you. The methodology can be maneuvered with the right talent alone.
- If your client will provide the right inputs for the project and is very much engaged in the project, you can proceed with this engagement. The model requires frequent interactions with client and user, and both need to be active for well-defined software products.
Rapid Application Development makes allowances for including new requirements while the project is in progress and adapts to newer timelines and budgets. Despite the flexibility, it ensures timely and measurable progress as well as quicker launches for your business.
Published at DZone with permission of Mitul Makadia. See the original article here.
Opinions expressed by DZone contributors are their own.