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How to create a web app: Everything you need to know about web application development

The internet today is a very different place than back in the day. The web is objectively faster, better, and a lot more interactive. This interactivity is all because of web applications. In fact, we use web apps all the time without even noticing them. Web apps offer several distinct advantages. They are highly functional, useful, and accessible. Today, we will look at everything there is to know about web application development.

What are web applications?

So, what is a web application? And why are they so difficult to notice? Well, every single time we 'do' something online, we use a web app. This can be anything, from online shopping to posting on social media. Web apps are software that we can use within our browsers without downloads. The reason we don't notice them? We have gotten quite used to interactive web experiences! 

Web Application Development

Here comes the jargon. Basically, web app development is the process of creating an app that works in a browser. Developers use client-side and server-side programming tools. The development process is the same for all kinds of apps:

  • Research
  • Brief creation
  • App Design
  • Development
  • Testing and Deployment

Are a Web App and Website different?

It's true that spotting a web app from a website can be difficult. Today, websites are super interactive and dynamic. This is how you can identify which is which:
  • A website can be static - it can only give out information and not require any user input
  • A web app is dynamic - it not only requires but responds to user input. 
Web apps are created to help solve problems. A website that allows users to perform tasks online can be called a web app. 

Difference between Web Apps and Mobile Apps

Web apps are designed to work in the browser. This means that most of them can be accessed on any device. Mobile apps, on the other hand, are designed to work on certain operating systems. These apps are known as native apps. They offer a highly custom experience but need to be downloaded to work. Web apps do not take up any storage and can be accessed online.

Web App Development - Advantages

There are many advantages that web app development has to offer. For starters, web apps are highly efficient and cost-effective. They remove the need for developing OS-specific software. Web apps can be accessed anywhere by anyone who has a browser. Other advantages include:

  • Advanced functionality
  • Easy to use
  • Immersive experiences
  • Engage desktop users
  • Boost online presence

Web application types

Web applications can be divided into 6 main types, depending on their function and appearance. 

1. Static web applications

Static web apps tend to be less like apps and more like a collection of web pages. They have a singular purpose - to deliver the same information to each user. As a result, they don't offer any personalization or interactivity. Static apps are also difficult to update. 

2. Dynamic web applications

Dynamic web apps are much more interactive and involve inputs and outputs. Common examples include search, log-in, posting, or any other interactive features. Dynamic web apps use content management systems to deliver accurate outputs. They also require hosting, servers, and online databases. 

3. Ecommerce applications

Whenever you buy or sell something online, you use an ecommerce web app. These apps include useful features such as order tracking and payment processing. They are highly complex and involve a lot more programming than other web apps. It is also important for ecommerce apps to be as immersive as native apps. 

4. Portal web applications

Portal web apps allow users to login into a secure area from anywhere. There are several different kinds of websites where you might need to log in. These include social media, payment portals, and even company databases. 

5. Content Management System - CMS Web App

A CMS is a feature that allows non-technical users to publish and manage content online. Even the simplest blogging websites involve a CMS. Developing a CMS-based web app is not an easy task. The CMS needs to be robust, dynamic, and easy to use. This requires expertise and training. 

Progressive Web Apps

Compared to other web app types, progressive web apps or PWA is a class apart. They are a highly innovative and advanced combination of both web apps and native apps. PWAs are quite complex and behave exactly like native apps. The only difference is that they are live and online. PWAs offer several advantages:
  • They are faster and cheaper to develop
  • Retain more users
  • Eliminate the need for downloads
  • Work exactly like native apps 
Find out more about building a PWA on our blog! 

How to create a web application

Designing and creating a web application involves several different processes. Below are a few of the steps involved. 

1. Define your problem

As we mentioned earlier, web apps exist to solve a problem for users. The problem you aim to solve defines everything about your solution. From the features you should include to the overall app design, everything should be about problem-solving. 

2. Plan your web application workflow

When you know your problem, define how will you solve it? You need to plan out exactly how your app will work. What features do you need to implement your solutions?

3. Wireframes and prototypes

Prototypes and wireframes help give you perspective. They are also excellent tools for conducting research or pitching your idea. Gather feedback and keep improving until you and your users are happy. 

4. Validate your idea

You should conduct extensive market research before you start developing. Study your user base in detail to ensure that your web app fulfills their needs. Learn more in our guide to validating your app idea

5. Choose your tools carefully

Developing a web app requires many different platforms, tools, and frameworks. It's important to do your research and choose tools that best fit your needs. 

6. Build your app

There are three main aspects to a web app: 
  • Database - you should know the type of data you will be working with. Choose your database accordingly
  • Frontend - developing your frontend will require HTML, CSS, and JavaScript
  • Backend - the toughest part of the process. Backend development involves a lot of processes, including user authentication, HTTP endpoints, etc. 

7. Test your app continuously

Testing should always be an ongoing process. Test early and test often. You need to continuously evaluate the following:

  • App performance
  • App usability 
  • Compatibility
  • Security 

This will help ensure that your app performs optimally at any stage. 

8. Host and deploy your app

Finally, the last thing you need to do is find hosting for your app. You will need a domain and hosting provider. Cloud hosting works best for web applications.  

Web app development platforms

There are several web application development platforms out there. They offer a faster and easier path to creating a web app. These tools remove a lot of the complexity and technical requirements needed to create the app. Some popular options include: 

Web Application Development Costs

How much does it cost to create a web application? App development costs can vary, based on a lot of factors. How much your app costs depends on features, the development platform, and your app type. It will cost a lot more to create a web-based android app than a simple CMS. 
You can expect a basic web app with simple functions to cost between $2000 to $15000. A more professional web app will involve a team of developers. It will take a couple of months to complete, and cost between $20000 - $50000. Lastly, a full-fledged PWA with custom UX design, complex features, and multiple databases can cost a lot. Think 6 figures - $100000 and up!

Final words

Web apps open up a world of possibilities for your website. They offer virtually unlimited functionality while being completely independent. Web apps also have several advantages over native apps. They are not restricted to any platform, device, or operating system. Both mobile and desktop users can access them equally easily. Web apps can offer a multitude of features for users, making them incredibly popular. In 2021, investing in web application development is definitely worth it. 
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