Web applications power today’s businesses. From productivity software to marketing and customer service tools, web apps let us get work done quickly and efficiently, no matter whether we’re working in the office or remotely. Here’s what you need to know about web applications, with some great web app examples to illustrate the power of these tools.
What Is a Web Application?
A web app is an application that uses a web browser as the user interface. They rely on internet access and can launch on any device, including a desktop computer or in a mobile device browser on a phone or tablet. Web apps are designed to be responsive, so they adjust to look good on any device and, just like a mobile app, they are designed to be interactive. Web apps are cost-effective and faster to build than mobile apps. However, they do have some limitations, such as their inability to use native device features.
Learn more: Native App vs. Web App vs. Hybrid App: Which is Best?
Advantages and Disadvantages of Web Applications
There are some pros and cons to building a web app that you’ll want to consider. Your decision will depend on your users’ needs and expectations and the functionality you’re planning in your app.
Advantages of Web Apps
- Faster Speed to Market — Web apps are available quickly after development because they’re typically faster to build than mobile apps and don’t need to be approved by app stores and marketplaces.
- Cost-Effective Development — You can build just one version to serve all operating systems, so less development time is required for web apps compared to mobile apps.
- Accessibility — Web apps are accessed through a browser, so they can serve users on a wide range of devices across all operating systems.
- Ease of Maintenance and Customization — Updates are simple and can be pushed quickly to a server for instant visibility as changes are made to a common code base.
- Search Engine Discovery — Web apps show in Google (and other) search results, so they are easy to find.
- Interoperability — Web apps offer greater interoperability than isolated desktop systems and applications, which provides greater agility to shift due to market demands.
Disadvantages of Web Apps
- No Offline Availability — Web apps aren’t available when users don’t have cell or WiFi access, as they are dependent on the internet.
- Stability — Web browser variations can sometimes cause challenges with running web apps.
- Limited Access to Mobile Device Functionality — Web apps have limited ability to access native features on mobile devices like location services and the camera.
- Decreased User Awareness — Most people are used to looking for apps on the App Store or Google Play. Web apps aren’t listed in marketplaces, so users may not be aware of web apps.
Web Application Alternatives
Alternatives to web apps include mobile apps and traditional software that’s installed on a local computer.
Mobile Apps — Mobile apps are generally built for a platform like iOS or Android, though there is the option to build for both environments with some functionality limitations.
Installed Apps — While traditional software applications do still exist, most have moved to the web app model.
Web apps and mobile apps each have advantages and disadvantages, so the decision will be based on your users’ needs, the functionality required, and your budget.
Functions of Web Applications
Web apps serve to facilitate two-way communication between businesses and their customers. They can stand alone or even be part of a larger website. A contact form is an example of a simple web app, where a user enters information to sign up for a business’ mailing list. Other examples of web apps that could either be part of a website or stand-alone include a shopping cart and a content management system. Web apps can share information with any device, and they can serve a variety of functions, including generating reports, manipulating images, and running calculations.
Types of Web Applications
There are several types of dynamic web apps, and they may consist of single-page or multiple pages. They can include many functionality and design elements, such as animations, access via a portal, a content management system, and e-commerce. They may also be progressive web apps (PWA), a blend of mobile and web apps with the feel of a mobile app and the speed and mobile adaptability of web apps.
5 Best Web App Examples
There are many great examples of successful web apps available. Here’s a shortlist of five of the best.
1. Google Docs
Google Workspace, the Google office suite, is one of the most popular collections of web apps. Google Docs is used to collaboratively create and automatically save documents. It offers the added bonus that it can be used without an internet connection, enabling synching once the connection is established. This web app can be accessed from any device on any operating system. Google workspace apps are also available as mobile app downloads.
One of the top video-streaming platforms is also a web app. Netflix allows paying users to watch movies and tv shows on-demand with no limitations. And, as with other web apps, it’s accessible across devices and operating systems. Netflix illustrates how web apps are ideal as content platforms. The company also offers a mobile app.
This web app replaces brightly-colored post-its with a digital solution that enables the organizing and tracking of tasks. Trello enables team collaboration for more effective project management. Collaboration is one of the most common functions of web apps, allowing multiple people to work on a single dashboard.
This popular platform is a web app for managing projects, communicating with clients through messages, and keeping tasks on schedule. The fact that it’s available as a web app makes it easy to invite users to projects without worrying about device or browser types. For power users, it is also available as a desktop and mobile app.
5. Microsoft Office
Originally, the Microsoft Office Suite (Word, Excel, Powerpoint, etc.) had to be installed onto your computer, with saved files on your hard drive. Like Google Workspace, Microsoft Office is now a hugely popular online suite of products with Word, Excel, and PowerPoint available as web apps. Collaboration is easy since users can securely work on shared files online, and collaborative tools like Teams are now part of the suite. And yes, alongside the web app version of Microsoft Office, you can also download a desktop and mobile app.
Why You Should Consider Building a Web App
Web apps can often offer your users the look and feel of a mobile app on phones and tablets and accessibility across all devices and operating systems. Many successful web apps offer offline access that automatically re-syncs when the user is back online. They are less costly and easier to build than mobile apps, making them an attractive alternative for the right situation.
Want to learn more about how we help clients build successful web apps? Get in touch.