Last week, I talked about using WordPress as an application platform – once again, even – but Ted Waller brought up an interesting comment that I’ve not heard (at least here on this blog) that I wanted to discuss a bit more.

Specifically, Ted said:

Whether or not it’s wise to use it as the final application framework, I do think it’s very good for rapid prototypes of web apps.

And what really caught my attention about this particular comment was that I’ve not often heard of WordPress as being a tool for rapid application development (or RAD).

The thing is, RAD – for whatever reason – has often been used whenever someone is talking about prototyping an application or doing some type of development, but nothing that’s seriously ready for prime time, for the enterprise, or for whatever term you’d opt to use.

But the more I thought about it, the more I wondered:

  • Is rapid application development misunderstood?
  • Is WordPress truly good for RAD or is it the best of both worlds?

Using WordPress For Rapid Application Development

First, note that this post is not in response to Ted’s comment more so than it’s inspired by Ted’s comment.

He happen to strike a chord with me that’s resulted in me wanting to open the discussion for the rest of us.

Rapid Application Development – It’s Misunderstood!

Truth be told, the first time that I ever came across the term “RAD” was when I was a kid and I was messing around with Visual Basic 3.0.

One of the selling points of this particular language (and its associated tools) was that it played directly to the RAD movement that was [apparently] happening in software development at the time.

Honestly, I was too young to really know what was going on in the industry.

All I knew was that Visual Basic made it trivially easy to “design” an interface, hook up some code to various widgets on the form, and then make something happen.

For a kid getting into programming, that was awesome.

But then when I discovered the programming forums on AOL, and a lot of older developers were talking about how VB was great for RAD, but anyone writing anything serious would be using C++ (or Visual C++ or Borland C++ or whatever compiler was hot at the time).

So this made rapid application development seem like it was something that people were doing who weren’t serious about building software.

But here I am nearly 19 years later and Visual Basic is still around. In fact, it’s a first-class language on the .NET framework (though it has changed significantly).

And now, we’re hearing that WordPress is a great tool for rapid application development.

But does this mean that that’s a bad thing?

According to Wikipedia, rapid application development:

Rapid application development (RAD) is a software development methodology that uses minimal planning in favor of rapid prototyping. The “planning” of software developed using RAD is interleaved with writing the software itself. The lack of extensive pre-planning generally allows software to be written much faster, and makes it easier to change requirements.

When I read that, there are really very few negative things about rapid development that seem bad.

In fact, I’ll go as far as to say that the main negative – at least for me – is the lack of planning (or “minimal planning”) that goes into building a piece of software.

But I think this can work under very constrained circumstances.

Ultimately, I’m left drawing the conclusion that rapid application development isn’t actually a bad thing. In fact, it clearly has it’s place in software development.

I just wonder if I’ve been given a pessimistic by the term simply because of my earliest experiences with it.

Is WordPress and Rapid Application Development The Best of Both?

Assume for a moment that rapid application development is bad, but we’re using WordPress as our platform of choice for generating an application.

Is it really a bad thing to “prototype” an application on top of a platform that clearly scales to the needs of thousands upon thousands of sites many of which are hammered daily?

Obviously, this is somewhat of a rhetorical question, but the point is that even if rapid application development is something that we should be avoiding as professional developers, I think we could do far worse using WordPress as the platform for a prototype.

On the other hand, let’s assume that rapid application development isn’t a bad thing, and we’re still using WordPress as our platform for prototyping the application.

Aren’t we left with the same results?

Specifically, we have a platform that scales to the needs of thousands of sites loaded up every day.

At this point, I’m wondering if there even is any kind of tension between WordPress, rapid application development, and prototyping an application.

I’d go as far as to say that if you’re going to use WordPress as the platform for your application, why bother using it just to prototype? If it caters that well to rapid application development, then go for it.

Regardless of your language or platform, I still think that we should leave prototyping up to simple sketches, mockups, and/or shallow HTML pages with some fancy styles and client-side functionality.