In the era of social networks and messengers, you might lose the initial meaning of what you use and what you work with. And the truth is the most of your time you spend using web applications. (Facebook, Gmail, YouTube, Couchsurfing, GitHub… All of them are applications which run in a web-browser).
This material is aimed to help you recognize and define web apps, find how they can be developed and choose the most effective and easiest way to create them. Based on Syndicode’s web app development experience and empowered by my inspiration.
What is a web app?
Basically, web application or web app is a client–server software application in which the client (or user interface) runs in a web browser.
Apart from the entertainment, we used to associate applications with, they are utmost important for a business segment. The web lets millions of businesses use it as a cost-effective communications channel. However, effective engagement is only possible with the ability to capture and store all the necessary data. Data should be processed and presented to the user.
To handle the storage and retrieval the information web applications use a combination of server-side scripts, and client-side scripts to present information to users. This way users can interact with the company via online forms, content management systems, shopping carts and more. Applications allow to proceed effective work: employees can create documents, share information, collaborate on projects, and work on common documents regardless of location or device.
Examples of famous web apps
- Probably, you’re also familiar with email marketing service MailChimp founded back in 2001. Sometimes you don’t simply recognize whether you use a website or a web app. But the next part of the article will help you to understand the difference.
- You might also often use one of the most interesting web applicationsâ€Š–â€ŠWikipedia. Wikipedia as a whole is a specific type of web application. But a single article on Wikipedia can be considered a web page. People can freely edit the article, make changes to the database, where it is displayed on the entire web. It was launched in 2001 and still is very popular among web-searchers. Other great examples of web applications are YouTube and PayPal. Here you can find more well-known web apps: Top-10 web applications for business.
Key differences between a web app and a website
As I promised before, let’s define a website from a web application.
Basically, a website can be static or dynamic (based on some database of content). And a web application is interactive, with some kind of built-in functionality.
Here are the main differences:
- The website is a complete product which can be seen on your browser. The web application can be a part of a website
- Functions of a web application are much complex than functions of a website. A website just shows collected data and information while web application maintains the whole website
- A website is a source of information while web application works interactively
- A website works on a web browser and a web app runs and used on a computer
- The website is easily ascertainable through any operating system and device, only by using URL. But the web app should be downloaded and installed first for proper work
The benefits of a web application
Regardless of the purpose of your web application, it has some pros make it very popular among users:
- Web applications run on multiple platforms without paying attention to OS or device as long as the browser is compatible
- Any compatibility issues are eliminated by access the same versions by all users
- Web applications are not installed on the hard drive, thus eliminating space limitations. Also, web applications reduce software piracy in subscription-based versions
- The costs for both the business and the end user are reduced as there are less support and maintenance required by the business and lower requirements for the end user’s computer
- Different online apps and other programs provide the same functionality as the desktop versions. However, they easily accessible from anywhere and have broader reach because of working across multiple platforms.
Web app development process
Here we areâ€Š–at â€Šthe most important part for web developers. We found out that web app development process is more complicated than a website development. But in what way?
Challenges of web app development
As in any other development process, web app development has its own pitfalls. Since that you have to be aware of:
- The range of user agents. Make sure you know and able to support multiple different browsers and versions of them, each of them with their own different quirks
- The size of a display. A desktop web application is expected to display well on an anything from a 13â€³ laptop all the way through a 30â€³â€Š–â€Šsometimes even largerâ€Š–â€Šmonitor. There’s no guarantee that it will be taking up the entire screen on the - smaller sizes with the added bonus that screen resolution may change as well
- Managing and transferring state. The state is something that is really annoying to manage inside a web application. And each of the mechanisms has problems due to limits in storage capacity, ephemerality or lack of functionality
- Security. Anything you care about securing has to be on the server since the browser is a hostile environment. Of course, there are more things like these to consider of, but most of them depend on your web application purpose and details. Syndicode can estimate your project and point the most viable risks and challenges you can face with.
Software frameworks for web app development
These days web app development can be done in many ways. But you should already know that developers are fond of software frameworks which simplify the development process many times.
In 5 software frameworks advantages for web app development you will find why using software frameworks will save you time and money on web application development.
Ruby on Rails web app development
Ruby on Rails is an open source framework that can be used for web app development. It is a dependable routing system that follows software rules and patterns. And the framework of choice for the company I work in. We utilize this technology during the web app development process.
Ruby on Rails web app is developed with an emphasis on REST or Representation State Transfer. It is a software architecture style based on client-server relationship. It fosters a logical structure inside the Ruby web app that can be opened as an Application Programming Interface or API.
Here in Syndicode we use Ruby on Rails as our framework of choice. With the use of Ruby on Rails, the resulting web app has lower risks of:
- data theft
Some of the coding principles involved in the Ruby on Rails web app development process include DRY pattern, convention over configuration, active record pattern, and model view controller. Convention over configuration, for instance, will make the programmer no need to spend a lot of time configuring files to start the process. Ruby on Rails already comes with a set of conventions that make the process faster.
Ruby on Rails web app advantages
And now more in-detailed information about advantages of RoR applications.
We bet that you know these famous web applications and used some of them at least ones. GitHub anyone? Basecamp, Airbnb, ASKfm, Goodreads, Kickstarter and more… Read about them in my article: 10 famous RoR web applications
In simple words, all the web applications built using Ruby on Rails have something in common like these advantages:
- They were quickly launched
- They spent no cost for using Ruby on Rails
- They have no problems with maintaining and staff migration
- They’re fast
- They can be easily updated with the latest functionality
Parts of Ruby on Rails web app development process
There are many things included in the web app development process. Depend on the complexity of your project and desired technologies, the roadmap can include dozens of things to be done. But we can highlight some main points of the web app development process that are vital for any project.
Find them in my article: Ruby on Rails web app development process
Ruby on Rails web app development process encourages a flexible and collaborative approach that is perfect for clients that have fast changing needs.
One of the things that customers look for in a Ruby on Rails web app is a user-friendly UI and flexible at the same time. Developers need to have strong skills in development tools and frontend techniques. Plus, they need to have the solid understanding of the best practices with regards to the front end of the web app.
Backend specialists should provide a highly scalable Ruby web app to ensure the performance of the web app is optimized. With a fast and stable backend, the web app will allow your business to grow.
A great web app development leads to an end product that can be used in more ways than one. For this, you have to consider the integration during the development phase. This will ensure that users will have good experience using the web app, and reduce the development time as well. Ruby on Rails utilizes common structures and modular design that make it easier to integrate an app with another.
Benefits of Ruby on Rails web app development
I already told you about benefits the user gets with a web application. Web applications made it easy and pleasant to do your business on the internet wherever you are and whatever kind of device you use. Now I would like to tell you a bit more about developer experience, which is actually not very different from user’s. That is possible thanks to the great and simple tool to develop any web application. Find the advantages of Ruby on Rails web app development in my article Why Ruby on Rails is ideal for Web App development
Potential problems with RoR web app development and myths
And like with any other technology (nothing is perfect in this world), there are some potential problems you need to be aware of.
Some of them are not problems at all. So I will start with myths:
- Ruby on Rails “convention over configuration” will tight your hands in sense of forcing you to write in a certain way. The truth: of course you will write in a certain way because many things in RoR simplified and pre-set. But you can configure many of them if needed. So this is not a real problem
- In RoR you can’t do really much without gems. Yes, that’s true. But the other question is why you need to code without gems? They are the main advantage of RoR. Don’t try to invent what is already here
- “RoR is dying”. No, it’s really far from it. Such news can appear due to rising popularity of new technologies. But they show up every year and fade out with the same speed. And RoR is here for a long time, it has too many applications based on it and a huge army of fans used to it. So in the next 20 years it will still be around
Now is the time to be honest and tell you about potential problems with RoR web app development. To calm you down you, these problems are unlikely to appear if you work with a dedicated software development team. And they are:
- While the frontend is usually easy to scale, scaling a big database might be complex
- Sometimes you might face with version conflicts and difficulties while compiling
- Ruby on Rails for relatively large scale projects may force you to go beyond basics and understand more underpinnings. This way framework becomes a little difficult
Anyway, if you work with professionals who have a prior experience in the field, you can forget about all these issues.
How to find dedicated professionals for web app development
According to Clutch.co research, Ukrainian developers are the cheapest ones among other high-rated professionals. We can do the same as USA specialists do, but ten times cheaper. And that is a huge advantage for your business.
In case you’re interested and want to compare, here you can find the average sales for Ukrainian programmers. Also, visit our blog to discover Software developers salary in 2017 research.
By the way, Eastern Europe in 2017 is considered as the cheapest region for programming outsource. And the question is not about where to find dedicated professionals (in Ukraine, of course), but how. What are the key criteria you have to apply for search?
To simplify your task I write them down.
Main criteria for reliable software development team/company:
- Experience. They need to have at least several years of successful work to gain enough proficiency
- Portfolio. Better for them to have at least several neat projects in the portfolio to show what they can do. Testimonials from previous clients are welcome
- The number of developers. There is no need in hundreds of programmers. But the complete team should provide all your needs. And depending on a project size (if we talk about web app development) you should have at least 5 programmers working on it
- Technology and innovation in the core. Make sure they are working with up-to-date cutting-edge technologies
- Experience of distributed teams. That matters a lot if your teamwork remote or you travel while the project in development.
Hope, this article was useful for your future web app development!