What’s the Deal with Rapid Application Development?

Aaron Walker
Aaron Walker  |  November 10, 2016

Rapid application development (RAD) tools offer a wide range of features from streamlining business practices to building mobile apps.

 A large number of companies market their products as rapid application development software, but it is difficult to distinguish what RAD software actually is.  

What is rapid application development?

We’ve had trouble defining RAD software and how to build out the category. The main differentiator for us was the amount of manual coding required. Most of the tools for enterprise business apps function on a drag-and-drop, codeless platform. While others, created to help developers with rapid iteration, require a fair amount of custom coding.

Most people in the tech industry identify RAD as an approach to development much like agile, DevOps and waterfall models. The term refers to Pulitzer Prize winning author and tech consultant James Martin’s approach to rapid development.

Using this approach, teams use software and application frameworks to quickly produce functioning prototypes and test them with users. Teams plan requirements, test prototypes on users, construct full-models and then build and deliver the system.

But products that provide tools to develop on this model don’t all provide the same functionality or fit into the same category. So we broke up these products into low-code and no-code development platforms.

Low-code development platforms

These tools are not fully functioning integrated development environment (IDE) software and often do not possess the features and capabilities necessary to host and deploy applications. But some do and some are just uniquely cutting-edge tools that stemmed off from platform-as-a-service (PaaS) software computing models.

These tools supply developers with a base level of code. They have lots of element libraries and reusable application frameworks. Developers use these pre-made components to create workflows, customize content and test prototypes with users.

Many are cross-language and cross-platform, allowing developers to create prototypes and applications in different languages or for different platforms. These platforms are intended to help users maximize usability and performance testing while writing as little unique code as possible.

No-code development platforms

While low-code tools provide source code and frameworks to utilize RAD principles, these products are even more streamlined. They function as drag-and-drop application builders to produce applications without writing a single line of code.

From an end-user perspective, these tools produce very similar products to that of low-code tools. But they can be utilized by non-developers, often with ease. Users with no coding or software engineering experience can jump right into creating an application.

They often possess platform- or industry-specific templates to start with. Users can quickly create pages they believe their application will need, create interactive databases with their own existing information or string together complex business processes.

Many also integrate with external cloud services. These tools allow a company to connect multiple applications they already use and centralize them, allowing easy access and a streamlined workflow.

What's next?

These tools can give you a head start in your app development process, hopefully shortening your launch timeline. Now you're probably wondering, "How much does it cost to make an app?"

Aaron Walker
Author

Aaron Walker

Aaron is a Senior Research Specialist who focuses on cybersecurity, information technology and software development. He began at G2 Crowd in 2016 after graduating from The University of Iowa. Aaron has written for The Daily Herald, Tribune Media, and The Daily Iowan, among other media outlets. In his free time, Aaron enjoys shooting film photography and fine-tuning his illustration skills.