What is Rapid Application Development (RAD) and How Does It Work?

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Rapid application development is an agile methodology for software development that seeks to speed up the development process without sacrificing quality.

Through trial and error, software developers have discovered that speed and feedback are often the most important factors that go into a software development project. 

Recognizing this, software development teams who rely on rapid application development have contributed to a massive market boom in recent years. Between the years 2021-2026, rapid application development will see a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of a whopping 42.6%.

Many factors contribute to this impressive growth rate. First and foremost, people are investing more money and time into mobile apps

Small and medium-sized businesses are also huge proponents of the rapid application development market. The flexibility and productivity of this customer-centric methodology are increasingly desirable for organizations that depend on such benefits. 
For your business particularly, there may be many reasons leading you to inquire about rapid application development, how it works, and the benefits it can provide. To learn more about rapid application development, keep reading!

What Is Rapid Application Development?

Rapid application development (RAD) is a means to approaching the software development life cycle that encourages frequent prototype releases and iterative, continuous delivery. 

Low-code and no-code development platforms are one of the ways in which businesses cater to the needs of rapid application development. And the market growth for this mode of development is similarly exponential. 

However, there is a way to incorporate RAD into the traditional software development process and it now plays a big role in modern software development. 

In general, rapid application development can refer to development methodologies and technologies that prioritize fast delivery. 

Lean and agile development, for example, are two popular development methodologies that call for fast and/or frequent delivery.

A vector illustration showing a laptop connected to two circular icons with a line, symbolizing the concept of continuous integration or continuous delivery in software development.

Comparatively, frameworks like Django, promise to meet deadlines exceptionally fast. 

RAD can also point to a more definitive approach to software development that was popularized by James Martin in the 1980s and published via the book Rapid Application Development in 1991. 
This approach, taking elements from the work of Barry Boehm, is business-oriented and asserts that reactive development is a more efficient resolve than defining specifications. 

Now, rapid development or rapid application development is an all-encompassing term, implying that a software development process centers responsiveness to user feedback over planning

The alternative to the RAD methodology would be the once infamous waterfall model. Despite the implications of its name, the waterfall model is plan-driven and operates by way of sequential phases. 

Because the process flows in only one direction — hence the term ‘waterfall’ — it is generally less flexible than any implementation of RAD.

In turn, RAD emphasizes the parts of software development that are vital to the success of a software product, namely its usability in the long-term for the end-users it’s built for. 

Advantages of RAD

The main advantages of rapid application development are key principles to the methodology’s design. Here’s a look at some of the characteristics driving the appeal of rapid application development.


Software development processes that use RAD can integrate constructive criticisms without going through the motions of a strict, linear organizational template. 

Because RAD doesn’t follow a straight and narrow procedure for making changes, the software development team can adjust for new requirements at any time. 

In addition, RAD functions as a modular undertaking. In other words, compartmentalization ensures ease of execution when it comes to applying modifications. 


Of course, rapid application development is fast, The entire model is based around this singular characteristic. 

RAD reduces overall development time, invigorating developers to be more productive as they don’t have to dread exhaustive and time-consuming development methodologies. 

Increased velocity also means your software application will hit the market quicker, guaranteeing a better return on investment (ROI) than otherwise. 


Rapid application development is dependent on consumer feedback. The quality of software is largely variable based on the features a software product offers and how they meet customer needs. 

Software development altogether thrives with plenty of communication and collaborative efforts in order to deliver a satisfactory product to clients. 

There should be no question why a customer-driven approach to developing software is advantageous. 

Disadvantages of RAD

The disadvantages of RAD usually aren’t enough to turn people away from enjoying the benefits of this methodology. But just in case, you should review the downfalls of employing rapid development for your software development process. 


The overall process of rapid application development is by no means simple. Applications start as a prototype and scale in size and complexity as time goes on and developers receive more feedback. 

An evolution of this kind can make RAD difficult to deploy for smaller projects or when technical risk is high. 

On top of that, since there is minimal planning involved, tracking issues can be a laborious task given that there is not much documentation to review past proceedings. 


Primarily for the reasons described above, rapid application development can be very demanding.

Each phase of RAD focuses on delivering iterations in short intervals. Then the prototype for each iteration must meet the functionality of highest priority to the end-user — established from the latest collected feedback. 

In consequence, you will need highly skilled developers to make RAD work; and they need to be truly committed to the project. 


Again, RAD is customer-driven. Using your end-users as an unabating resource is paramount. 

While this can be perceived as a positive, in the context of rapid application development, it also means you will need to define and redefine user requirements at nearly every step of the software development life cycle

Gathering continuous feedback can be an intensive endeavor. The advancement of your software development project is directly proportional to the constant and demonstrated acknowledgment of user input. 

5 Phases/Steps of Rapid Application Development

In practice, the phases of rapid application development do not greatly differ from that of the waterfall model. The most noticeable distinction is that several steps of RAD are iterative, rather than sequential.

A presentation slide titled

1. Define Requirements

At this step, stakeholders in the software product come together and finalize the details of what the project will require. 

This part of RAD will be more organized than any other. You will need to identify project goals, time constraints, and financial forecasts, among other things. 

Once you’ve thoroughly defined the scope of your project, relay this to relevant team members such as the project manager with the objective that they give you the thumbs up to continue with the project. 

2. Build Prototypes

After defining the requirements of the project, your software development team can start developing. Clients, developers, and other stakeholders must work together to create a final product that everybody feels good about.

Remember, rapid application development is by definition iterative. This is one of the few processes that will occur more than once. Building prototypes should also happen at a fast pace.

3. Gather User Feedback

This step and the last go hand-in-hand. Prototypes are built to gather user feedback and developers gather user feedback to re-work prototypes. Understand that you will repeat this step again and again. 

4. Test Your Software Product

Testing software is an essential part of any software development process. But especially in the case of rapid application development where developers are building prototypes at an alarmingly fast rate, testing is of crucial importance.

Test, test, test! Repeat this step as often as needed. 

5. Launch Your Product

Finally, following several interactions of development, user feedback, and testing, you will arrive at a software product that is well-adjusted to the needs and desires of your users. 

Is the RAD Methodology Right For Your Team?

Of course, there will be perks and limitations to employing the RAD methodology for your next software project. Use the table below to decide if rapid application development is right for your team. 



Does your project need to follow a planned schedule where significant changes can disrupt deadlines and jeopardize your process?


Do you have a small team with little to no hierarchical structure?


Are your developers experienced and highly skilled?



Is your project small with basal features?


Do you interact closely and frequently with your client base?


Can your development team adapt well to and embrace changing requirements over time?


Does your project manager take pride in sticking with initial plans and delivery promises?


Are your team members equipped for a fast-paced working environment?


Do you need to meet specific budget requirements?


Is flexibility preferred over organization?



Rapid application development gives your business the ability to hone in on consumer demand. In effect, there will be no doubt that you’re giving customers what they want. 

Although RAD is not best for every team, the right team will be all the more grateful for the improvements that rapid development engenders. 

However, for this approach to work, you will need talented software developers who can adjust quickly to change for the sake of innovation. 

Trio developers have qualified experience. Their mission is to work with businesses to deliver a project that meets client needs. Rapid application development is not an unfamiliar methodology for accomplishing this goal. 

To use rapid application development for your next project and make certain that you have the best senior developers to utilize this methodology, contact Trio now!

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Alex Kugell

With over 10 years of experience in software outsourcing, Alex has assisted in building high-performance teams before co-founding Trio with his partner Daniel. Today he enjoys helping people hire the best software developers from Latin America and writing great content on how to do that!
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