If one was to recall the web application development history, then they can remember a time when the digital industry had one of its major big bangs. It was 2005 when Ajax made it possible to develop rapid and interactive web applications. Since that time, lots of things changed and so did the IT industry evolve with the birth of different branches of web applications.
Today, most of the famous brands like Coca-Cola, Facebook, Twitter, and other companies have a whole range of different web application types. And if each web app type has been created for a reason, then how many web app types are there? What are they mainly used for? And what are the major differences among each type? We tried to answer all of these questions below to provide both meaningful and valuable insight for you.
What are web-based applications?
A web-based application is an online application that a regular user interacts with via an installed browser. Whenever you visit any online website or a platform and perform any “actions'' on it, you’re using a web-based application or a web app. With the rise of the Internet and a global change in the digital world, lots, if not a majority of desktop applications have been replaced with online web applications.
And it’s not that surprising, since website applications are portable, accessible, and cost-effective in terms of development. No more junky space on your hard disk, no more expensive software packs, and no more annoying bugs. Each web application is stored on the server, provided by a third-party group. So all you have to do is access them directly from your browser with any kind of device you have and enjoy your time using them!
Advantages of Web-based applications
Another section worth looking at is the advantages of web applications. We have already mentioned a few of them in the last section. So here we want to expand them and demonstrate some others, we have yet to mention.
We’ve already mentioned this point, where users can get direct access to any web application from any kind of device they do have. Because most of the modern web applications are already adapted to different kinds of electronic devices. So as long as you have an active Internet connection on your electronic device, you can access any web application you want.
A web application can be accessed from practically any kind of device. Meaning that if you want to produce a mobile version of your web app, you don’t need to pay for the mobile app development costs. Since your solution will be already available for everyone (both the desktop and mobile versions).
Web-based applications do not need any upfront installations, so users can easily browse and utilize several web applications. More than that, modern web hosting servers can handle a high volume of incoming traffic without a sweat.
Desktop applications have a lot of data that is scattered among lots of databases. It might not seem like a big problem. Sure, each program has a database to store its information, what’s wrong with it? While this detail may seem unnecessary, the time required to collect the data from all sources may significantly impact the overall desktop application performance.
On the other hand, web applications mostly store all of their information on the cloud server. The server is powerful and is capable of handling incoming requests while responding in a matter of seconds. Additionally, the risk of data loss in data servers is far lower compared to individual hard disks.
All of the web-based applications are hosted on dedicated servers, which are constantly monitored and managed by web experts. Which makes the response rate towards any cyber attacks much faster, resulting in a stable web environment. It doesn’t certainly mean that all of the web apps are 100% secure. Yes, there are some security aspects that most web apps are still fighting against. However, if compared to desktop applications, they are much more secure.
If you are migrating from desktop apps to web-based applications, then your employees will be able to understand everything they need to know within several days. There is no need to install any software programs on their workstations. All you need to have is direct access to the Internet.
What is web application architecture?
The web application architecture demonstrates how different web applications, databases, and middleware are interacting with each other. It enables the concurrent operations of multiple applications. Web architecture plays a very significant part in the digital world since the majority of web apps communicate and interact through the Internet. Not only must a web application architecture be effective, but it must also be reliable, scalable, safe, and robust.
How does web application architecture work?
To understand how exactly the web application architecture works one needs to know how the browser works in terms of web app connectivity and request handling. To illustrate that, let’s take a look at how the user and the website server interact.
A user types the domain name of the desired website into the URL bar of his web browser and hits the “Enter” button. The browser in its turn cannot directly paste the web app’s page onto a user’s screen, as it needs to understand where the page is located or to be more precise what is the web app’s IP address. To solve this issue, the browser will send your request with the website name to the Domain Name Center (DNS), a repository of domain names and their IP addresses. If the user has previously visited the website, then it will pull the address from the cache. Otherwise, the request will be sent out to multiple nodes on the network to find the source of the domain name.
Web Server Response
The request will eventually reach the original web application server where it will be sent to the storage to locate the requested page and the data within it. During this process, the initial request will go through the Business Logic, which will determine how each piece of data is accessed for each given web page. Once this step has been completed, the server will send the request to the designated storage to get the requested data.
Data has been received
The response with the relevant data will jump back to the user’s workstation and he’ll get the desired result in the form of a website page. He’ll get the content, the graphical assets, and everything else that a common web application contains.
Web Application Types
Now that we’ve covered all of the core and important aspects of web applications, we can finally dive into the web application types. So here we want to classify all existing web app types, based on their functionalities.
Static Web Application
A Static Web application is the very first type of web apps that have come to exist on the Internet. Typically, it doesn’t have any kind of interaction between the user and the server, and it’s not a dynamic web app too. It is built with simple HTML and CSS to display only relevant content and data. In some cases, static web apps have various GIFs, videos, and even animated banners displayed to attract visitors.
When it comes to modifying the content or the web application code, it is very easy to manage. An example of a static web app would be a person’s portfolio website or a company’s website, presented as a business card.
Dynamic Web Application
A dynamic web application is an upgrade for a regular static one since they are more complex to build from the technical point of view. Their main goal is to directly interact with the client. They do have various interactive elements and methods to engage a client in the services/products the web app is offering.
Such web applications utilize databases to keep all private and public data that is being shown on the website. To manage the backend and frontend parts, these kinds of apps usually have an admin panel, where administrators can modify the content and add various interactive elements of the web app.
Lots of programming languages are used to develop a solid dynamic app. The most common ones are PHP and ASP.NET. An example of such an app could be practically any kind of web app, just like a typical Digital Agency website, where you need to leave your inquiry.
Online Shop / E-Commerce Web Application
If your web application is directly promoting the products or services towards your potential customers, then it can be called an online shop or an E-Commerce Web Application. Compared to the dynamic web application, this web app type requires much more features, as the customers have to perform certain actions to purchase your products/services.
Here are some of the basic features such a web app may include: electronic payment systems, a management panel for the administrator (mostly for listing new products, updating or deleting them, and managing orders/payments), and a personal cabinet for the user. A very simple example of such a web application would be Amazon.
CMS Web Apps
CMS or Content Management System is a web app type where its owner doesn't need any assistance from the technical team. As he can modify the content of the website by himself, without learning any programming languages, using only the admin panel or CMS of his website. Generally, there are lots of CMS variations with their specificity and design layouts. But in most cases whenever someone mentions a CMS web application, most of the developers will highlight these three ones:
- WordPress - by far, the most popular choice for most business owners who have decided to move their business online. There are lots of different plugins, themes, guidelines, and tutorials on how to make your website appealing and unique and you don’t need any additional technical support.
- Joomla - Another CMS web app on our list. This one is considered a user’s second popular choice after WordPress. It may not have lots of active users who have adapted this CMS to their businesses. However, it has a very warm community and intuitive outlay for an old, but progressive web application CMS.
- Drupal - Another free and open-source CMS web application. Drupal is very flexible for building your website. It is especially recommended for building large community portals.
Portal Web Application
A portal web application is a web platform that provides a specific type of user with a single access point to the relevant information. For example, a web app portal can be used to distribute employee training information or improve the way your users interact with the business they own. Some of the very common portal web application examples would be forums, emails, chats, search engines, etc.
Animated Web Applications
Animated web applications refer to the Flash Player technology, where the entire web app is presented as one complex web animation. It does offer a creative and modern design and back in the past, it was considered as one of the core technologies used by designers and creative directors.
However, developing animated web applications will not in any way influence your search engine optimization, nor will it gain any page ranking. Besides, the Flash Player technology has been discontinued in 2020, so these types of web applications are an old and forgotten tale as of today.
SPA Web Applications
SPA or Single-Page Applications is a dynamic web application type that does not need any browser reloads and acts as a single web app unit. SPA web applications are considerably faster and agile since all of the business and technical logic is executed in the browser, on the client’s side. The development process of SPA is relatively simple, while the deployment is fast.
Additionally, the process of handling the user’s request and response is rapid, as the communication is happening in asynchronous navigation. And any type of SPA web application can be restructured to meet the desired results. However, the main issue with SPAs is that it is not compatible with the SEO guidelines. As a result, they are hardly compatible with any E-Commerce platforms. On the other hand, SPAs can be great social networks, email providers, and online video/audio players.
Here are some of the online services that you may use before, but never knew that they were single-page applications:
PWA Web Applications
PWA is widely regarded as an improved version of single-page applications, as it accurately captures all SPA advantages in practice. The primary goal of PWA is not to introduce new rules, but to increase the speed and versatility of web applications in the face of poor internet connections. Some of the very notable examples of web applications that are written as PWAs are Forbes, OLX, Starbucks.
Multi-Page Web Applications
Multi-Page Web Applications (or MPAs) act very similarly to dynamic web applications. Whenever the data packages are being exchanged between the user and the server sides, a new page is demonstrated in the web browser. It takes time to request the data and respond with the right web page. So, it makes sense that this process may impact the overall user experience. With the introduction of AJAX, however, it was possible to render a particular component of the web app. But, this makes web app development more complex.
Multi-Page Web Applications have a much better chance of scoring a good SEO ranking., as they do include various keywords for each web page and they do follow SEO optimization practices. MPAs are well-known for their scalability, as they have no page limits and can provide a lot of information about company products or services. Nonetheless, they do need more time to be built (compared to SPAs) and they are more difficult to maintain. Marketplaces, catalogs, and business web applications are the most popular examples of MPA web apps.
Rich-Internet Web Applications
Just like the name of this web application type says, rich-internet web apps (or RIA) have lots of functionalities. RIA web apps are aware of browser limitations and rely on customer-side plugins (where Flash Player was one of them, but unfortunately has been discontinued since 2020).
This type of web app is created with resources that are both capable and visually appealing, with the interactive user interface and superior perception as compared to old desktop applications. Some of the RIA web applications are built with technologies that provide an option to use them offline.
As there is a whole list of different web application types with their advantages and disadvantages, at the root all of them remain websites. So, try to concentrate your attention on the security factor of your web app. Perform penetration testing sessions, fix your code, comply with regulations on cookies and strengthen the app’s security against any cybersecurity attacks.
Another thing to remember, to address your web application SEO correctly. Your web app is reflecting your business, which you want to be a major success. Thus, you need to update your web app SEO regularly, as Google and other search engine algorithms change constantly.
This was quite a long journey where we broke down various web application types utilized daily for different needs and purposes. Each one has its business advantages, like attracting more customers from the pool of your active users and gaining more monthly revenue. And technological advantages, like following the SEO guideline principles or asynchronous navigation.
Any web application can be accessed via any kind of electronic device that has a direct connection and access to the Internet. Thus, we can say that it is both an amazing and unique opportunity for an entrepreneur to gain new skills and improve his current business growth with the introduction of web applications in his company. We hope that this neat article will provide you with the knowledge of web apps types that can be developed and their major differences, advantages, and disadvantages.