What a web application is, and how they assist your business.

Web applications or ‘web apps’ have become an essential component of conducting business in the modern age. Using a web app, a business can develop faster and achieve their key objectives whilst maintaining simplicity. These applications can be developed to support customers, or to meet a businesses demand by automating processes, assisting employees and reducing effort. Including a web app into your sales channel is a cost-effective method for communicating and exchanging information with your target market. Evidently they have become an ideal medium for capturing and storing all the necessary data from important day-to-day operations. With proper design considerations, information can be processed and presented in meaningful ways that enhance user experience, and improve management insight.

This article gives a breakdown of what a web app is, and why they are becoming an integral component for large and even small businesses to improve portability, scalability, accessibility and security.

What are Web Applications?

Put simply, a web application is a computer programme that allows you to perform tasks in order to submit or receive data to/from a database over the internet. It functions like a mobile app, because similar app-style gestures and navigations can be designed. A web-based app is basically any application that has an interface, or front-end, whilst performing tasks and recording information in a server called the back-end. Unlike traditional applications on a computer, web apps usually require a stable internet connection to function.

A simple example of this is Google Docs, a word processing application that operates on a web browser, in contrast to software installed on a computer like Microsoft Word.  If you use Google Docs, you will need an internet connection to use the app, and your data will be saved on cloud storage. Whereas Microsoft Word will store data on local memory and perform tasks using internal hardware.

How Does a Web Application Work?

This section is for the more curious individuals who are interested in understanding the technical aspects of a web app. Basically a web app is developed using coding languages such as HTML, CSS and Javascript. They rely on a web browser to render the program executable. Many web app’s are dynamic systems that require server-side processing, while others can be completely static requiring no server processing power. Typically a web app requires a web server to manage requests for the user, a server application to perform tasks, and a database to store information.

The basic flow for a web app looks like this:

  1. A user triggers a request through a web browser from the interface of an application.
  2. This trigger prompts the web server.
  3. The web server forwards the request to a web application server over the internet.
  4. A task is performed by the application by processing data or recalling information from a database.
  5. Results from the task are sent back to the web server from the application.
  6. The web server then responds to the user by displaying the requested information or data on their user-interface.

What Tasks Can a Web App Do?

From a user perspective web apps can:

  • Allow customers to easily order goods from online catalogues.
  • Educate, connect and empower your workforce.
  • Added website functionality that enhances experience.
  • Deliver news, articles and company information.
  • Display exclusive content for different individuals.
  • Provide task information for workers on site via mobile devices.
  • Allow workers to enter job details and sign off on site.
  • Offer online support and special features for customers.

From an administrative view web apps can:

  • Analyze campaigns of data for operations located in different regions.
  • Display reports of important information in a customised formats like graphical, spreadsheet and accounting.
  • Automate and record orders, budgets, delivery information etc.
  • Attract visitors and gain details of their demographics and interests.
  • Manage, edit and update content through a content management system.

Why Build a Custom Web App?

Portability | Accessible Anywhere

Web apps with a responsive user-interface, are super friendly for devices with varying screen sizes. The app can be accessed at anytime provided you have a WiFi or mobile internet connection. Clients, customers, staff and on the road employees can be connected instantaneously despite their location. If the app ever needs upgrading, every user will have access to the updated version with minimal downtime.

Integration | Interoperability

Using web apps you can achieve a greater level of interoperability with other important programs that you use within your business. For example, you can integrate internal systems, IoT enabled devices, third party systems such as CRM portals, accounting software, e-commerce & payment gateways. The ability to connect and utilize available internet technologies means a company can create a digital architecture that is adaptable and flexible to changing market conditions and demands.

Scalability | Easily Customisable

By gathering important user information, demographic and geographic information, a web app can retarget customers and gather insight as your business and customer base grows. Moreover, being able to use login credentials to differentiate users is incredibly powerful. Permission can be granted to users on tiered levels; customers, staff and management gain access to separate information via their login details.

When digital agency develops a web app, they customise the design to your specific business requirements. Typically ongoing development and technical support is provided using a SaaS (service as a software) model. Meaning if your business workload increases, and the web app requires updating or additional processing power to perform tasks, you simply contact your agency to upgrade the server hardware.

Productivity | Automation

Managing multiple versions of spreadsheets, scrambling through loose piles of paperwork is not only incredibly frustrating, but time consuming. The chance of losing important information due to human error is extremely high and can increase the time taken to complete tasks. By streamlining multiple sources of data, time consuming and labour intensive tasks can be incorporated into the functionality of a web app, improving efficiency and productivity. Moreover, collecting all your data into a centralised platform gives management greater insight and visibility into operations freeing staff time and reducing communication lead times.

Security

When a system is web-based, it is vital that your application is protected to prevent security invasion. Web-apps are typically deployed on dedicated servers which are monitored and maintained by expert server administrators. This avoids data breaches and malicious use of your company information. Thus, it is important to work with a digital agency that uses appropriate guidelines for cyber protection, and upholds security standards when developing a customised app.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Web Apps

Here’s a quick overview of the benefits:

Advantages Disadvantages
No installation required Speed is slower than mobile apps
Centralised data - secured and easy to backup Internet dependent
Easy to update and maintain Longer to develop than a website
Functions on low spec devices Security risks
Online training can be incorporated Additional development cost
Direct access to latest information Additional hosting, support and maintenance cost
Reduce business costs  
Automate business tasks  

Customer Support

Web apps can also be used as a business’s first contact for customer support. Many web apps have built in community support forums, submission forms or automated ChatBots which provide quicker customer resolution. Because these apps can be accessed anywhere, they provide assistance on demand for users intending to enquire or purchase your product or service.

Developing a Web Application for Your Business

If you are thinking about developing a web application for your business, you are already a step ahead of many established businesses. A good web application can effectively operate as a company’s website and its mobile app. With the world constantly innovating and enhancing through technology, it’s important to establish your own tool which separates your business from your competitors. From a developers perspective, web apps are the most economical way to create new processes that seperate yourself from competitors.

Competitive Advantage

If you currently don’t have an established digital presence, you can begin immediately by developing a responsive website that includes a web app. Many businesses are improving their digital presence by migrating to web-based technology. As discussed above, they are a mobile friendly approach to incorporating new technology and connecting stakeholders seamlessly. The innovative tools and integrations that can be incorporated into a web app is growing. More programs with open source API’s are developed and upgraded by third party companies that can be integrated into a web app, the limits are endless!

To illustrate how large companies are benefiting, Tinder accessed a completely new sales channel by developing a web-app for their customer base, cutting load times in half compared to its native mobile app. Users could access Tinder from a web browser and swipe directly, expanding their customer base outside mobile app users. Pinterest even developed a web app which reported 40% more time usage as a result of faster loading times compared to their previous website.

Business Identity and Branding

Larger businesses may be able to afford their own development teams for creating web apps in-house. But smaller businesses typically outsource work to web development companies that provide this specialized service, at a reduced cost. Obtaining specialized web development can help a business identify their key issues and navigate threats.

Web apps also play a crucial role in a companies unique branding process. The app can be designed as a specialized channel to communicate between customers and the company. More options are available when marketing or selling your services/product to a customer base. Customers can be retargeted based on the information they provide, increasing leads and engaging customers meaningful content related to their interests. Information can be displayed in signature way, affirming your business as the best platform for customers to utilize.

How to get started!

Talk with us, or enquire on our website to learn about how Encyte’s complete digital ecosystems can improve your business. Our engineers can help you identify aspects of your business that can be automated, simplified or enhanced through internet technology. Feel free to check out our past projects to see the quality of work we produce. We love catching up for coffee, and openly discuss solutions that align with your exact requirements.  


About the author

Paul Dykman

Business Development Director at Encyte

Recently, i’ve started creating articles on apps, the web and technology in general. I don’t claim to be an expert but i’m always learning! I reflect upon information and discussions i’ve had talking with businesses closely. Writing these blog posts is a great way for me to articulate what i’ve learned and highlight key questions and concerns I discuss commonly with clients personally.

If you happen to read the article, i’d love to know your feedback.

Technology when done right, is simply an extenstion of one’s self. Together we hold the key to unlocking limtless possibilities.