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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.
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.
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, E-commerce, 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 to reach the target audience and keep up with the competition.
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 service.
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
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.
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 it 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.
To name some of the 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.
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 can provide our clients with the best solutions. At the same time, we can reduce our clients' costs by using the latest technology stack and reducing development time.
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 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.