Web applications come in different forms such as e-commerce carts, online forms, instant messengers, file converters, file scanners, photo/video editors, and email programs. Some of the most commonly used web applications include Google Apps and Microsoft 365 – both replete with a variety of tools such as word processors and spreadsheets. Now, a number of businesses are looking at getting web apps created so they may better interact with their customers and target audiences.
What is a Web App?
In computer parlance, a web app is client- and server-side software which clients use to run requests through web browsers. Simply put, you use a web app through your web browser, without having to install it on your device. The typical characteristics of web apps include:
- Cloud hosted. Users don’t have to download web apps on their devices, which is perfect when dealing with storage space constraints.
- Cross platform. Web apps offer the same functionality across all web browsers, be it Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Safari, Opera, or Internet Explorer. In addition, a web app is responsive, and works equally well with all types of devices.
- Compatibility. Users across platforms get access to the same version of a web app, and this eliminates compatibility problems.
- Testing. Automated testing simplifies detecting possible problems and bugs.
How Web Apps Work
The basic manner in which web apps work is the same, and the transfer of information follows a predetermined path.
- You use a web browser or an app’s user interface to trigger a request.
- A web server forwards your request to the web application’s server.
- The web app server performs the required action and generates the desired result.
- The web app server sends the information you’ve requested for to the web server.
- The web server delivers the information to your device.
What is Web App Development?
The primary focus of web app development is on browser integration, and not on following standard web development processes. More often than not, web app development involves defining a problem, providing a mock solution, engaging with possible users, and choosing a suitable tool/framework. Only after this does the actual web app development process get underway. Testing a web app extensively before its launch is also crucial.
Web apps require web servers, application servers, and databases. While a web server processes and manages a user’s requests, an application server performs the required actions. A database holds all the information that the app might need.
Differences Between Web Apps and Websites
While websites tend to offer static content, web apps are designed to engage with users. Other differences include:
- Web apps require authentication, whereas this is not necessary with websites.
- Web apps offer higher levels of functionality when compared to websites.
- Web apps need to be completely precompiled before launch, whereas this is not the case with websites.
- Even making small changes to a web app typically requires re-deployment.
Web Apps Vs. Responsive Websites Vs. Native Apps
Responsive website designs make for better user experiences on mobile devices when compared to non-responsive websites. However, unlike web apps, they are not capable of providing offline support, push notifications, and customized content. While these features help build customer engagement, they also translate into increased conversions.
With native apps, they need to be built so they are capable of running on specific operating systems such as iOS, Android, and Windows Mobile. Upon the creation of a native app, you need to submit it to an app store such as Apple App Store or the Google Play Store for review to make sure it meets required standards. In case of any problem, you need to go at it again. Web apps conveniently sidestep this requirement since they function more like extensions of your website.
Types of Web Apps
There are different types of web apps, and the one that works best for your business depends on your specific requirements. For instance, do you wish to build user engagement or simply wish to deliver business-related information?
Static Web Apps
These apps are very basic in nature and offer little in terms of flexibility. You may regard static apps as ones that provide the same information to all users through a bunch of web pages, and they are not interactive. Besides, these apps leave no room for personalization because pages in web apps are generated on the server end. Businesses that need to part with key information or offer online portfolios may consider using static web apps.
Dynamic Web Apps
Interactive in nature, dynamic web apps are capable of retrieving different results based on user input. These involve sever- and client-side programming. These apps have no preset display order, and depend on user inputs. They make use of content management systems (CMS’) that work in modifying content as and when required. Typically, any web app that is not static is dynamic, as is the case with all the types that follow.
eCommerce Web Apps
eCommerce web apps are ones that let users make online purchases. Highly complex in nature, eCommerce app development entails maintaining databases that are updated in real-time, managing orders, processing payments, and highlighting offers. Since creating a great user experience (UX) is very important with eCommerce apps, their interface should offer seamless operation across all types of devices.
CMS Web Apps
CMS web apps simplify how people with no technical know-how create and update online content. This can include adding content on a simple personal blog or making entries across multiple fields in a complex web app. While CMS apps aim to help non-technical users, their development is best handled by professional developers.
Progressive Web Apps
Progressive web apps (PWAs) make use of the best that web apps and native apps have to offer. Users may save and access these apps directly from the home screens of their devices – like native apps. However, users do not need to download PWAs on their devices. PWAs make use of a diverse variety of web technologies, APIs, and plugins, and are usually more cost-effective and quicker to develop when compared to native apps. Businesses may use PWAs to send personalized communication and push notifications with the aim of increasing engagement.
Benefits of Using Web Applications
Web applications are highly responsive. This means they work equally well with mobile phones, tablets, laptops, and desktops alike. They come with a host of other benefits that include, but do not limit to:
- Speed. Web apps tend to load faster than native apps, even when users face poor internet connectivity.
- SEO. It is possible for you to get search engines to index your web app, much like a website, which is great from the search engine optimization (SEO) point of view. Users can share links with ease, and you may also make use of a back-linking strategy. This is not the case with native apps.
- Data. Since web apps take little storage space and users don’t need to download them, they are more likely to find favor with people. Besides, users don’t need much data when browsing a web app. Caching brings down the data transfer requirements. A lesser number of API requests reduce your bandwidth and server capacity requirements.
- App stores. Since there is no download involved, web apps eliminate the need for app stores. This way, developers do not have to tailor-make apps to suit the requirements of different app stores.
- Development cost. For starters, you don’t need different apps for Android and iOS. In addition, unlike the development of native apps that requires various tech stacks, web app development relies on standard web technologies. As a result, you’ll need to spend lesser in creating a web app when compared to a native app.
- Engagement. Addressing an important part of online marketing, web apps can work wonders in building and boosting engagement. For one, caching ensures that people can use a web’s app offline capabilities to browse through it at any time. In addition, aspects such as location tracking and push notifications give marketers the means to provide tailor-made content.
- Conversion. Once you manage to build engagement with your target audience, it is only normal to expect a boost in conversion. This is because web apps simplify navigation and checkouts to efficiently move customers further down the sales funnel.
Are There Any Drawbacks?
In cases where web app development does not address all important aspects, you might come across some downsides.
- Unauthorized access could be a concern.
- A web app might not work in the same manner across different web browsers, especially with the less popular ones.
- A web app might offer limited capabilities in accessing features of different devices.
The Role of Monitoring
Monitoring web apps helps trace end-to-end operations and isolate problems – be it in your app’s environment, with a cloud service provider, or with a third-party app provider. It can help detect application issues before they occur and provide suitable warnings/alerts in real-time. In addition, web app monitoring involves working with encrypted and decrypted platforms.
Teams responsible for web app monitoring tend to rely on multiple tools, because some can provide conflicting information. In addition, while a problem might present itself in a web app, its root cause might lie in a network or a server that hosts multiple apps/websites. The best web app reporting tools are capable of providing fault-related information based on browser type, type of app, and geography.
Why You Should Invest in a Web Application
Businesses of different sizes can benefit by investing in web applications in multiple ways.
- Ease of maintenance. When compared to mobile or desktop apps, web apps come with simpler maintenance. This is because they typically use the same code throughout the application. Besides, web apps offer little to no compatibility issues.
- Multiplatform. Your customers and target audience can use your web app in the same way across different operating systems (Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, and iOS) and browsers (Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Safari, Opera, and Internet Explorer).
- Searchable. Search engines view web apps as websites. This makes your web app discoverable in online searches.
- Linkable. Web apps offer no friction when using links. They are easy to share across devices and platforms.
- No need for app store. You web app does not require approval from any app store.
- No user-end updates. Your customers don’t have to update your web app on their devices. This happens at the development-end, and all users benefit through the same updates.
- The cost factor. Web apps are typically cheaper to develop than desktop or mobile apps. In addition, when you successfully build user-engagement, you may expect a great return on investment (ROI).
Web apps have increased in popularity in recent times, and the trend is not going to reverse any time soon. Businesses across industries have benefited by using web apps owing to the functionality, interactivity, and performance they bring to the table. As long as you give your customers and target audience access to a web app that caters to their needs and helps build engagement, you can be sure of seeing a positive effect on conversion and customer retention.
Since there is no dearth of web development agencies that build custom web apps, it is important to select one that works well for you. The company you choose should be capable of building scalable solutions by relying on user-centric UI/UX designs, modern frameworks, and structured architecture patterns. In addition, it should arrive at a cost based on the type of app you need and the features you’re after.