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What Is Rapid Application Development? 4 Phases of RAD Methodology

What Is Rapid Application Development 4 Phases of RAD Methodology

How valuable is project management for your business?

Have you thought about adopting Agile in your organization?

According to recent statistics, 71% of companies are adopting Agile, and this has helped 98% of companies.

For software development, one of the most popular project management strategies is something called rapid application development, or RAD for short.

The rapid application development market is expected to reach a CAGR of 42.6% during forecast period (2021-2026).

Sounds exciting, doesn’t it?

In this article, we’re going to dive deeper into the world of RAD, so we can clearly define what it is, how it compares to other methodologies, and how your business can benefit from it.


Here we go.

What Is Rapid Application Development?

Rapid application development, or RAD, is a form of agile software development methodology, that prioritizes fast product development.

RAD uses frequent iterations and constant feedback that ultimately enable your organization to develop systems faster, while maintaining quality, and reducing costs.

The end goal of the whole methodology is to deliver working software products to market faster, as the demand for new applications is ever increasing.

In practice, rapid application development puts more emphasis on an adaptive process, instead of planning.

The RAD framework was introduced in 1991 by James Martin. He outlined a brief development cycle, including three steps: requirements, design, construction, and application generation, with the ideal timeframe for execution being between 90 and 120 days.

Let’s take a closer look at the development phases.

Rapid Application Development Model: 4 Steps

The rapid application development model is different from the classical model, due to its feedback-oriented approach. With RAD, developers can implement new features and functionalities to the application at any given time.

Furthermore, because of the nature of RAD, which removes specific planning, speed is prioritized. This allows software to be ready-to-use within a shorter period of time.

Additionally, multiple user-testing ensures that the development fully covers the client’s needs.

Here are the four basic stages of rapid application development.

Stages of Rapid Application Development

  1. Assessing the requirements. Before starting work on any sort of project, it’s important to understand and set the specific requirements – goals, timelines, expectations, budget, etc. The end of this stage occurs when you’ve agreed upon the key issues and management approves the next step.
  2. Prototyping. This is where the work on development starts. Instead of following tight requirements, developers create various prototypes with different functionalities and features as fast as they can. Afterward, the clients look over the prototypes and decide what they like and what can be scrapped.
    It’s important to note that developers usually present only key features of the product, and a finished product is not created until the final stage, once the client and developer have reached an agreement.
  3. Testing & gathering feedback. In this stage, developers present their prototypes to clients and end-users with the intention of gathering feedback. Once developers receive enough feedback regarding the product – design, functionality, missing features, etc. – they return to step 2, and work based on the feedback. If the feedback is entirely positive, developers can proceed to step 4.
  4. Presenting the product. This is the final stage before the product launch. It’s time to do any additional testing, write documentation, data conversion, or undertake any other maintenance-related tasks.

Rapid Application Development Advantages and Disadvantages

There is no such thing as perfect, so naturally the rapid application development model has its flaws. In this next section, we’ll outline the pros and cons of RAD.

Pros of RAD

Rapid Application Development Advantages and Disadvantages

  • Speed. Quick iterations drastically reduce development time and clients receive a working product within a shorter time frame.
  • Cost. In RAD, development is focused on specific client requirements, instead of building features that could be removed from the final product. This saves time and money.
  • Quality. Due to the constant feedback, developers can handle and resolve any issues in a timely manner, while ensuring a high-quality product.

Cons of RAD

  • Scalability. It can be difficult to scale RAD, especially when you have to work with a large team, as this often requires frequent meetings with stakeholders in order to receive feedback. A small team can easily sync with each other, however, inter-team communication can slow down the process.
  • Skills. The rapid application development methodology requires highly skilled developers and designers.
  • Feedback. Since RAD is reliant on user feedback, the lack of such, or the inability of the users to consistently work on the project, can result in a poor quality end product.

Readers might also enjoy: Debunking 10 Common Misconceptions About Web Development – DevriX

When Should You Use Rapid Application Development?

After going through the pros and cons of RAD, it’s only natural to question whether you should apply this model to your business.

As a result, we’ve prepared a list to help you figure out when it’s beneficial to use the RAD approach, or whether you should choose a different methodology.

  1. Do you need a product done quickly? RAD is an obvious choice when it comes to delivering a finished product fast. You can develop a software product within two or three months, so if you have tight deadlines, rapid application development is probably the best option. Use RAD? ✅
  2. Would you have access to feedback and user-testing? The RAD model is highly dependent on constant and reliable feedback. You need to make sure you’ll have guaranteed feedback from clients and users in order to finish the development process in a timely manner. Use RAD? ✅
  3. Is your product vital? It’s logical to implement the rapid app development methodology for an internal tool or a customer portal. However, there are scenarios where you should probably avoid RAD. For example, flight control software or firmware implants are highly sensitive products, and using a rapid development approach can be irresponsible. Use RAD?
  4. Do you have the technical manpower? As we mentioned above, rapid application development requires skilled and experienced developers, designers, and coders who can finish the job on time. There’s no point in torturing yourself and your clients, if you don’t have the right personnel. Use RAD? 🇽

Waterfall vs. RAD: What’s the Difference?

The waterfall model uses a classic approach for software development. Every phase is linear, and the product has a single cycle of development.

The biggest difference compared to rapid application development is that waterfall does not implement constant feedback. Instead, the development process is linear with a single cycle of development, at the end of which the product is ready.

This means that any changes have to be done in the early stages, or they are too costly to fix otherwise because developers have to restart the whole process. There is also the issue of the client not being satisfied with the end results.



Here’s a brief systematization of the main features, comparing waterfall and RAD.

Waterfall Rapid Application Development
  • High-risk model
  • Low-risk model
  • Requires large team size
  • Requires small team size
  • Changes can be made only at the start
  • Changes can be made anytime
  • Product is delivered once all the product stages have been completed
  • Product is delivered as soon as possible
  • Not able to incorporate requirement changes
  • Can work with a change in client requirements


Generally speaking, the rapid app development methodology allows for much more flexibility and helps build products with a reduced risk.

Waterfall, on the other hand, is a model that requires strict and concise planning before the start of development, thus the products have a much higher risk of failure.

Agile vs. RAD: Is There a Difference?

One could argue that agile and rapid application development go hand-by-hand. To a certain extent, that is true. For example, both are flexible and non-linear ways of approaching software development.

However, there are two major differences:


  • Puts emphasis on people and how they work together. The development stage is longer compared to RAD.
    Focuses on progressive development, breaking down the solution into features.


  • Aims to deliver products quickly, making it ideal for tight deadlines. Development is concentrated on swift actions and results.
  • Every part of the software is quickly (and most of the time badly) developed, later the code is gradually improved.

The agile method puts focus on developing each feature at the end of iteration. Finished work is only shown to the customer once the development stage is complete.

In contrast, RAD intents to deliver a product as quickly as possible, even if it means the product is not 100% optimized yet. Therefore, the code needs to be refined at the end, in order to improve the overall quality of the finished product.

The key takeaway from it all is to carefully analyze which methodology is best suited to your current needs. RAD is great when you have the financial resources and experienced staff, however it’s not the universal answer for every product development idea.


Rapid application development can be extremely beneficial for businesses, who are looking to develop and release products within a short time frame. It is also great for creating high-quality, cost-efficient apps.

However, your organization needs to assess its needs before development begins, as RAD is not the ultimate solution for every product.

You need to analyze and double-check your available resources, if you want to truly benefit from the rapid application development model.

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