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This content is part of the Essential Guide: Pros and cons of a low-code platform for mobile
Definition

rapid mobile app development (RMAD)

Contributor(s): Alex Gillis and Matthew Haughn

Rapid mobile application development (RMAD) uses low-code/no-code programming tools to speed the process of application creation for mobile platforms.

RMAD is the mobile counterpart of rapid application development (RAD), a model based on the concept that high-quality products are developed quickly through early prototyping, reusable software components and informal team communications, among other expedient approaches.

How RMAD works

RMAD uses low-code/no-code tools that access cross-platform development of mobile applications across multiple devices' operating systems (OSes), such as iOS and Android.

With an RMAD platform, developers can create web, native and hybrid applications. A web application is accessed by a web browser over a network, while a native application is downloadable and made specifically for the OS and hardware of a target mobile device. A hybrid application has the inner workings of a web app but is installed and has similar functionality to a native app.

Web and hybrid applications are traditionally coded in JavaScript, HTML and CSS. Native applications are coded in whatever language the mobile device uses: Swift or Objective-C for iOS devices, or Java in Android devices. However, RMAD is low-code/no-code, so developers do not need to be fluent in various programming languages for mobile devices.

Low-code/no-code development platforms are integrated development environments (IDEs), so users can drag and drop in a graphical user interface (GUI) to build a cross-platform application with minimal coding knowledge.

RMAD teams specify the functions and features of an application based on the tools available to them on the front end, while the back end translates the specifications into code. RMAD tools use metadata, meaning that the functions of an application are summarized as basic information, such as asset managers or UI elements in a database, instead of coding the database in a programming language.

RMAD vendors differ in terms of which type of application can be created through their platform. Additionally, certain products have scripting and drag-and-drop options to create custom UIs for mobile apps or follow templates to create the UI.

Back-end services underpin the RMAD tool and support front-end services. Cloud-based databases, APIs and offline data syncing are some examples of back-end systems typically used in RMAD tools.

Benefits of RMAD

RMAD platforms reduce the cost and complexity of developing an application, offer a good return on investment (ROI) because they're suitable for multiple projects and can even change the hiring requirements of a team:

  • Low-code/no-code IDEs hasten development time on a given application because less coding needs to be done than via traditional development methodologies.
  • Organizations that rely on RMAD can hire app developers with little code experience.
  • Once an organization purchases an RMAD platform, that platform can be used again and again to develop applications.
  • Complicated services, such as data synchronization, onboarding or networking, are abstracted in development with RMAD. Standard industry technologies, such as NativeScript, JavaScript and JSON, are also abstracted.

Limitations of RMAD

While RMAD offers many advantages, it requires that the users adapt to the tool and not the other way around:

  • A user is restricted to the options from the chosen RMAD vendor: Each product is limited to the number of templates the vendor provides and how flexible the design is. For example, an RMAD vendor may not provide support for making a specific type of application when it comes to the choice of web, native or hybrid applications.
  • Security tools are not provided by RMAD vendors.
  • Development teams need to plan how to manage numerous projects with different functions, prior to development.

How RMAD affects enterprise mobile app development

Organizations have the option to use mobile enterprise application platforms (MEAPs), which predate RMAD. MEAPs such as SAP Mobile Platform support multiple device OSes and can be used in application development, deployment and maintenance. MEAPs are complex to maintain, and it is difficult to move from one MEAP to another.

The process of creating applications for particular mobile devices takes experience in specific coding languages. With RMAD providing a low-code/no-code development platform, developers of varying experience can create, deploy and manage mobile applications. App developers can quickly build a complete product at minimal cost with RMAD tools, as compared to a MEAP. In some instances, an RMAD IDE can be used for rapid prototyping. If a business wants to see if its app will be widely used, then developers can use an RMAD IDE to quickly construct a bare-bones application. Then, if the app is used by its intended audience, it will undergo further development under a traditional coding paradigm.

RMAD tools

Some examples of RMAD platforms include MobileFrame, MobileSmith and Alpha Software. These encompass both no- and low-code offerings. Other RMAD tool options are available, and the space continues to evolve.

MobileFrame is a no-code RMAD platform used to develop, test and deploy mobile applications. MobileFrame lets users design their own UI and is built specifically for the creation of enterprise mobile apps. This software also supports the creation of native and web applications.

MobileSmith uses modules of code, called AppBlocks, which are customized and reused for multiple projects. MobileSmith suits native iOS and Android applications. On-demand data can be used on any back-end systems.

Alpha Software is a low-code RMAD platform for development and deployment of enterprise mobile applications. Alpha Software supports cross-platform mobile products via web apps. Applications are available offline and are connected to SQL and NoSQL databases.

This was last updated in June 2018

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Should application development teams standardize on one RMAD tool or each select the best one for the project?
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Not familiar with these vendors, but the Gartner Market Guide on Rapid Mobile App Development (RMAD) Tools calls out these vendors:
Alpha Software
Appery.io
Capriza
PowWow Mobile
Snappii
ViziApps
Webalo


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I am not sure about other tools, where as Appery.io is not a development tool, it as platform provider. It does not fall under the RMAD umbrellas, but falls under BaaS/MBaaS
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