An In-Depth Guide to Web App Development

by | June 17, 2023

There are 5.16 billion Internet users in the world, and most of them use online apps on a daily basis. That’s because apps are flexible, convenient, and provide a great user experience.

So, even if you have a website already you can easily add a supplementary web app to it. This will allow you to capture an even wider audience.

But why would you go for a web app in the first place?

Web apps are application programs stored on remote servers and delivered through web browsers. They’re great web-based solutions as they provide different interactive elements and more functionalities than regular websites.

Let’s explore all basics of web app development, including the different types, technologies used, a step-by-step breakdown of the whole process, and other FAQs.

What Is Web App Development?

Web application development is the process of creating apps that reside on remote servers and can be accessed through any web browser.

The development process typically involves identifying the problem, selecting a suitable tech stack, building and testing the app, and deploying it (more on these later).

Web apps have a few perks to mobile apps:
  • They do not need to be downloaded.
  • They do not need users to update them (web app updates happen automatically).
  • As they’re accessed via web browsers, you do not need to develop separate native mobile apps (these usually come with a ton of additional requirements and specifications, making the programming much more hectic and long).

All this can save you lots of time and money, making web apps a more lucrative option than mobile apps.game.

Web Applications vs. Websites vs. Desktop Applications

Here’s a breakdown of the key differences between web apps, websites, and desktop apps:

 

1.Web Apps

Web applications are interactive and efficient. They allow businesses to:

  • Sell their products and services
  • Adapt to the ever-changing market trends
  • Reflect consumer preferences
  • Share company information with ease

Web apps are commonly built using the programming languages JavaScript, Python, CSS, TypeScript, HTML, and C#.

2. Websites

While websites are also accessed via web browsers, they differ from web apps since they:

  • Consist of dynamic or static web pages that contain text, images, videos, and links
  • Do not offer the same level of interaction as web apps
  • Are more passive, as their main purpose is to establish the company’s digital presence

Websites are commonly built using the programming languages HTML, C++, PaHP, SQL, and JavaScript.

3. Desktop Apps

Desktop apps are native programs, meaning they:

  • Need to be installed on the user’s device
  • Do not rely on web browsers so they can function offline
  • Are built for a specific operating system (MacOS, Windows, etc.)
  • Can leverage the full capabilities of the given operating system, optimizing their functionalities and performance

Desktop apps are commonly built using the programming languages Java, JavaScript, C#, Kotlin, and Python.

Common Types of Web Applications and Examples

The main types of web applications are:

 

Type Definition Examples
Static web application Static web apps are composed of pre-built files stored on a web server. They have a simple structure and do not offer much flexibility. Publii, Forestry, Siteleaf
Dynamic web application Dynamic web apps deliver live data upon request of the user. Facebook, Netflix, Twitter
E-Commerce web application These are mainly apps that promote your products and services directly and allow users to buy, pay, leave a review, view their history of orders, and more. AliExpress, Alibaba, Walmart
Single-page web application This dynamic web application functions as a single unit in the web browser and does not need browser reloads. Gmail, Google Maps, PayPal
Multi-page web application These apps have multiple pages and require loading all pages whenever a user clicks on a link. eBay, Amazon, Target
Portal web application Web portals are web-based solutions that bring information from different sources into a single user interface. Grants.gov, Stanford University Student and Faculty Portal, Carrefour Financial Customer Self-Service Portal
Progressive web application Progressive web apps have mobile app-like features and are also called cross-platform apps. Pinterest, Starbucks, Spotify
CMS web application CMS web application development involves building apps that allow users to manage, create, and modify content without requiring them to have any technical knowledge. WordPress, Wix, Microsoft SharePoint
Rich Internet web application These have desktop app-like features and use plugins to eliminate any web browser restrictions. Adobe Flash, YouTube, Google Gears
Animated web application Animation apps allow you to display content along with some animation effects. Lottie, Anime.js, GreenSock Animation Platform

Understanding Web Application Technologies

Web apps development involves using client-side and server-side programming.

Here is a detailed breakdown of the best programming languages and frameworks for each:

Client-side Technologies

Client-side (or front-end) development involves using technologies that contribute to the web app’s look and feel.

The main programming languages used for this are:

  • HTML: Hypertext markup language is relatively easy to learn and widely used in enterprise web application development. The language is supported by all browsers and is often used with CSS to create more sophisticated websites.
  • CSS: Cascading Style Sheets is a programming language that defines how elements will appear on the web app. This helps designers refine how HTML-based web solutions will look, allowing them to customize a wide range of elements like colors, fonts, and spacing.
  • JavaScript: This programming language is mainly used to add dynamic elements to various web applications. This enables programmers to create more complex features like interactive maps, 3D graphics, and form validation.

The most popular front-end frameworks used are:

  • React: React is a front-end library that uses JavaScript. The framework was developed by Meta and is used for building user interfaces with readily available components.
  • Vue: This is another JavaScript-based library, but it’s simpler and easier to learn than React. The library is used to program user interface and single-page applications, and it can also be used to build on top of HTML attributes in more complex projects.
  • Angular JS: This JavaScript-based framework was developed by Google. Angular simplifies the building of dynamic web apps as it easily extends the syntax of HTML.

 

Server-side Technologies

The server side involves all back-end development activities, including databases, APIs (which are vital for cybersecurity), and architecture.

The most widely used back-end programming languages are:

  • Python: This versatile back-end language is used across a wide range of industries and projects of all sizes. That’s because Python offers flexibility and allows developers to express concepts in fewer lines of code.
  • Ruby: Known for its simplicity, Ruby is one of the most popular back-end programming languages. Ruby is also quite flexible and offers a wide range of frameworks, including Ruby on Rails.
  • PHP: Hypertext Preprocessor is an open-source scripting language that can directly be embedded in the HTML code. It’s mostly used in dynamic web app development as it handles form data and other server-side tasks.
  • js: This is an open-source, cross-platform JavaScript runtime environment and library used for running web apps outside of the client’s browser. Node.js is mostly used for the server-side development of data-intensive web apps.
  • Golang: This is an open-source, statically typed, compiled language developed by Google. It’s known for its efficiency, readability, and simplicity, which is why it’s used in building a wide range of web applications.

The most widely used frameworks are:

  • Rails: This server-side framework is written in Ruby and provides structures for database-backed web apps. It’s perfect for building web applications quickly as it uses metaprogramming, where a computer program can treat other programs as their data.
  • Laravel: This free, open-source PHP framework uses Model-View-Controller (MVC) design pattern, which means the back-end architecture is divided into logical pieces. This makes it a great choice for programmers who want to build modern and advanced PHP-based web applications.
  • Django: The Django Python-based web framework has a clean design and offers quick web app development. That’s possible as the framework takes care of all the complex elements, comes with ready-to-use features, and emphasizes the reusability of components.  

 

Database Technologies

Databases store, manage, and retrieve user data and application settings. They also handle tasks like content management, user authentication, and complex queries, enabling efficient data storage and retrieval for a seamless user experience.

The most common databases used for web applications are:

  • MySQL: As an open-source relational database management system, MySQL is used for storing and managing data. It can store large pools of structured data and supports applications of all types and sizes.
  • PostgreSQL: This open-source object-relational database system is compliant with the SQL standards. The system augments the SQL language and supports key functionalities like user-defined functions, foreign keys, subqueries, and triggers.
  • MongoDB: This is a cross-platform NoSQL database program. MongoDB is designed to handle large amounts of data as it uses more advanced documents and collections instead of traditional tables and rows.
  • Redis: This is a versatile and fast open-source in-memory database. Redis (which stands for remote dictionary server) is known for its incredible speed and is mainly used to process requests in real-time applications.
  • Cloud-based databases: Such databases are hosted in the cloud, meaning users from remote locations can access them at any point. A few widely used cloud-based databases are Google Cloud Spanner, Oracle, Amazon Web Services, and Microsoft Azure Cosmos DB.

 

Developing Web Applications: A Step-by-Step Process

From idea generation to deployment, the web app development process includes a few stages. Let’s dive in and explore how to develop a web app in seven steps.    

Idea Generation and Validation

The first step is to identify the problem your web app will solve and validate its viability. At this stage, you will be able to define:

  • The vision behind the app
  • Who is your target audience is
  • Who are your main competitors are
  • What functions and core features will it have

To identify all these components, you can conduct in-depth market research.

Planning and Design

The planning stage defines the scope of the whole web app development process. Here are a few key steps:

  • Defining the project scope and requirements: This step lays the foundations of the project as it involves setting the project requirements and goals. Here, you can involve the stakeholders to understand their needs and expectations. You should also identify key features, user roles, and constraints.
  • Creating wireframes and mockups: Visualizing the application’s layout and functionality before development is an essential step of the planning and designing process. Creating wireframes and mockups can help you get early design feedback and align with stakeholder expectations before the actual development kicks off. To develop the wireframes, you can use Figma, Sketch, or Adobe XD.
  • Designing the database schema: This involves creating the structure of the application’s data storage and retrieval. Here you can define the relationships and attributes of each entity. To help you visualize these relationships, you can use entity-relationship diagrams (available in tools like Lucidchart and draw.io).
  • Planning the application architecture: Here, the designer has to select an appropriate architectural pattern. Different patterns (e.g., Model-View-Controller, microservices, or serverless) offer different scalability, maintainability, and extensibility.

 

Setting Up the Development Environment

This step ensures smooth and efficient workflows during the development process.

  • Installing required software: Install all needed web application development software. For example, you have to install code editors (Visual Studio Code, Sublime Text, or Atom) and a web server (like Apache or Nginx) and ensure you have an appropriate runtime system for your programming language.
  • Setting up a local development server: Configuring a local development server is needed to test the application during development. This way, you can preview the application locally before deployment. Some useful tools that can help you set up the local server are XAMPP, WAMP, and Docker.
  • Configuring version control: Version control is important for tracking changes and collaborating with others. You can set up a version control system like Git to manage all code revisions and ensure flawless teamwork.

 

Front-end Development

Front-end development focuses on building the user-facing elements of the application. Here are the key steps:

  • Structuring the project directory: A good project file organization is essential for the easy maintenance of your codebase directory. This helps coders to easily collaborate and navigate through the project.
  • Writing HTML templates: HTML defines the structure of your web app. That’s why a well-structured and semantically correct HTML template is necessary. The general HTML structure contains DOCTYPE Declaration, HTML element, Head section, Body section, Tags and Attributes. Some common HTML elements include headings, paragraphs, image elements, and lists.
  • Styling with CSS and frameworks: CSS defines the visual appearance of the web application. You can apply CSS styles directly to HTML elements or through internal and external CSS sheets. However, when it comes to bigger projects, it’s more convenient to use readily available CSS frameworks like Bootstrap and Tailwind CSS to streamline the whole styling process.
  • Enhancing interactivity with JavaScript and libraries: JavaScript helps developers add interactivity and functionality to web applications. JavaScript-based libraries like React or Vue.js are used to handle UI interactions and build reusable components.
  • Optimization: Optimizing the web app is crucial for its smooth performance. The process includes optimizing file and image sizes, reducing HTTP requests, and applying code minification and caching. This helps improve page load times and overall user experience.
  • Testing and debugging: Thorough testing of the app and using different debugging tools help developers identify and fix app issues and bugs. This step ensures the app’s functionality and responsiveness. Testing the web app on different browsers and devices also guarantees cross-browser compatibility.
  • Integration: Here, the developers integrate the front end with the back end of the web app. This allows data exchange and communication between the two. The integration happens by connecting the APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) to retrieve and send data as needed. Implementing data validation and security measures at this stage also ensures the safety of user information.

 

Back-end Development

All back-end development activities ensure the web app performs well and involve creating libraries, writing APIs, and data modeling.

  • Choosing a back-end programming language and framework: Consider some of the most popular back-end programming languages (such as Python, PHP, and Ruby). For each option, analyze the language features and how they fit your project requirements.
  • Creating the server-side logic: Server-side functionality involves implementing routes, handling HTTP requests, and generating responses using the chosen back-end technology. It also entails using language-specific frameworks and libraries to streamline development and ensure code efficiency.
  • Implementing user authentication and authorization: Implementing user authentication and authorization mechanisms ensures the app’s security. To implement them easily, you can use different authentication frameworks and libraries.
  • Integrating with databases: At this stage, the back-end application is connected to a database. Here you need to design the database schema and perform other queries to perform CRUD (Create, Read, Update, Delete) operations. You should utilize Object-Relational Mapping (ORM) frameworks or database libraries to simplify database integration and data manipulation.
  • Handling server-side validation and data processing: This involves validating user input. Sanitizing data prevents common vulnerabilities while implementing business logic on the server side allows data manipulation as needed.

 

Testing and Debugging

Testing is a crucial step as it ensures the app is error-free. Here are the main steps in the test and debugging process:

  • Writing unit tests and integration tests: At this stage, the programmer verifies the app’s functionality by using various unit and integration tests. This tests the different app components, modules, and interactions, ensuring they work well together. Some common frameworks that automate the testing process include PHPUnit, Selenium, and Jest.
  • Using debugging tools and techniques: Debugging is used to detect and fix any issues in the code. Some commonly used tools used to detect bugs in the variables and code execution are Chrome DevTools and Xdebug.
  • Conducting user testing and gathering feedback: Once the major code bugs are resolved, it’s time for user testing. Here, you can identify whether the solution provides all necessary functions in a convenient way. Once users test your app, it’s important to collect their feedback. You can use surveys, interviews, or other feedback tools. This ensures the app meets the user’s needs in an efficient and effective way.

 

Deployment and Maintenance

Finally, the web application is ready for deployment. But once deployed, you will also need to think about the maintenance and support you will need throughout the app’s lifecycle.

  • Choosing a hosting platform: When selecting a hosting platform, consider the platform’s features (scalability, reliability, pricing, and support) and whether they fit your app’s requirements. Some popular hosting platforms include AWS, Azure, and Heroku.
  • Configuring the production environment: This involves configuring the web and application servers, security measures, databases, and caching systems.
  • Ensuring security and performance optimization: This ensures the application is protected from common vulnerabilities. You can set secure communication and authentication mechanisms and apply input validation.
  • Monitoring and maintaining the application: Setting up monitoring and maintenance processes in place ensures the app has optimal performance at all times, providing a smooth user experience. You should also regularly update frameworks, apply security patches, and perform regular maintenance tasks to keep the application up to date.

 

Web App Development Best Practices and Tips

Established and reliable web app development companies follow the best practices and stay up to date with the latest technologies.

Here are some essentials when it comes to the best practices in the web app development industry:

Writing clean and maintainable code:

This is essential for the long-term success of the web app. Ensure the developers write clean code, use proper code structure, and create consistent naming conventions.

Following coding standards and conventions:

Adhering to coding standards and industry best practices is crucial for creating a top-notch web app that’s 100% compliant. Some commonly used coding style guides are Google’s Style Guides, JavaScript Standard Style, and GitHub’s Ruby Style Guide.

Using version control effectively:

Version control involves tracking and managing changes to the source code. Efficient version control includes implementing branching strategies (such as feature branches and release branches), resolving conflicts efficiently,  and maintaining good collaboration with tools like Git.

Regularly updating dependencies and libraries:

You should regularly update and review the libraries used in your project. Ensure to shield against potential security vulnerabilities. Keeping dependencies up to date is also essential to leverage security patches, bug fixes, and new features.

Documenting the code and project:

Documenting the codebase and project is essential for  onboarding  new members, implementing new updates, and improving maintenance. Encourage the creation of inline code comments, API documentation with OpenAPI or other tools, and project-level documentation that covers all project milestones.

How to Choose a Reliable Web Application Development Company?

If you want to ace your web application from the start, you should make the right choice when selecting your service provider. But with so many companies available, how do you select the perfect fit for you?

A few pointers to keep in mind are:

Experience:

Select companies that have substantial experience in web-based application development. Examine their portfolio and case studies and identify whether they have a proven track record of projects similar to yours. If they do, chances are they can bring valuable insights and some of the best practices in the industry to your project as well.

Technical expertise:

Reliable companies usually stay up to date with all the latest technology updates and best practices. Check what technologies the company specializes in and whether they have expertise in the programming languages and frameworks required for your project.

Project management style:

Some of the best web app development companies use efficient project management models like Agile and Scrum. This ensures consistent collaboration and flexibility throughout the project lifecycle. Whatever the project management style, ensure the company has a well-structured and efficient process in place.

Collaboration:

A good web application development company will actively involve you in the process and keep consistent and transparent communication throughout each stage of the project. They will also aim to understand and satisfy all your requirements and goals.

Client references:

Request client references or find readily available client reviews. This will give you an idea of what to expect in terms of performance and client satisfaction.

Ongoing support and maintenance:

Understand what maintenance and support the company can offer post-deployment. Reputable companies usually offer timely bug fixes, ongoing support, and regular updates.

Pricing:

Different companies charge different rates and use various pricing models. Request an estimate for your project from a few different companies and choose the one that offers transparent pricing and a good price-quality ratio.

Our Web App Development Expertise

At Scopic, we have 15+ years of experience in web app development for companies from different industries.

Here are a few highlights from our web app development portfolio:

Mediphany:

The Mediphany web platform creates detailed MRI and CT video reports. With the help of advanced 3D models and comparison, the reports allow patients to understand the otherwise complicated medical imaging examination results.

MD Ally:

The MD Ally web app provides telehealth support to non-critical patients who call 911. The app can track vital patient information and has advanced features like IVR system, SMS notifications, and easy video and audio calls.

Abby Connect:

Scopic helped in the creation of Abby Connect – a web portal that aids seamless customer success management. All information can be accessed from a single dashboard while customer support receptionists can get instant feedback and updates.

ECS Clinical:

The ECS Clinical chat application provides secure and fast cloud-based communication between clinical professionals. Besides being HIPAA compliant, the app also has end-to-end encryption, smartphone compatibility, and group collaboration features.

Web App Development FAQs

Here are the answers to some commonly asked questions about web app development:

How can we ensure cross-browser compatibility?

Cross-browser compatibility is crucial for the web app to work smoothly across different web browsers.

To ensure compatibility of the app with all browsers, make sure to:

What is the best approach for handling user authentication and security?

The best practices to follow when it comes to user authentication and security are:

  • Utilizing HTTPS
  • Using strong passwords
  • Employing multi-factor authentication\\\\Following industry standards for handling sensitive user data

What is responsive design, and why is it important?

Responsive design allows the web app to display on different devices no matter the screen size, as the design itself is adaptable. Responsive design works by implementing flexible grids and layouts that adjust all design elements based on the device screen size.

Responsive design is a must-have if you want your app to reach a wider audience.  

What is the recommended development process or methodology?

What development process style you choose depends on your preferences, project scope, and team dynamics.  Some popular development methodologies include Scrum, Agile, and Waterfall.

The most widely used model is Agile, as it has higher flexibility, allows for more iterations, and constant collaboration.

What are the best practices for testing of web apps?

Testing allows you to check if your web app works properly before deployment. This is a crucial step that ensures the solution is seamless and error-free.  A few key points to include in your testing process are:

  • Creating a clear, comprehensive testing strategy
  • Testing if all integrations and functions work well
  • Defining the parameters for usability testing
  • Performing cross-browser compatibility tests
  • Conducting extensive security testing

You should also ensure to test the web app on a regular basis. This way, if an issue arises along the way, you can eliminate it promptly and efficiently.

What are the best practices for automation testing of web apps?

Automation testing is performed with the help of different automated testing tools. To ensure the automation testing runs smoothly, you should choose the right testing frameworks and software.

Also, a few other pointers to follow are:

  • Make sure the test covers multiple scenarios
  • Write a reusable, structured scripts based on actual requirements
  • Execute the GUI (graphical user interface) testing and API testing
  • Analyze the report generated by the automation testing tool

How can we ensure the web app is accessible to all users?

One of the main web standards is ensuring your web app is accessible to all users, including those with disabilities. One such standard practice is the WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines). A few of the WCAG guidelines include:

  • Ensure all images have alt text
  • Ensure correct color contrast
  • Use semantic HTML markup
  • Offer keyboard navigation support

Conclusion

Developing a web application is a complex process. It requires the expertise of highly skilled developers who know all the ins and outs of the process and the best practices in the industry.

If you’re searching for a reliable web app development service provider, check out Scopic’s website. We can build your custom web app from scratch with all the functionalities and features you need.

About Creating Web Development Trends Article

This article was authored by Vesselina Lezginov, and reviewed by Nhat Bui, Technical Lead at Scopic. 

Scopic provides quality and informative content, powered by our deep-rooted expertise in software development. Our team of content writers and experts have great knowledge in the latest software technologies, allowing them to break down even the most complex topics in the field. They also know how to tackle topics from a wide range of industries, capture their essence, and deliver valuable content across all digital platforms.
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