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An application development methodology adds structure to your workflow and helps manage the development project well. Depending on the team, project requirements, and timeline, the right methodology can create a lot of difference in your tasks.

Now, why should you care to choose the right application development methodology? That’s because any project should be managed well to make it successful and effective. It is important to recognize the pros and cons of each methodology to understand which suits your scenario best.

If you end up choosing a more complicated methodology than required, your development workflow will become more long-drawn and erroneous. Hence, it is helpful to know the four most important and popular methodologies for software development.

Application development methodologies
Application development methodologies

What Is Application Development?

As the name suggests, application development is the process of building an application from scratch. It includes designing, creating, and implementing the application, either by an individual developer or a team of experts.

Application development methodologies decide the flow of the process and consider which factors will go into the development workflow. Some aspects that should be considered during application development are:

  • Size of the development team
  • Deadline of the project
  • Requirements and specific features to be included
  • Size and scale of the application
  • Scope of changes to be kept for the client

The software development life cycle also includes actions post-deployment, like emergency troubleshooting, customer support, and regular updates.

Main Software Development Methodologies

Modern application development methodologies are generally agile, with iterative and incremental development, spiral development, and application development, along with other types such as waterfall, DevOps, and rapid application development (RAD).

We will discuss these four types of methodologies since they are the most popular and effective ones for developers.


What is it?

Agile development focuses on iterative development through collaboration between cross-functional teams to address requirements and find solutions. Its most used methods are Scrum and Kanban. Agile focuses on producing the application faster and keeping it flexible to incorporate changes.

According to Agile Manifesto, its core values are:

  • Keeping individuals and interactions before processes and tools
  • Making a working software rather than comprehensive documentation
  • Collaborating with customers over contract negotiation
  • And, responding to changes instead of sticking to a rigid plan
Agile Methodology
Agile Methodology

Agile is best suited to handle complex and variable projects that need efficiency and internal feedback from various departments. It focuses on making the client happy and delivering a software application with valuable features.


  • Minimizes risks like over-budgeting, bugs, changes in requirements, etc.
  • Allows the software to be released iteratively, thus improving efficiency
  • Helps in finding and fixing defects or changing requirements during production
  • Lets you implement improvements frequently
  • Manages large projects easily, by breaking them down into sprints


  • Depends more on real-time problem solving rather than relying on documentation
  • Needs more time and effort from developers
  • Depends on the developers’ capability to complete each feature during the iteration
  • Can create a chaotic atmosphere if large and inexperienced teams are involved


What is it?

DevOps, development and operations, is a methodology that aims to improve the quality of products throughout the development life cycle. A typical DevOps process is like an infinite loop, starting from planning, then continuing to coding, building, testing, releasing, deploying, operating, monitoring, and again planning based on feedback.


This methodology combines philosophies, practices, and tools to amplify the production velocity and develop applications quickly and more efficiently. DevOps complements the Agile technology by deriving several aspects from it.

It also relies on departmental collaboration and constant improvement of work.


  • Improves time to market and shortens the time between fixes
  • Ensures maximum reliability by reducing disruptions and lowering failure rates
  • Automates continuous deployment to decrease error margins
  • Assures customer satisfaction by elevating product quality and employee efficiency


  • May result in undetected issues if different departments use different environments
  • Depends on human intervention in some stages, thus slowing down the process
  • Delivers regular updates which might be unwelcome to certain users
  • Can conflict with industry regulations that don’t allow projects to move to operations before conducting extensive testing
  • Demands high technical expertise due to its steep learning curve


What is it?

Considered the most traditional application development methodology, Waterfall is named as such as the process flows only one way. Once you move on to a new stage, you cannot go back and undo the previous tasks.

The waterfall method works by mapping the whole project in the planning and analysis stage. The requirements, features, and scope must be decided in the beginning, following which the project manager creates a workflow. Development begins only after designing is fully complete.

Then the whole application is tested, debugged, and implemented. This is a suitable method for huge projects that do not require many changes.

Product requirements document
Product requirements document


  • Easy to handle for new programmers and learners
  • Has clear objectives and setlist of features
  • Does not depend on one team or engineer to shoulder the responsibility of the whole project
  • Has ample documentation to fall back on


  • Does not support modifications or changes after a stage is completed
  • Cannot incorporate feedback from clients after the application is built
  • May be slow and costly
  • Has a rigid workflow with tight controls in each phase of the life cycle

Rapid Application Development (RAD)

What is it?

RAD is a methodology that condenses the development project into an agile approach with a focus on user feedback. It relies on rapid prototyping, rather than making strict plans and outlining the entire workflow. It can adjust easily with changing requirements and thus reduces costs.

Rapid application development phases include:

  • Planning
  • Designing
  • Construction
  • Cutover
RAD phases
RAD phases

The designing and construction phases continue until all user requirements are fulfilled. Developers produce working prototypes that can be constantly iterated based on customer feedback. With each prototype, more issues are resolved and the end-product becomes more refined.


  • Works quickly, flexibly, and with customer interaction
  • Accommodates changes easily, based on needs
  • Effective for projects with a clearly defined user group and business objective
  • Suits time-sensitive projects with added features


  • Requires skilled programmers with knowledge of various platforms
  • May extend delivery dates if feedback keeps coming
  • May increase complexity through high dependence on customer feedback
  • Requires approval at each stage, which may lengthen the project timeframe

How Do I Know Which Methodology Is Right for Me?

Each methodology has its own merits and drawbacks when it comes to practical application. Each will respond differently in different situations; hence the decision ultimately lies in your understanding of the project at hand.

Consider the scope, deadline, features, and complexity of your project. Analyze whether it can be broken into sprints, tested through prototypes, or planned from the beginning itself.

If none of these methods gives you an absolute solution, you can approach the hybrid development technique wherein you combine aspects of multiple development methodologies to tailor the most optimized workflow for you.

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