Web application development has changed drastically from when it first began just over a decade ago. Web apps are used by businesses of all sizes worldwide today, and it certainly doesn’t look like they’re going anywhere anytime soon. No matter your industry or business needs, web apps are used to provide your customers with the best experience possible.
When it comes to developing a web application, there are specific skills and knowledge necessary for a developer to create the perfect solution. There isn’t a one size fits all solution or template to follow.
If you’ve decided to invest in a web application for your business, you’re in for a challenge. Of course, if you hire a web application development service like ours to take care of the development, the web application development process will be much smoother.
Before you get started on your web application development journey, however, there are some things that you should know. Here’s a complete guide to web applications and their development.
What is a Web App?
Before you start developing your web application, you should first understand what one is.
Web applications may sometimes be confused with mobile applications, but they are very different. A mobile application runs on a user’s mobile device and can be designed to work offline. Mobile apps are available on the app store and are downloaded onto a user’s device.
On the other hand, Web apps require an internet connection and do not live on a user’s device. Web apps run on remote servers through your website browser and can be accessed and used through any device: laptop, tablet, or mobile phone. Unlike mobile apps, web apps cannot be used offline and are not available on the app store.
Understandably, some people may confuse web apps and mobile apps. After all, web apps can be built to look like and function like mobile apps. This makes it easier for users to navigate the application and provides them with a familiar looking platform. However, the two work in different ways and are not built in the same manner.
Web apps are great because users don’t have to download updates. They won’t take up storage space on your users’ devices either as they aren’t downloaded and housed there.
Differences Between Web Applications vs. Mobile Applications
We’ve briefly touched on the differences between web applications and mobile applications above. Now, let’s take a deeper look at how the two types of applications differ.
Mobile Apps Are Exclusively on iOS or Android
Mobile applications are built and exclusively accessed through the Apple or Android app stores and by mobile devices. Users will find your mobile app on the app store and must download it onto their device before they can use it. Along the way, they’re required to download updates.
Your users aren’t limited to app stores when it comes to web applications. A web app can be accessed by any device, not just mobile ones. Web apps also aren’t downloaded by users, so they won’t take up limited space on their devices. Additionally, web apps update automatically and don’t need your users to download new updates as they’re published.
Web Apps Are Quicker to Build
If you’re pressed for time, web apps are faster to build. When it comes to mobile apps, you’ll have to make different versions for each platform that you want your app to be available on. You can’t make one version and expect it to function on both iOS and Android mobile devices.
Since web apps run in a browser and aren’t dependent on your users’ device, you can make one version and have it function seamlessly on any device. Web apps can be designed to resemble mobile apps, but still be developed quickly to meet time restraints.
Web Apps Are Easier to Maintain
Both web apps and mobile apps require routine maintenance and updates, but this can be difficult if you don’t have any web development experience.
Web apps are typically much easier to maintain and update. This is because no matter what platform or device they’re accessed through, there’s only one code base that you need to work on, unlike with mobile apps. They will also update themselves, so you don’t have to prompt users to download and install the latest update.
Differences Between Web Applications vs. Websites
Another common misconception is that web applications and websites can serve the same function or are synonyms for the same thing. Just like with mobile apps and web apps, this isn’t true. Websites are built to meet different needs and serve a different purpose than a web application.
Both web apps and websites tend to be built and written in programming languages like HTML and CSS, but they don’t have the same purpose.
Unfortunately, it isn’t always easy to tell the difference between a web app and a website at first glance. Something that you think is a website might actually be a web app and vice versa. Twitter and Amazon are commonly perceived as websites, but they’re actually web apps! How can you tell the difference?
Web Apps Are Interactive
Websites typically present information for your users and don’t have any interactive elements. Users can navigate the site and scroll through different pages, but there is no real interaction between your users and your website.
On the other hand, Web apps are built so that users can interact with them. They’re dynamic and engaging. On web apps like Twitter, users can post and like, comment, and share other users’ posts. The web app facilitates this interaction, whereas a website simply provides a copy of a post for users to look at.
Websites Have One-Way Communication
On websites, users can only receive information that you provide them with. In return, you don’t hear back from your users unless your call to action has a form for them to fill out. Even this can’t be considered full, two-way communications as there’s no live interaction between you and your users.
With web apps, users can communicate with the program and with your business.
Various Types of Web Applications
There are all sorts of web applications to meet the various needs that each unique business has. No matter how you want to reach your users or how you want to represent your business, you’ll be able to find a type of web application that meets your needs and expectations.
Static Web Apps
Comparatively, static web app pages are easier to develop. They don’t need to fetch any server data to deliver content to your users directly and are good for when you just need something simple. However, while it is possible to incorporate animations and videos, doing so can make updating your web app difficult.
Dynamic Web Apps
Dynamic web apps are much more complex. Think along the lines of Netflix and Facebook. This type of web app is highly interactive and generates real-time data through a user’s request and the corresponding server responses.
Single-Page Web Apps
Despite the name, single-page web apps are fairly complex. They use both backend and frontend development to provide both client-side and server-side without needing to reload a page, hence the term “single-page”. These web apps are quick and are run entirely within one browser.
Think of the Gmail inbox and how the tabs on the side are always accessible. That’s an example of a single-page web app. Another popular single-page web app is PayPal.
Multiple Page Web Apps
Multiple page web apps require a full page reload as users navigate the app. Amazon and Google Docs are good examples of this. When you click on a product you want to buy or need to access a new document, the page will reload to provide you with the relevant information.
Progressive Web Apps
Progressive web apps tend to use APIs and may also be called cross-platform web apps. They are built with web app programming languages but function almost identically to mobile apps. Progressive web apps are typically swift and adaptable even when a user has a bad internet connection.
Some progressive web apps that you might be familiar with are Spotify and Starbucks. While Spotify does also have a mobile app, they use web apps accessible across all devices.
Content Management System
CMS web apps help manage digital data and content and improve production within a company. They can be used to create, manage, and edit content even without any technical or coding knowledge. Additionally, CMS web apps are very versatile and can be used for businesses that lean more towards blogging or by those that do more general web publishing.
WordPress is perhaps the most well known CMS web app on the market today, but Drupal and Joomla are two others that are also relatively popular.
Web Application Development Technology Stack
When it comes to creating and developing web applications, there are certain forms of technology that developers rely on. While different developers may prefer one programming language over another, a certain tech stack is followed by web app developers all over. Following this stack ensures you end up with a high-quality, functioning web app.
Databases are less front focused, but still vital to the functionality and strength of your web app. Many developers will use MySQL, but PostgreSQL and Oracle are two other databases that are popular amongst web app developers.
MySQL is a hot choice as it is multi-functional yet simple. Many developers chose it as their go-to database no matter what purpose their web app will serve because it’s that powerful.
PostgreSQL is free and open-source, giving developers easy access to existing coding. It’s a great database management system that is heavily based on UNIX systems.
Oracle is widely used across the commercial industry but is pretty popular in other sectors. It has a solid corporate commercial market and creates powerful databases that are quickly growing in popularity amongst developers.
Some popular frameworks are AngularJS, ReactJS, and VueJS. AngularJS is great for web apps that use static web pages, ReactJS is best for large and complex web apps, and VueJS is used mostly with large, single-page web apps.
For your web app to function correctly, it needs a robust back-end. To create that, many developers use Python with frameworks such as Node.js, Ruby, Java, and Django.
Python is most commonly used because it’s easy to learn and lightweight but is still advanced and flexible for programming.
Node.js is used to develop fast, lightweight apps. Apps with Node.js back-end can be run across different software and enable fast server connections.
Ruby is an open-source back-end framework that is easy to code on. Documentation is made easy, and an active community of developers work together to enhance the framework.
Java tends to be favored for Android web app development, but it’s very versatile. In addition, it’s a great multi-purpose framework that excels in security and stability, making it a favorite amongst web app developers.
Advantages of Web Application Development
There are many advantages to developing your business’s own web application. While websites and mobile apps are undoubtedly good for business, web apps can bridge the gap between the two and present your business in a more modern way.
Here are some of the many benefits of developing a web application:
Unlike mobile apps, web apps are easy to manage and can be done from one interface. You won’t have to manage, maintain, and update multiple different applications like you would if you had a mobile app.
Additionally, web apps are easy to update. They don’t need to be downloaded by your users and are only installed on the initial server. When it comes time to launch a new update, you won’t have to hinder your users.
Live Data Security
With large and complicated systems, the risk of sensitive data being lost or stolen is higher. When this data is transmitted across multiple systems, this risk is increased and your live data becomes much less secure.
Web apps remove the need to have multiple systems by consolidating all your information in one secure location. Web apps remove access to your data and back end servers so that it’s always safe.
Compatible Across Platforms
Web apps aren’t limited to certain platforms. They can be accessed no matter what type of device your users are on: Android or iOS, laptop or tablet. With a web app, your business has one page where all your users can find you and interact with your site. As long as your users have a functional web browser, they can access your web app without problem.
As web apps are much easier to maintain and support, you’ll actually save costs. With simplified architecture, fewer requirements for your end users, and a reduced need for support, your business may spend less on a single web app than a website. You’ll also be able to streamline business transactions and operations, further saving you time and helping your business!
How to Develop a Web Application
Now that you know what a web application is and how you can benefit from one, it’s time to look at the web application development process. Every developer will have their own way of developing a web app, but the general path is this:
1. Find Your Idea
A web app should be built around an idea or a problem. It’s best if it solves a particular problem, then you’re bound to have a bit more success than if you just create something out of the blue.
2. Market Research
With your idea in mind, research your potential target audience. Determine who you want your web app to serve. When it comes to determining your target audience, it’s best to go in-depth as much as possible and really build out the profile of your target customer. With a clear idea of your target audience, your app will have a better chance of success.
3. Strategize and Plan
Before you can begin developing your web app, you or your developer need to come up with a sketch. Create the workflow for your web app and determine what function it will serve and how. Within this step, think about what your users will need to complete the function: an account, payment method, CMS (content management system), etc.
4. Build the Web App Prototype
Once you have your app all sketched out and planned, it’s time to start building the web app prototype and wireframe of the app. Make sure you include exactly how your app’s pages will be laid out and create a moderately functional prototype to give yourself an idea of how the app will work at the end.
5. Get It Validated
With your prototype in hand, it’s time to start testing and validating your app. Find some potential users who are willing to help you test your new web app. Normally, these users will be your friends or family. Nevertheless, their input can be vital and help guide you towards creating a fully functional web app.
6. Choose Your Tech
If you’re happy with how your web app works, start choosing the technology you want to use to develop it. Find your framework, libraries, and platforms. Learn your programming languages.
7. Test and Launch
As you write and develop your web app, make sure to test it along the way. This will help prevent any bugs and make sure your web app is running smoothly. When you’re satisfied with the web app and it has passed all your tests, it’s time to find a host server and launch it!
Frequently Asked Questions
We’ve covered a lot about web application development, but here are a few questions that people usually have:
What are the best programming languages?
How much does web app development cost?
Since there are quite a few things that can influence the cost of development, there’s no easy answer. Basic web apps can be developed for anywhere between a few thousands dollars to $15,000 and more but if you want a more professional web app, you’ll need to hire a team of developers. A project like this may take up to three months and can cost well above $20,000 or even more than $100,000.
Essentially, the more complex and professional you want your web app to be, the more you can expect to spend on development.
What factors may influence the cost of web app development?
The cost of development will be influenced by the type of app you choose, the platforms you use, how many features are included, and how many developers are needed. There may be other factors that influence the price as well, but these are the biggest.
Web application development is complex and requires a very specific knowledge. Professional developers spend years mastering their art and even then, they’re expected to keep up with the ever changing demands of users. It’s well worth the investment, though, as web apps are a powerful way to represent your business online and engage users in a way that has them coming back time and time again.
Give our web app development company a call today to speak with us about building your web application. With our expertise, we are confident of helping you successfully bring your web app idea to life.