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What is Rapid Application Development?


Praise Iwuh

May 23, 2023


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Rapid application development(RAD) is a software development model that prioritises adaptation based on prototyping and fast incorporation of feedback. RAD employs quick, iterative and incremental cycles, which means developing a prototyping, analysing it and improving on it, rather than following a strict, planned out development process. RAD aims to speed up development, improve product quality and ultimately increase customer satisfaction. It allows developers to make improvements without having to restart the SDLC from square one.

RAD leverages a series of predefined software development components, frameworks, and reusable code snippets to accelerate the development process. These components, often referred to as RAD tools or frameworks, provide developers with a foundation to build upon and streamline the creation of application features. By utilising pre-existing components, RAD minimises the need for developing functionalities from scratch, saving time and effort.

RAD is principled on maximising efficiency through user involvement, rapid development, communication, quality orientation and adaptability. These core principles serve as a guide for the SDLC and some of them are outlined below:

Principles of RAD

Stakeholder involvement

RAD prioritises continuous interaction between users and stakeholders(users, developers, testers, business analysts, and all parties with vested interest in the product) through every stage of the SDLC. The incorporation of feedback from users provides the basis for improvements and incremental iterations of the prototypes in order to achieve optimal product quality that meets expectations.


Communication between all parties is key in RAD. Close interactions enable better understanding of project objectives, and alignment between the development team, user requirements, and business needs. This is achieved through establishment of channels for knowledge sharing, problem resolution and overall seamless interaction.


RAD is characterised by rapid prototyping to visualise project goals, and analyse its product or feature functionality. In this model we rapidly develop prototypes or mock-ups to give all parties involved a real life feel of the product or software being developed, enabling better, earlier and more accurate feedback.

Incremental development

As an agile model, RAD prefers an iterative, incremental workflow, as opposed to traditional linear SDLC. It breaks down projects into subsets or sprints which are developed, prototyped, tested and improved upon individually. This improves speed and accuracy of software development, and adaptability to changes in requirements or environments.


As the name rapid development implies, time is an essential factor in this model. RAD uses fixed timelines for each sprint or iteration. These defined periods allows the team to have a focused objective for each phase, increasing efficiency, mitigating scope creep and making it easier to manage expectations.

Quality Focus

While RAD may give off an impression of hurried, even careless development, the entire purpose of this model is to improve product quality. It aims to achieve this through feedback incorporation, continuous testing, swift issue resolution and incremental improvements. Each iteration is extensively tested and improved before approval and progression.


The nature of the RAD model enables flexibility which is essential in a fast changing business environment. By working on individual iterations and promoting swift feedback incorporation at all stages, the SDLC remains adaptable to any changes in user requirements or business needs.

Reusable Components

RAD uses existing resources such as frameworks and modules to save time and effort. By reusing these components, we can guarantee consistency, sustainability and less uncertainty. This principle is based on “why change what works?”

Basic phases of RAD

Define Requirements

RAD begins by defining the requirements of the product. It focuses less on detailed specifications and more on a broad understanding of the user’s expectations such as application’s primary function and features. Principled with incremental development and flexibility, RAD allows requirements to be changed or updated at any time, so it is beneficial to have a less detailed, time-consuming requirement planning stage.


Prototyping begins the development phase in RAD. The focus is on rapidly designing and creating a working application with enough functionalities such as  user interface, workflow, and essential features to present to the client. The aim is for the client to review the prototype and decide if it meets their expectations. If the decision is positive, the development cycle proceeds.


The construction phase sees actual development of the application take place. The developers collect and incorporate feedback from clients based on the experience with the prototype to start building the application. This phase emphasises rapid prototyping and iterative development, allowing for quick feedback and continuous improvements. Developers work in short sprints or iterations to implement specific functionality and integrate their work regularly


This phase involves the deployment of the application and transitioning it from the development environment to the live production environment. It includes tasks such as system testing, data migration, user training, and finalising documentation. This final phase ensures a smooth transition from development to the operational environment, where the application is ready for use by end-users.

Benefits of RAD

  • RAD accelerated development cycles results in a faster time to market 
  • It allows flexibility in the development process, enabling easy adaptation to change at any stage of development
  • It enables effective communication and collaboration between developers, stakeholders and end-users
  • RAD uses feedback incorporation and iteration to limit waste and optimise cost effectiveness
  • By emphasising close collaboration and incorporation of feedback, RAD enhances customer satisfaction

Disadvantages of RAD

  • RAD overlooks detailed documentation, which can hinder long term maintenance and progression
  • It is not suitable for complex and large-scale projects that require in depth planning and analysis
  • RAD relies on highly skilled personnel to accurately deliver prototypes rapidly
  • Too many changes and limitless flexibility can result in scope creep and disorientation
  • An emphasis on speed can result in oversights and poor code quality

When you may need RAD

Rapid Application Development can be beneficial or detrimental depending on the peculiar circumstance of the project. The best cases to use RAD involve situations where speed and flexibility are priority. You should consider RAD when:

  • You need to deliver a product within a short timeframe
  • Your product depends much on user involvement and customer satisfaction
  • Your project requirements are not fully defined or subject to spontaneous changes
  • Your project is small-scale and straightforward
  • Your project requires validation of mockups or prototypes before advancement
  • Your product gains a competitive edge from a faster time to market


RAD may not be suitable for all projects, but if used where it applies, is a beneficial development model that uses emphasis on collaboration, iterative development, and rapid prototyping to accelerate development cycles, improve flexibility, and promote cost-effectiveness. The decision to use RAD should be based on careful consideration of the project's specific needs, resources, and constraints.


Praise Iwuh

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