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April 03.

Web-based application development

Why web-based applications have the upper edge

Why choose the web?

During the past 20 years, the web has become the pivotal foundation of modern businesses and the incentive of the entire business industry. It has become a thing that you can't run your business without. The main culprit for this was the blazingly rapid progress of internet technologies, PCs and other devices.

Conventional application development, however, was unable to catch up with the speed of that progress. By conventional, I mean everything other than web application development - desktop application development, console application development, etc.

And it's not that the web is perfect. It certainly has its fair share of shortcomings, and does not solve every business requirement. But it has no alternative and by the looks of things, this situation is not going to change for quite some time. The reasons behind that are many. The main one, however, is the fact that the web offered a convenient solution for distributed application development from the start and that no other provider or means were capable to do the same.

Today, the web is an inevitable tool for business as it offers a solution for both web and mobile businesses.

Another reason why to choose the web is that today's web applications provide a level of interactivity and usability that matches or in some cases even excels the rival native applications. And if you add cloud services into the mix, it becomes even more obvious why the web will remain an invaluable resource.

 

What exactly are web-based apps?

Web-based applications are dynamic web sites programmed on the server and delivered to the client through a browser. Any device, whether desktop or mobile, can function as a client. Web-based applications cover all sort of application types. Today, it would not be possible to imagine online banking, social networking, ecommerce, interactive games, online training and CMS without the existence of web-based apps.

Since the demand for web and mobile applications is growing, new approaches and new technologies are also emerging. In addition to mobile technologies, cloud technologies are also making a rapid and permanent impact on modern business. As businesses are slowly but surely migrating to the cloud, it's inevitable to convert all desktop applications to web-based ones in order to reach the target audience and keep up with the competition.

From the technological standpoint, the main approach for creating web-based applications are are client side and server side scripting/coding or a mix of server and client side scripting. Nowadays, Node.js is a good example which shows that web-based application development is feasible using JavaScript to program both on the server and on the client side.

 

A web site is a web app. Or is it?

To cut a long story short - no, they're not the same thing. Let’s put it this way - conventional web sites are plain and ordinary sites as we know them. They are sites which contain some sort of content and provide some sort of information.

On the other hand, there are web-based applications, which are more complex than conventional websites. They are intended to do certain processes. To put it in laymen's terms, they process some information and output the results based on that processing. They provide the end-user with some sort of a service.

While a typical website consists of a static content repository that's presented to the visitors, web applications depend on interaction and require programmatic user input and data processing.

Taking into account the complexity of the development process, the following steps outline the web application development lifecycle:

  • Defining the web application goals

  • Research and defining the scope and the target audience

  • QA and Security documents

  • Tech specification, web architecture diagrams, technology stack, development methodology, version control, backups

  • Database design documents, data migration plans

  • Design layout documents

  • Maintenance, expansion and growth planning

 

A take on web-based app technologies

Today, there are a lot of different approaches on how to implement web-based application development. The variety of different methods that are used for web application development and implementation is influenced by the versatility of the web itself. To name a few, there are cloud-based solutions, solutions based on microservices architecture, simple single server websites.

While web applications are almost exclusively designed to be used in web browsers, the introduction of cloud services gave birth to a whole new family of applications - applications that can have offline functionality, applications that can be used in more different ways other than with a browser, etc. Some examples of these apps are DropBox, Evernote, Office 365, GSuite, etc. These are all cloud-based and for a good reason, because they offer availability and flexibility that a conventional web server client never had.

Moreover, with the addition of a microservice architecture the complexity of an application is distributed to smaller components, which are all independent of each other, ensuring that if one microservice fails, the rest will remain functional and the entire service as a whole system will continue to function uninterruptedly.

Some of the best examples of cloud services are Amazon's AWS, Google cloud, Microsoft Azure. The very fact that these platforms are owned and supported by the likes of Amazon, Google and Microsoft speaks volumes and paints a pretty clear picture of just how important cloud services are today.

Some of the other benefits of cloud services are the reliability they provide, the reduced costs of the infrastructure and the flexibility of infrastructure. These reasons alone are more than enough to chose the cloud.

 

Web and Html5

So why is Html5 so important? It is important because it is adopted by all the major vendors and, most importantly, because it provides a uniform experience across all sorts of devices, both desktop and mobile.

With the introduction of Html5, the difference between desktop and mobile applications has virtually disappeared. This brought about a revolution in business since the focus has shifted from desktop to mobile applications.

With the market overwhelmed with mobile devices with all kinds of screen sizes and resolutions, Html5 enabled an experience that's uniform throughout. Html5 also brought many other important standards for web-based application development. It introduced web caching by using manifest files so that every modern web application can have offline functionality up to a certain extent. Furthermore, with the support of offline web storage, the application can also have full offline mode support.

Another important feature of modern web application development is the usage of Css3 and Scss. While Css3 significantly extends the conventional Css to fit the latest web standards like animation, gradients, shadows, selectors, multi column layout. Scss is just a superset of Css3 syntax and its introduces extensions to Css3 which allow you to write clean code. It introduces variables and other features that provide options to extend Css and avoid constantly repeating the same lines.

We also should not forget to mention all the advances that JavaScript has made lately. Despite the fact that JavaScript has been around for the past two decades, it became a dominant technology that drives the web during the past couple of years. The modern approach to web application development changed entirely with the emergence of a number of new JavaScript frameworks. Today, JavaScript can be used for full stack development, which means that it's sufficient to provide a full web experience.

The list of the advantages for using javascript to do full stack application development is getting longer all the time. Apart from the performance and scalability gains, that came with introduction, expansion and improvements of javascript frameworks, the positive side of using javascript for a full stack development is that your team will spend less work hours since it will be the only programming language used for both the frontend and the backend. Furthermore, using JavaScript means using open source, which has the largest community by far. That way, you get the best support, the biggest knowledge base and a very large pool of talented people.

To name some of important frameworks without which one can not imagine the web of today, it is the likes of React and Angular frameworks that have changed the web entirely.

 

Future Forward approach to web-based application development

Having in mind all the benefits of the modern technology stack and number of clients we have served, the Future Forward outsourcing team has adopted all the standards and modern technology stack approaches. This way, we are able to provide our clients with the best solutions. At the same time, we can reduce our clients' costs by using latest technology stack and reducing the development time.

Future Forward follows the principles of Agile software development, where the solution 'evolves' through the combined efforts of our cross-functional outsourcing team.

With the adoption of Agile development methodologies, we have the full product lifecycle development covered. What we actually do is follow SCRUM methodologies and procedures. It helps us better manage complex software and product development.

That's why we can proudly say that we are on the common ground and within a familiar territory if a client needs a software implementation which uses React, Angular, Scss, Twitter bootstrap, Node.js technology or if a client expects the solution to follow Html5 standards or Scrum methodology.

Another important characteristic of the Future Forward outsourcing team is the focus on QA and testing. We have invested a lot into QA as it enables us to improve and ensure the quality of the end product and long-term results. With all the modern approaches and technology in mind, we make sure that all the future steps are well-planned right from the early stages of the development - starting with application extensibility and maintainability, all the way up to devising the appropriate SEO strategy.

Web applications may range from simple websites to complex data processing services and may include various procedures. Nevertheless, we can still outline some of the most common procedures and steps we follow during the web application development lifecycle:

  • Research documentation, feasibility study documents

  • Functional specification documentation

  • Project management and related documentation

  • Technology stack selection, web application architecture and design document, database design documents, data migration plan if needed

  • Visual specification (when needed) documentation

  • QA and testing docs. Functional, unit, integration tests

  • Maintenance and extensibility

As a result, the web applications that we build are appealing, modern and responsive. This increases the number of the returning visitors, and, in case of a service, the conversion of these visitors into your new customers. There are multiple benefits to such an approach, and this is why we can brag that the likes of Ikea, Schiphol, Cuts and Colours and SPIE have chosen us to design and build software solutions for them.

Milan Markovic

Latest post: Software development consulting services

and Zoran Popovic

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