What is a Web App?
The term “Web App” is a contraction of “Web Application” and refers to a software application that runs on a web browser. In other words, a Web App is a program that can be accessed through an internet browser without requiring the download or installation of additional software on the user’s device.
Web Apps can offer a wide range of functionalities, from simple online tools like calculators or calendars to complex data management systems or business applications. They can interact with databases, enable user data storage, provide real-time collaboration features, and much more.
Some advantages of Web Apps include their ease of distribution and accessibility through the web, without the need to develop specific versions for each platform or operating system. Additionally, Web Apps can be easily updated without requiring users to install new versions since changes are made on the server and are immediately available to all users accessing the application through the browser.
The advantages of web apps
Web apps offer several advantages over traditional applications. Here are some of them.
- Multi-platform accessibility: Web apps are accessible through a web browser on various devices and platforms, including desktop computers, laptops, tablets, and smartphones. There is no need to develop separate versions for each operating system, simplifying the distribution and access to the application.
- Simplified updates: Since web apps are run on a remote server, updates and changes can be made centrally. Users do not need to worry about installing new versions or updates on their device, as changes are made on the server and immediately available to all users accessing the application through the browser.
- No installation required: Web apps do not require the download or installation of additional software on the user’s device. This means that users can access the application directly through the browser without having to manage software installation and updates.
- Ease of distribution: Web apps can be easily distributed over the internet, allowing users to access them wherever they have an internet connection. There are no complex distribution processes as in the case of traditional applications that require uploading to stores or distributing installation files.
- Scalability: Web apps can be easily scaled to handle an increasing number of users and requests. Since processing happens on the server side, it is possible to increase server resources or utilize cloud computing technologies to handle the workload more efficiently.
- Easy sharing: Web apps can be easily shared via URLs. You can send the application link to friends, colleagues, or clients, allowing them to directly access the application without having to install it.
- Real-time updates: Web apps can provide real-time updates and collaboration features. Users can work simultaneously on the same data or interact in real-time with others within the application.
- Reduced costs: Web apps can be more cost-effective to develop and maintain compared to traditional applications since they do not require specific development for each platform and can share code among different versions of the application.
These are just some of the main advantages offered by web apps. The choice to use a web app will depend on the specific needs of the project and user preferences.
How to create a web app
Creating a web app involves several stages of development. Here’s a general overview of the steps to follow to create a web app.
- Define the requirements: before starting development, it’s important to have a clear understanding of the requirements and desired functionalities for your web app. Define the application’s goals, identify user needs, and establish the key features you want to include.
- UI design: designing the user interface (UI) for your web app is crucial. You need to consider the visual appearance, navigation, and usability of the application. Tools like Adobe XD, Sketch, or Figma can be used to create UI mockups and define the application’s structure.
- Back-end development: the back-end refers to the part of the system that handles data processing, database operations, and other server-side functionalities. Various programming languages and frameworks can be used for back-end development, such as Python with Flask or Django, Node.js with Express.js, Ruby with Ruby on Rails, and many others. This will depend on your skills and personal preferences.
- Database implementation: if your web app requires data storage and management, you’ll need to implement a database. There are different types of databases to choose from, such as MySQL, PostgreSQL, or MongoDB. It’s crucial to design your database schema and use the appropriate query language to interact with the database from your back-end.
- Testing and debugging: throughout the development process, conducting regular tests to ensure that the application functions correctly and meets the defined requirements is crucial. Debugging resolves any errors or issues that may occur during development.
- Deployment: before deploying your web app, you need to set up an appropriate hosting environment. There are many hosting providers that offer services for web app hosting, such as AWS, OVH Cloud, Google Cloud, Heroku, Netlify, and many others.
- Maintenance and updates: once your web app is up and running, you’ll need to take care of ongoing maintenance and any future updates. Monitor the application’s performance, resolve any issues, and add new features or improvements as needed.
These are the general steps to create a Web App, which coincide with the steps to create a traditional app. Keep in mind that the process may vary based on project specifications, technologies used, and the developer’s skills. It might be helpful to acquire additional knowledge or seek web development consultations to support the creation of your web app.
What is the difference between a traditional app and a web app?
The main difference between a traditional app and a web app lies in the platform they run on and how users access them. Here are some points of distinction between the two.
- Execution platform: a traditional app is a software application designed to run on a specific device, such as a desktop computer, laptop, smartphone, or tablet. It requires direct installation on the user’s device. On the other hand, a web app runs on the web, through an internet browser. It doesn’t require direct installation, but users can access the application through the browser on various devices and operating systems.
- Installation: traditional apps require downloading and installing a software package on the user’s device. This can involve complex installation procedures and requires storage space on the device. In contrast, web apps don’t require any installation. Users can access them simply by typing the URL in the browser address bar, and the application runs on a remote server.
- Updates: for traditional apps, users need to manually download and install updates on their device when a new version is available. Web apps, on the other hand, can be centrally updated on the remote server. Users don’t have to worry about installing new versions, as the changes made on the server are immediately available to all users accessing the application through the browser.
- Accessibility and portability: web apps are accessible from any device with a browser and an internet connection, regardless of the operating system. This makes them more portable and accessible compared to traditional apps, which can be limited to specific devices or operating systems.
- Distribution capability: web apps can be easily distributed over the internet without the need to go through app store approval processes or provide separate installation packages for different platforms. In contrast, traditional apps require distribution through specific channels like app stores, which may involve additional approval and compliance procedures.
- Device interaction capability: traditional apps often have more direct access to device features such as the camera, GPS, motion sensors, notification system, and other specific hardware functions. Web apps, on the other hand, may have limitations in accessing certain device features unless technologies like Web APIs or Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) are used to enable greater access to device functionalities.
What is the difference between a web app and a website?
The main difference between a web app and a website lies in the functionality and interactivity offered to users. A website typically provides static information and content accessible to users. It can consist of web pages that contain text, images, videos, and hyperlinks. Websites are primarily intended to provide information, present content, or promote a business or organization.
On the other hand, a web app offers interactive and complex functionalities similar to those of a traditional application. It can allow users to perform actions, interact with data, complete processes, or accomplish specific tasks. Web apps often include real-time interactions, data processing capabilities, collaboration features, and more.
In terms of purpose and objective, the main goal of a website is to provide information and content to users. It can be an informative site, a blog, an e-commerce site, or a news portal. The website can be static, with content that is occasionally updated, or dynamic, with continuously evolving content.
A web app, on the other hand, is designed to perform specific tasks or provide interactive services to users. It can be a project management application, a social media platform, an online booking system, a photo editing app, or any other interactive web-based application.
In terms of complexity and development, websites are generally simpler to develop compared to web apps. They often require web design and front-end development skills to create an appealing user interface and a good browsing experience. However, web app development complexity can require both front-end and back-end development, including data management, service integration, and other advanced features.
Regarding accessibility and updates, websites are generally accessible to all users through an internet browser and do not require any specific installation or access. They can be easily updated by adding or modifying pages and content.
PWA and SPA
Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) and Single-Page Applications (SPAs) are two web development approaches that offer advanced user experiences. Here’s a brief description of both concepts.
PWA (Progressive Web App)
PWAs are web applications that use modern technologies to provide an experience similar to native applications. They are designed to work on any device or platform, regardless of the operating system. They use a concept called a “manifest” to provide an app icon on the users’ home screen.
SPA (Single-Page Application)
SPAs are web applications that operate within a single page, without the need to completely reload the page during user interaction. Interaction happens through asynchronous requests to the server, often using REST API calls or technologies like AJAX or WebSocket.
SPAs provide a smooth and responsive user experience, with seamless transitions between sections of the application. Content updates occur dynamically within the same page, without the need for traditional hyperlink-based navigation.
It’s important to note that PWAs and SPAs are not mutually exclusive: a PWA can be implemented as an SPA, leveraging the characteristics of both. PWAs often use SPAs as part of their technological stack to offer an advanced and interactive user experience.
Sectors of Web App Usage
Web apps are used in a wide range of sectors and industries. Here are some of the most common sectors where web apps find application.
- E-commerce: Web apps are widely used in the e-commerce sector to create online selling platforms. They allow users to browse products, add them to the cart, make secure payments, and manage orders.
- Social media: Many social media platforms rely on web apps to provide an interactive interface and enable users to share content, connect with friends, post messages, and engage in online communities.
- Finance and banking services: Web apps are used in the financial sector to offer online banking services, investment management, online trading, payment services, and other financial functionalities. They enable users to access their accounts, perform transactions, and monitor their finances.
- Project and work management: Web apps are used for project and work management, allowing users to create, assign, and track tasks, collaborate with team members, share documents, and monitor progress.
- Education and training: Web apps are employed in the education sector to provide online learning platforms, e-learning courses, virtual classroom management, and educational resource sharing tools.
- Healthcare and medical care: Web apps are used to enable healthcare professionals to access patient data, record medical information, manage appointments, provide telemedicine services, and streamline healthcare practice management.
- Travel and tourism: In the travel sector, web apps are used to book flights, hotels, car rentals, and other related activities. They can provide information about destinations, personalized travel itineraries, and location-based services.
- Entertainment and media: Web apps are used to offer entertainment content such as video streaming, music streaming, online gaming, and podcast platforms.
- Public sector: Web apps are adopted by government agencies to provide online services to citizens, such as voter registration, tax payment, document requests, and other public service functionalities.
How much does a web app cost?
The development cost of a web app can vary significantly based on various factors, including the app’s complexity, required features, design, development time, development platform, the country where it is built, and the skills of the development team.
Simple web apps with basic features may have relatively low costs, while complex web apps with advanced functionalities may require a significant budget.
Just like with the cost of enterprise apps, there are factors that can influence the price of a web app. Here are some examples.
- Design and development: The cost depends on the complexity of the required design and development. Advanced features, complex integrations, custom user interfaces, and interactivity can increase the overall cost.
- Platform and technologies: The choice of technologies used can impact the cost. For example, certain specific technologies may require more specialized skills and can have an impact on development costs.
- Third-party integrations: If the web app requires integrations with third-party services or APIs, the cost may increase due to additional development and integration efforts.
- Testing and quality assurance: Quality assurance and testing are important to ensure that the web app functions properly on different platforms and devices. The cost can vary based on the testing approach and resources allocated to ensuring the quality of the final product.
- Maintenance and updates: After launch, ongoing maintenance and updates may be necessary to ensure that the web app remains secure and operational. This can represent long-term costs.
It is advisable to consult a development agency or professional web developer to get an accurate estimate of costs based on the specific project requirements, as well as consultation on which app type is best suited to your needs. Additionally, it is important to also consider costs associated with marketing, hosting, security, and other aspects related to the implementation and maintenance of a web app.
How to download a web app
Installing a web app can vary slightly depending on the type of app and the device you are using. Below is a general overview of the steps you might follow.
- Check the requirements: before downloading a web app, make sure you meet all the necessary requirements. For example, you may need to use a specific browser or a particular operating system.
- Open the browser: most web apps can be downloaded directly through the browser. So, open the browser on your device (such as Chrome, Firefox, Safari, etc.).
- Visit the app’s website: Go to the website of the app you want to download. You can do this by typing the app’s URL into the browser’s address bar or searching for the app’s name on a search engine.
- Navigate to the download page: Once on the app’s website, look for a link or button indicating the app download. It might be labeled as “Download” or “Get”. Click on this link to proceed to the download page.
- Select the appropriate version: Sometimes, web apps offer different versions based on the operating system or device you are using. Make sure to select the correct version for your device (e.g., Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, etc.).
- Initiate the download: Once you have selected the appropriate version, you should see a button or link to initiate the download. Click on it, and your browser will start downloading the app to your device.
- Install the app: After the download is complete, follow the specific instructions for app installation. This can vary depending on the operating system or device you are using. For example, on Windows, you might need to run an installation file (.exe), while on Android, you might need to open the APK file and follow the instructions.
- Launch the app: Once the installation is complete, you can launch the app on your device. It might be available on the desktop, in the application menu, or on the home screen of your device, depending on the operating system.
Remember that web apps are designed to run directly in the browser without the need for downloading and installing them on the device. Therefore, in many cases, you may simply access the app’s website through the browser and use the app without the need for downloading it.
If you are specifically asking about how to download a PWA, the steps to install it are as follows:
- Open the Chrome browser on your Android device.
- Visit the website that offers the PWA you want to install.
- Once on the website, you should receive a notification indicating that the PWA is available for installation. Tap the notification or look for the installation icon in the browser’s address bar (usually represented by a “+” symbol or an installation icon).
- Tap the installation icon and follow the displayed instructions to complete the PWA installation.
- After the installation, you should find the PWA icon on your home screen or in the app menu on Android.
- Open the Safari browser on your iPhone device.
- Visit the website that offers the PWA you want to install.
- Once on the website, tap the share icon at the bottom of the screen (the icon of an upward-pointing arrow).
- Scroll horizontally through the list of sharing actions and look for the “Add to Home” or “Add to Home Screen” option. Tap it.
- After tapping the option, you can rename the PWA (if desired) and tap “Add” in the top-right corner of the screen.
- Now you should find the PWA icon on your home screen or in the app menu on iPhone.
When not to develop a web app
There are several scenarios where it may not be convenient or appropriate to develop a web app. Here are some cases where you might consider alternatives or different approaches.
- Intensive processing requirements: if the app requires intensive data processing or advanced features that require significant system resources, it may be more appropriate to develop a native application. Native apps can leverage the device’s capabilities to the fullest and offer optimal performance.
- Complex offline functionality: if the app requires a complex offline user experience, such as managing local data, synchronization, or offline processing, it may be more suitable to develop a native application. Native apps can access advanced offline functionality and work more efficiently without an internet connection.
- Device-specific features: if the app requires access to specific device features such as the camera, GPS, or sensors, it may be necessary to develop a native application. Web apps have limited access to these features and may not offer the same deep integration with the device.
- Highly customized user experiences: if the app requires a highly customized user experience and complex interactions, it may be more suitable to develop a native application. Native apps provide more precise control over the user interface and can offer richer and more engaging user experiences.
- Network access limitations: if the app needs to function in areas with unstable or limited internet connectivity, it may be necessary to develop a native application. Native apps can better handle situations where the connection is intermittent or absent, allowing users to access data and features even without a connection.
- Distribution limitations: if the app needs to be distributed through specific channels, such as app stores or enterprise distribution platforms, it may be more appropriate to develop a native application. Web apps may have restrictions or limitations when it comes to distribution through these channels.
If for any reason you are considering developing a business app but are unsure about the best path for your project and your business, do not hesitate to contact us: together, we will study a tailor-made solution to meet your needs and those of the future users of your app.