There are several opinions regarding web applications – some consider them to be all websites, while others believe they encompass only those that allow users to interact with the interface and data. At Asabix, we also have our own perspective.
Next, we will analyze in detail what web applications are , where they are used and how they work. We will also discuss the types of applications, their differences from websites and mobile apps, and provide examples of popular projects.
What is a web application?
A web application is a program with which users interact through a web browser. It operates on remote servers and provides various functions or services to users via the Internet. Typically, users access it just like websites, using a URL. Web applications can range from simple tools like email to more complex systems such as social media platforms and project management portals.
A characteristic feature of web applications is their assistance to users in completing tasks. For example, applications are used for expense tracking, event registration, ad creation, file scanning, and conversion, among other tasks. In simple terms, a web application is essentially a website but with more advanced functionality.
How do web applications work?
Web applications consist of a server-side and a client-side component. Users interact with the client-side part through interfaces provided in web browsers. Upon a user's request, data is sent to the server, where it is processed according to the application's business logic, and a response is returned.
The response can take various formats, such as a complete web page, its template, or data in JSON or XML formats. This depends on the method of page rendering. The page can be rendered in two ways: either as an unaltered view (static) or with modifications (dynamic). The rendering process can occur on the client-side, server-side, or be distributed between the client and server.
Differences between websites and web applications
Now that we've discussed what web applications are, let's explore the differences between them and websites. There are notable distinctions between websites and web applications, which should be taken into account.
From a user's perspective, the difference between websites and web applications lies in functionality. Websites provide information for viewing, reading, or listening, but users cannot manipulate it. In contrast, web applications not only make content available for viewing but also enable extensive interaction with the user.
Web applications are much more complex than websites. Websites are essentially sets of static pages, although modern development standards have made them more interactive. However, compared to web applications, websites are relatively straightforward to create. Web applications must not only provide services and work seamlessly but also handle data and offer users different levels of access. Moreover, the security requirements for web applications are more advanced than for websites.
Most traditional websites do not require mandatory registration; it's typically optional for accessing enhanced content. Web applications, on the other hand, almost always require user authentication since they provide services tailored to specific needs. Banking applications are a prime example. While online services may be similar for all account holders, each user's account contains their personal information, balance, payment data, and more.
Differences between web and mobile apps
Mobile applications differ from web applications and websites in several ways. They are downloaded through app stores such as Google Play or the App Store. If you have a special icon on your tablet or smartphone's home screen for launching an app, it's a mobile app. The only exception is Progressive Web Apps (PWAs). If you need to use a particular project's features through Chrome, Safari, or another preferred web browser, it's a web app.
Key advantages of web apps over mobile apps:
- Cross-platform compatibility: Web apps are accessible through standard web browsers on various devices and operating systems (Windows, Linux, or macOS).
- Installation and accessibility: Web apps do not require installation, making it easier for users to get started. Users only need to open the app in their web browser. This is particularly convenient for temporary use.
- Updates: Changes and updates are applied centrally and instantly to all users of web apps.
- Cost savings: Web apps are a more budget-friendly option for any company. They do not require subscription payments, licensing fees, and can be used as a Software as a Service (SaaS).
Types of web apps
Web apps can be classified based on their appearance and functions. Here are three common types:
- Multi-Page Application (MPA): This category includes projects that follow the traditional web application scheme. Instead of loading all information on a single page, MPAs provide various pages for different tasks. Every time a user clicks in the browser to perform an action, like viewing products, making a purchase, or reading reviews, the app loads and displays a new page from the server. Each page is a separate part of the project, which helps organize functionality and ensures ease of development and maintenance.
MPAs offer advantages in terms of search engine optimization (SEO) because each page can have its unique URL and metadata. This makes it easier for search engines to index and understand the content of your app.
Examples of MPAs include marketplaces, online stores, food delivery aggregators, and other resources where users perform various tasks and switch between different pages.
- Progressive Web App (PWA): A PWA "transforms" your project using special technologies, providing users with a mobile app-like experience. PWAs offer fast response times to user actions, work offline, send push notifications, and always use HTTPS for data security. Additionally, users can add a PWA icon to their smartphone, tablet, or PC's home screen, just like a traditional mobile app.
Examples of web applications
Today, web applications encompass various aspects of life, providing convenience, efficiency, and functionality. Let's explore several categories and provide examples in each of them:
- Social Networks: They have transformed the way we communicate and exchange information. Examples include Facebook, which has gathered millions of users, and Instagram, which focuses on visual content, allowing users to share photos and videos
- Email: It has become an integral part of both business communications and personal correspondence. Gmail, with its integration with other Google services, and Microsoft Outlook are examples of email applications
- Marketplaces: E-commerce has boomed thanks to online marketplaces. Amazon, with its vast range of products, and eBay, which enables users to buy and sell items worldwide, are applications that have taken online shopping to a new level.
- Cloud storage: Cloud file storage services are also web applications. Examples include Google Drive and Dropbox. They allow users to store and synchronize data across devices, ensuring accessibility and data security.
- Video platforms: YouTube is an application that allows users to upload, view, and share videos, becoming an integral part of online entertainment and education.
- Business apps: Asana and Trello provide tools for project and task management, facilitating communication and collaboration in the workplace.
- CRM/ERP: Any systems where users can manage their data, such as products, shipments, transactions, and more.
- Online booking platforms: Booking services where you can rent apartments, cars, reserve tables at restaurants, and more.
- Corporate portals: Systems for any business that may include chats, customer databases, order invoicing, accounting (reports, payroll), and more.
- Learning platforms: They help find tutors, courses, and materials for learning various subjects and skills. Examples include Prometheus, Coursera, and Udemy.
- Streaming platforms: They allow users to watch or listen to media content like movies, TV shows, music, and live broadcasts. Examples include Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Apple TV.
- Analytical platforms: Applications that help collect, analyze, and visualize data for decision-making. Examples include Google Analytics and Tableau.
- Medical and health-focused apps: Applications for health monitoring, medical record-keeping, consultations with doctors, and more.
- Gaming projects: Platforms for buying and downloading video games and interacting with other players. Examples include Steam and Epic Games Store.
- Cryptocurrency exchange platforms: Users can buy, sell, and exchange various cryptocurrencies. Examples include Coinbase and Binance.
- Virtual portfolio and freelancer search platforms: They provide an online space where professionals can showcase their portfolios, and clients can find specialists for tasks. Examples include Behance, Dribbble, and Upwork.
- Online music creation and editing platforms: Users can create music, record tracks, and collaborate on audio projects. Examples include Soundtrap and Audiotool.
- Entertainment and dating projects: Online services that allow users to communicate, meet new people, have fun, and establish new contacts. Examples include OnlyFans and Tinder.
The popularity of specific applications is often driven by usability, functionality, innovation, and their ability to solve specific tasks. The success of a website depends on a combination of unique features, user experience, and marketing strategy.
These examples demonstrate the breadth and diversity of applications that contribute to digital life and shape new ways of interaction
As you can see, at Asabix, we believe that web applications are much more complex than regular websites and offer more possibilities. We hope that you now have a clearer understanding of how web applications differ from websites and mobile apps, as well as how diverse and useful they can be.
Developing a web application requires deep knowledge, experience, and skills. Our company specializes in complex solutions and has real examples in its portfolio. If you need a reliable partner in the development field, we would be happy to assist you."