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What is a Web App and why should I get one?

EBS Integrator
May 21, 2021,

What is a Web App and why should I get one?

Ever wonder what exactly everyone is talking about when they tell you and your business – “I saw your Website, but you must get a web application!”. Today we’re diving into this question and setting things straight. What is the core difference between a Web App and a Website, what about Mobile Apps, and should you really get one?

For an end-user the distinction can be miniscule or non-existent at all. Our clients want to put in their request into the URL bar or google search and get access to your product or service.

But for a starting SME, or even a bigger enterprise beginning their digital transformation – knowledge is key to success. And at EBS we’re all about giving you every tool for success.

What is a Web App?

We’ll start from answering – what is a Web Application and how does it work. We’ve discussed this subject at length in one (or several) of our earlier entries back in 2019. So, today it’s going to be a condensed recap, a refresher if you will.

“Web Application – a computing software created to execute pre-programmed tasks or functions that is run from a network (web) server instead of the operating system (OS). “

In essence a Web App is a piece of software based somewhere in the world and accessed anywhere via browser. It can be extremely customizable, performant, and complex. Because of its complexity a web app needs a resolute, highly experienced software development team to build it. But also, due to its complexity, it supplies a wide variety of functions, better user experience, better performance and much more.

This is in turn does slightly increase development costs compared to a simple website but in the long run it is cheaper and more beneficiary. Especially so compared to developing a mobile app, more on that later.

We separate an archetypal web app into the following three layers:

web app

User/Customer interface server. This server hosts the primary user interface, it oversees any and all requests by the user and sends them forth to the logic/application server.

The Hardware and Computation server. More or less, this is where the magic happens, all the functions of requesting data from the storage, computing it, and sending it back to the user server happens here.

Database or Information Storage. This is where we store all our information and relevant data that our logic and user servers need.

However, as we’ve mentioned, we do not need to support one singular location/server as much as keep most or all of it on the cloud, in your building or user-side environment – accessible from anywhere.

Most notable and renown examples of web applications are – Facebook, Twitter, Gmail, YouTube, Reddit, Yahoo, Google Suite (Sheets, Docs, Notes etc), Office365, MS Teams, and too many more to count; but you get the picture.

What is my alternative, what is a Website?

All right, but the main question stays – Why develop a Web App compared to a Website? Well, it all boils down to your needs, your customer pain points and addressing those.

We’ve discussed Websites and their technical structure and history before, so make a pause and give it a read, but the important thing to take from it is:

A website provides static non-interactive visual and textual content to the client.

Of course, that is a bit of an outdated description when sites compromised mostly related webpages built with exclusively HTML. Nowadays modern Websites use HTML, Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) and JavaScript much like web apps, and many if not all websites are a hybrid form.

Hybrid Websites is where the main architecture is that of a website with some interactivity like commenting slapped on top of it.

However, the main goal and architecture a website is based on remains the same – Providing information.

Examples of Websites are Wikipedia, xkcd.com, this site or a variety of portfolio and non-profit organization websites among others.

So, in that merit, if your sole concern is brand awareness, supplying information and having a presence, then a Website is the choice.

We want you to succeed

However, if you’re planning to succeed and keep a competitive edge, we suggest building a web app and reaching for the stars! That is of course if your Business Scope absolutely demands a mobile.

Web App, better than a Website or an App?

A web app has several benefits for your business compared to a website or a dedicated app. Here’s a brief summary of these:

  • First one is higher degree of interactivity from your users, they can play around, manipulate, and extract value in a span of a few short clicks.
  • Your end-user does not have to install anything on their device, they get a full-fledged software with your brand/service at their fingertips anywhere in the world, on any device supporting a browser. This solves space limitations as well.
  • Long as the browser is compatible, your application is not limited by the type of the device or what operating system (OS) it runs on.
  • Everything updates centrally, any latest updates, features, bugfixes do not require any manual action on the end-user. Thus, improving the overall user experience when using your service/product.
  • Because of its complexity, Web apps are a powerful platform to build your brand around with the ability to solve direct business problems and supply better customer service right in the app.
  • Web applications that are subscription based (SaaS) are much harder nuts to crack when it comes to imitations, piracy and other damaging practices.
  • Compared to a normal computer app, web apps have overall lower technical support requirements and development costs.

Benefits of Web App over Websites

Business Scope comparison Web App vs Website

There are scores of benefits associated with the other approaches, but instead of listing them here, let’s take a basic business scope look on “Web App vs Website”.

Main Goal or Purpose

Website – Create a user-friendly portal for customers to extract information.

Web App – Build a responsive application, enable customers the ability to manipulate data, to extract value on top of information.

Main Feature/Benefit

Website – Easy access and maintenance; lower overall costs for development, brand awareness, and customer satisfaction.

Web App – Personalized experience, expandability, minimal hardware limitations, better UX, brand awareness and customer satisfaction.

Project Elements

Website – Hypertext Markup Language (HTML); Cascading Style Sheets (CSS); and JavaScript.*

*provided, you might use a CMS, which is in turn a Web App designed for your benefit – not your users.

Web App – HTML, CSS, Java, JavaScript, C++, Django, React, frameworks, libraries…and the list just goes and on and on.

How do Mobile Apps compare?

It would be unfair not to give Mobile Apps a mention, especially so because many a starting entrepreneur with stars in their eyes for some reason decides that he must have his “next best thing” app on the play store. And there are good reasons for that:

Advantages of developing your own app:

Notifications are possibly the biggest advantage a mobile app has over its competition. We all carry our phones with us wherever we go. Push notifications are great at keeping your clients actively engaged just a tap away from your product on their device.
Just make sure not to overdo it, or you risk your customers to disable any notifications from your app effectively cutting you off, unless they somehow remember about your app.

App Icons; speaking of remembering your product, an App Icon on the screen of their ever-present smartphone companion is great and effective way to keep reminding your customers that your service is here for them in their time of need.

Mobile App Advantages over Web Apps

GPS and Camera functionality, are two excellent features to take advantage of with your application, knowing every move they make, every step they take wherever they go.

Cyanide and Happiness Toilet

But in all seriousness, by creating native mobile apps and using the full scope of the device, opens a plethora of ways to generate value to your customers, and improve your brand.

Home screen real estate, with native apps you can exploit the full screen and attention of your customer whenever they use your application and fine tune the UX. Something neither a website nor web app can achieve, for they require a browser interface. (unless they create a costly full screen experience.)

Prestige, possibly the least important but still worthy of mention advantage is the certain prestige your brand gets when they can declare “We have an application on Play Store/App Store”.

If you find any of the features above absolutely critical to your success, by all means, go ahead; however, let’s take a look at some disadvantages mobile apps have and how web apps are superior.

Web App vs Mobile App

Wanna Develop my Web App?

Easy to find.

One of if not the greatest advantage of a Web App over anything on the app store is simple human behaviour and search patterns. Aside from things like “Search Engine Optimization” and Marketing Campaigns, people discover new products don’t generally go on the app store and type “Pizza rolls near me”, they google it.

It’s important to note that unless you have a massive social media following or brand awareness, it’s incredibly hard to get a mobile app to start of the ground without any groundwork before; just get a web app.

Costs.

It is simply cheaper to create a web app with a few popular browsers in mind when it comes to testing. Android and iOS have different hardware specifications and requirements, screen sizes, hardware, OS’s and so much more to account for, everything must be tested by QA thoroughly or you risk alienating your audience right away.

Also don’t forget about developer fees, the infamous 30% cut Apple and Google take on app sales and subscriptions is a tough pill to swallow, and if you’re on a tight budget it might be a deal breaker.

Access.

As we’ve mentioned, a web app is available off the bat with most browsers, on most devices. If a client managed to find a link or got there some other way, they can start using it and generating value for themselves, thus potentially becoming a return customer.

No more issues with “I might not have enough space on my device” or extra effort on the customers side to go to the play store and download “yet another app”. And Progressive Web Apps are here to solve the issue of connectivity to boot.

Updating.

If you ever notice a small bug or a god forbid a typo, a mobile app needs to go through an incredibly complex process of making a change, making a build, uploading to the store, submit for review and so much more.

Usually, a simple fix like that might take up to 72 hours to take effect. A Web App on the other hand is as simple as going into the console, applying the change, and updating it within minutes.

Conclusion

Before you run off to tell all your friends on social media about this amazing blog post (Please..?), lets summarize what we’ve learned.

Web Apps are a great combination of a Website and a Native Application, bringing all the strengths of both, more cost efficient than almost anything out there, and is something you should consider developing!

Did you get all that?

Did ya get it

Hey if you ever need more than advice on these matters, even some brawny code handling to get your “next best idea” off the ground, give us a call! *wink*

But what do you think is the best option out there? We *do* have a comment section.

Stay classy business and tech nerds!