The 3 Main Types of Application Development Methodologies

The 3 Main Types of Application Development Methodologies

Neil Miller

January 7th, 2019 RAD  

What Is Application Development?

Application development is the process of designing, building, and implementing software applications. It can be done by massive organizations with large teams working on projects, or by a single freelance developer. Application development defines the process of how the application is made, and generally follows a standard methodology.

There are lots of factors that go into how application development is done. You must consider the size of the project, how specific the requirements are, how much the customer will want to change things, how large the development team is, how experienced the development team is, and the deadline for the project.

Application development is closely linked with the software development life-cycle (SDLC). The basic stages of SDLC are:

  • Planning
  • Analysis
  • Design
  • Construction
  • Testing
  • Implementation
  • Support

The way that application development teams have accomplished these seven tasks has changed a lot in the last few decades, and numerous types of application development methods have emerged. Each methodology must provide a solution for the seven stages of the SDLC.

Most application development methodologies can be grouped into one of three categories: waterfall, RAD, and agile.

Waterfall

The key words for the waterfall method of application development are planning and sequence. The entire project is mapped out in the planning and analysis stages. The customer comes with a very explicit list of features and functionalities for the application. Then, a project manager takes the whole process and maps it out amongst the team.

This application development method is called waterfall because once you go down, you can’t go back up; everything flows downward. The development team works together over a set of time, building exactly what is lined out according to the specifications. After the architecture is designed, then only can the construction begin. The entire application is built, and then it is all tested to make sure that it is working properly. Then, it is shown to the customer and ready to be implemented.

The waterfall method assumes that the project requirements are clear and the customer and project manager have a unified and clear vision about the end result.

The advantage of the waterfall method is that it is very meticulous. It’s also a good application development method to use for big projects that need to have one unifying vision. The waterfall method is also a good way to train junior programmers on parts of development without having to turn an entire project to them.

The disadvantages are that changes happen all the time. Even if the development team is able to build exactly what the customer originally wanted (which doesn’t always happen), the market, technology, or the organization may have changed so much that it is effectively useless and a waste of time.

Waterfall works best as an application development method when:

  • You don’t anticipate many changes
  • Budgets are fixed for the project
  • You’ve done a similar project before
  • The customer is very clear and doesn’t plan to be involved much until the end

Rapid Application Development (RAD)

As you might imagine, the waterfall method of application development presented some big problems. The development process often took a long time to see a working product, teams had to be large to accommodate all the requirements, and tensions ran high when a customer is unhappy with the end product and the whole project has to start over from the beginning.

So, a new method emerged called rapid application development (RAD). In many ways, RAD was the opposite of the waterfall method.

RAD is based mostly on prototypes, meaning that the goal is to produce a working version of the application as quickly as possible, and then to continuously iterate after that. The application development team and the customer work very closely with each other throughout the process. RAD teams are usually small and only involve experienced developers who are skilled in many disciplines. If a project needs to divert from the original plan, RAD should be able to accommodate that easily.

In the RAD model, as each iteration is completed, the product gets more and more refined. The early prototypes are often very rough, but give a picture of what can be. Each iteration then looks more like the finished product.

RAD’s advantages are a quick and highly flexible team and a very close relationship with the customer. If changes are expected, RAD will be able to accommodate these much faster than waterfall. RAD is also never too attached to a prototype and is always willing to change it to suit the needs of the customer.

However, RAD isn’t a perfect application development method. RAD requires highly skilled (and highly paid) programmers to work on a project that may change in complexity by the day. There’s also less adherence to deadlines and more of a focus on adding features, which can extend delivery dates. RAD requires a lot of input from customers who may not always be available or know what they need. Additionally, for some applications, having a prototype is not useful without seeing the entire product.

RAD is a great application development method for:

  • An experienced team of developers
  • A highly engaged customer
  • A flexible delivery date
  • Pressing business

Agile

Agile application development is very similar to RAD, but also includes some changes to make it more suitable to larger projects. Agile is iterative, like RAD, but focuses on building features one at a time. Each feature is built in a methodical way in the team, but the customer is involved to see the features and sign off on them before the next feature is developed.

Agile uses sprints, or set of time when a certain feature should be built, tested, and presented. It tries to incorporate the entire SDLC for a feature into each sprint. This, ideally, helps to stick to a planned schedule, but also allow for frequent reviews.

Agile doesn’t focus on prototypes, but only presents completed work after the sprint is over. So while the customer is informed more often than waterfall, the customer only ever sees finished work, unlike RAD.

Agile methodology is also more team or squad based. With RAD, you are working directly with a programmer. With Agile, the application development team will also include testers, UX designers, technical writers, and many others.

Agile is a great application development methodology when:

  • The project is large enough to break down into several sprints
  • You have a lot of specialists who can work on a team together
  • The bulk of the project is known ahead of time and can be planned out
  • You have good project leaders in place

How Can You Use Kissflow?

In an ideal world, every application could be built quickly with RAD. Just work with a single programmer and immediately see results. However, for large projects and applications, this isn’t always possible and requires breaking the project up with agile or waterfall methods.

Kissflow is an application development platform to help you build automated process applications. These applications are actually very easy to build for most programmers and shouldn’t require a large team. With Kissflow, you have a way to build these applications even without the requirement of a very experienced programmer. In fact, any business user who knows the use case of the process very well should be able to make the application quickly.

A specialty platform like Kissflow can help you do application development in less than an hour as the entire structure is ready to accommodate you.

If you are looking for a quick way to do application development for automated processes, try Kissflow and see how rapid app building can be!