Even if you are unfamiliar with what web applications are, there is no doubt that you do use them, even if you don’t realize it. In fact, you are using a web application right now to read this article.
Web applications have fulfilled so many of our needs, making just about every function, from shopping to working to communicating so much easier. In this software development Orlando guide, we’ll explain more about what a web app actually is.
What is a Web Application?
Quite simply, a web application is an application or program that can be used on the web. By utilizing already available internet technology, a web application allows its users to perform an incredibly large variety of tasks online.
For example, some commonly used web applications include online calculators, business fill in forms, and online food ordering systems.
How do Web Applications Work
These categories include: those that are dynamic or server side processing, those that are static or client side, and those that are both.
Dynamic or Service Side Processing
When the action taking place in a web application is occurring only on a web server, it is known as dynamic or a server side processing. For example, when a client navigates to another page, the server is simply interacting with permanently stored data to retrieve that online information.
Static or Client Side Processing
Static or client side processing, refers to a web app in which the action is actually taking place on the client’s computer rather than the browser (or server) itself. An example of client side processing is on video sites such as Youtube or Netflix. When you hover your mouse over a video, the video will show a preview. The preview begins playing simply in response to the client’s mouse hovering over the video, with no communication to the server necessary.
However, if the client were to click on the video, the web app would begin to retrieve data, in order to navigate to the new page and download the video. Some other examples of client side may include online forms and shopping carts.
In other words, server side processing refers to actions taking place off the client’s computer, and client side processing refers to actions taking place on the client’s browser (what can be seen by the client themselves.)
Most web applications use the client server model, or a combination of the two processing systems, to efficiently and effectively execute tasks. The combination of server and client side processing allows web apps to be extremely versatile, allowing us to achieve almost anything we can imagine on the internet.
Flow Between Client and Server Sides
The flow between client and server side actions usually occurs in the following order; first, while online or in the app’s UI, the client requests an action from a web application (an example of client side action).
Secondly, triggered by the user’s request, the web server communicates this request. It forwards the action to the web server that can complete the task (an example of server side action).
Thirdly, the web application will actually go through with completing the requested task by processing and then generating the requested data (once again, server side action).
Fourthly, the web application will actually send the requested data back to the web server (server side action).
Finally, the web server will display the information and complete the request of the client, displaying the data on the screen within the user’s browser (client side action).
Benefits of Web Applications
All those who enjoy the internet can understand that web applications are beneficial, but what are the truly unique benefits of web applications over other types of applications?
One massive advantage of using a web application is the fact that they can run on every type of device, whether it be mobile, computer, tablet etc. Thy can also generally run on various web browsers, google chrome, safari, firefox, etc.
This way, users can not only access web applications from every device in their home but they can also communicate and collaborate with other people using different browsers and devices. This offers incredible flexibility and reduced costs as all colleagues or peers collaborating do not need to own the same products to work together.
Actually, web applications can help people cut costs in other ways as well. Since only a portion of the processing is actually occurring on the client’s computer (much of it is occurring on the server side,) high speed processing can still take place without top tier devices. This allows more flexibility in the devices necessary to run applications.
Furthermore, web applications generally require less maintenance than other applications. This not only means improvements can be less expensive but updates will be automatic, allowing all clients using the applications to use the same updated version of the web app.
This saves colleagues from complications or compatibility issues, which can occur when using different versions of the same web app.
Runs and Stores on the Web
Another benefit to using web applications is that they run on and are stored on the web rather than on your device, meaning users won’t be limited by the device’s storage capabilities. Everyone can easily access unlimited web applications without having to worry about space.
For businesses that are offering a virtual product, such as an ebook, software or other, web applications can help reduce piracy, by utilizing SaaS (software as a service) or subscription based apps, which only allow clients to use the product after they have paid.
Disadvantages of Web Apps
Although web apps have many benefits, they also have one main disadvantage, especially when compared to other types of applications.
Other Types of Applications
There are two other main types of applications, native apps and hybrid apps.
Native apps are apps that are downloaded right onto your device. Although they may use the internet to access information, they can technically be accessed, albeit not as effectively, when offline.
Hybrid apps are, as the name would suggest, a hybrid of native and web applications. While hybrid apps are downloaded onto your device, just as mobile apps are, they are coded with web application languages and utilize many of the same systems.
The real disadvantage to a web application is the fact that it can only work online. Unlike native and hybrid apps which can access the devices resources (for example its webcam) without internet, web applications cannot even be reached without internet, limiting their use for when you are in wifi.
Web Application Development
1. The Concept
All web apps begin with an innovative concept. But before you begin developing any app, it is important you iron out your idea, so that you don’t find yourself partway into the coding process changing ideas or needing to restart.
After you have ironed out your concept, it is time to begin considering your web app’s design. In this stage, you will want to plan not only the appearance of the app but also take into consideration its function and the user’s experience.
Once you have your concept and design planned, you can begin working on the development process. When designing a web application, there will typically be two types of coding required- backend (server) developing and frontend (client) developing.
Both of these developments require specific goals and collaboration to ensure the web app will work efficiently and effectively when it is completed.
Since web apps have both server and client coding that need to work together seamlessly, it is quite easy to make errors. The testing process is more important than ever. When testing your web application, consider not only the quality and the usability (user experience) but also the application’s security, accessibility, load and capabilities.
Web apps have completely changed and improved our lives as they have made so many important daily activities easier than before.
From online shopping to watching videos to communicating with friends online, we are constantly using web apps , most of which are built using a pretty simple server-client formula.
The server or the backend information of a web application, refers to what is not visible to the app’s user, such as the retrieval of data, and the frontend (client) portion of a web application is the opposite.
Together, this system allows web applications to run efficiently. Unlike other applications, a web app can work on every type of device and browser, it updates automatically and does not need to be stored on the device. This makes it space efficient, easy for collaboration and accessible to all, no matter your device.
Web apps can only work when you are online, which can be quite a disadvantage. But the benefits certainly outweigh the single disadvantage, especially when you consider many countries are considering implementing city-wide internet in the upcoming years, allowing clients to access web applications from anywhere.