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. We use them in the office, when we’re working remotely, and sometimes even from our phones. Here’s what you need to know about web apps, including some great web application 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 should be responsive, so they adjust to look good on any device and, just like a mobile app, they should 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.
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 typically faster to build than mobile apps. Also, web applications don’t need approval from app stores and marketplaces.
- Cost-Effective Development — You can build just one version to serve all operating systems. Eliminating the need for multiple versions makes web apps require less development time than mobile apps.
- Accessibility — Web apps are accessible through a browser, so they can serve users on a wide range of devices across all operating systems.
- Ease of Maintenance and Customization — Updates can be pushed straight to the server. This feature means changes to the code base show up in the end product right away.
- 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. This 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. For example, it might be slightly harder to use location services and the camera.
- Decreased User Awareness — Some people only think to look 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 often built for a platform like iOS or Android. However, there is the option to build for both environments in some cases. Designli normally builds cross-platform mobile apps in Flutter unless there’s a reason not to.
Installed Apps — While traditional software applications do still exist, most have moved to the web app model.
Functions of Web Applications
Web apps 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 simple web apps 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. They can generate reports, manipulate images, and run calculations. To understand what’s possible, it helps to dive into the different types as well as some web application examples.
Types of Web Applications
There are several types of dynamic web apps, which may consist of single-page or multiple pages. They can include many features and design elements. Common examples include animations, access via a portal, a content management system, and e-commerce. They may also be progressive web apps (PWAs), which blend mobile and web apps. PWAs offer the feel of a mobile app, plus the speed and mobile adaptability of web apps.
9 Best Web Application Examples
From Gmail to Facebook to Microsoft Office, there are many great examples of successful web apps. Here’s a shortlist of nine of the best.
1. Google Docs
Google Workspace, the Google Office suite, is one of the most popular collections of web apps. For example, Google Docs empowers collaborative creation and automatically saves changes to documents. It offers the added bonus that it works even without an internet connection. Everything syncs up once the internet connection is back.
This web app is accessible from almost any device on just about any operating system. Google Workspace apps are also available as mobile app downloads. The versatility and accessibility of the Google Workspace platform are among its best features. Beyond Google Docs, the cloud platform includes Google Sheets, Google Slides, and the ever-popular Gmail.
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. The attractive interface simplifies the organization 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. Businesses use it to communicate with clients through messages while keeping tasks on schedule. Basecamp’s availability 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 both a desktop and mobile app.
5. Microsoft Office
The Microsoft Office Suite contains multiple products including Word, Excel, and Powerpoint. Originally, it had to be installed onto your computer, with saved files on your hard drive. Since then, Microsoft Office has transformed into one of the top web application examples.
The popular suite of products is now among the top enterprise application examples. Collaboration is easy because users can securely work on shared files online. Further, 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.
You might think of Uber as a mobile app because most people access it on their phones. However, the team at Uber rebuilt everything as a Progressive Web App (PWA). Now Uber users can access the app through any modern browser.
The Uber PWA is designed to go where native apps just can’t. For example, it’s viable on low-speed networks including 2G. It’s also accessible through the browser on low-cost devices that might not be able to run the native mobile app.
Loading quickly on any device requires a lightweight design. To this end, the Uber team kept the core of this web app to only 50kB. The design focuses on helping users get value as easily as possible, with no extra fluff. As a result, this is a good web application example to think about when you follow the checklist to build your MVP.
Buyers and sellers from all over the world can use eBay as their digital auction house. It manages bidding as well as allowing sales for fixed prices. The multi-vendor eCommerce platform facilitates simple, secure transactions between parties. Beyond payment processing, top features include product reviews, user ratings, customizable filters, and strong search functionality.
The social networking giant has had its share of good and bad press in the last few years. Whatever you think of Facebook, it’s hard to argue with roughly 2.98 billion active users as of early 2023. Simply put, this is among the most popular web applications of our time.
Like some of the others on this list, Facebook started as a pure web app before becoming a hybrid app. Cross-platform functionality gives users the option to access the social media platform with a native-like experience on almost any smartphone. Some of the top features include messaging, live streaming, and groups.
Here’s another example you might think of as a web app. Again, though, Spotify is actually a PWA. The team redesigned its popular app after taking issue with Apple’s 30% commission for app store transactions. Going the PWA route actually helped Spotify become a faster app with a more unique UI.
Web application examples like this one show some of the benefits of considering web app development even when you’re ultimately building for mobile. In some cases, a PWA will actually provide an even better experience than a native mobile app. Of course, it all depends on the requirements for your specific app development project.
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. They also offer 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’re less costly and easier to build than mobile apps, making them an attractive alternative for the right situation. If you’re exploring the idea of your own web app, let’s connect!
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