Google Docs, Trello, Netflix, Gmail, Twitter, Slack, G Suite, Microsoft Office 365 and it goes on – the list of web applications marking their presence around the globe is limitless. Web application development services have been getting popular since the 1990s wherein the first web apps were quite simplistic. With time and technology moving faster, the late 90s introduced complex and functionally challenging web apps. And then there was no looking back. Web apps are now an integral and important part of our daily lives and have also proven their mettle on the enterprise front.
How did the Concept of Web Applications Evolve Over Websites?
There was a time when websites ruled but websites were always informational and that is where the need was felt for an application on the web that can offer interactivity. Here was the advent of web applications that needed access to the Internet, had front-end, back-end but possessed interactivity. For e.g., if you visit a hotel’s web presence wherein you can have a look at their menu, rooms, operational hours, directions etc., it is a website but if you can book a room, pay online etc., it is a web application. As simple as this!
There had to be some strong reason why the web apps were a big hit then and now. Native apps had their share of popularity base but owing to certain reasons, users felt the need for a web revolution.
What are the Year wise Advancements in Web Apps?
It would be interesting to have a glimpse at the journey of web apps starting from the 1980s till today:
- 1980 – Introduction to Static HTML pages
- 1990 – Thin- client web applications
- 1996 – Macromedia Flash came into existence to brighten the web and make it more collaborative
- 1999 – The era of web apps in Java language started off
- 2000 – Introduction to Rich web apps and interactive web services
- 2005 – AJAX was introduced as a novel approach to web applications and was used by mostly all browsers
- 2010 – Single page applications, cloud services, updated versions of HTML, HTML5 and more…
And the web application arena never looked back!
What are the Technical Categories of Web Applications and Why the Need for the Next?
Imagine the extent to which web application development services has reached. There are categories within categories to understand the depth and coverage of web apps. This section attempts to give a brief overview of the broad spectrum of web apps. Based on the technology being used and the mechanism of building a web app, these app types focus on the technologies and frameworks involved.
Static Web Applications
Why did the Need Arise?
Even though the web had been introduced much before, there was a need felt for simply architected web applications that offer a light weighted solution. An OS independent platform was required which could interact seamlessly with the client and the server.
Based on fundamental blocks – HTML, URL, and HTTP, initial web pages were constructed to develop static formatted content and images available on the net. In the architectural flow, the client requested a web page via HTTP request and the web server provided the information as static HTML back. The client’s web browser read through the HTML tags and rendered the page.
- A Primary type of web app with an architecture of its own
- The name says it all – static meaning non-flexible
- Minimal interactivity and personalization available
- The server generates the pages
- Tough to maintain and has performance issues
- Apt for projects with brief information flow and less communication
Dynamic Web Applications
Why did the Need Arise?
The static web apps showed a lack of fundamental functionalities like session management, authorization, personalization, and dynamic content. There was a lack of good quality UI and the experience was limited to browser-based clients. The app content was also restricted to a single source. With an idea of interacting online, static web apps evolved into dynamic web apps in the 1990s.
The basic principle in this architecture is a server focussed one, wherein the web app server takes care of getting information, offering business logic and creating UI. The client would take care of rendering the UI and execute JS operations like validation, session management, and event processing.
- Web apps that handle web page structure
- User display to be dynamically decided based on application logic
- The logic implemented on the server/client side
- Each dynamic app has its own individualistic characteristic
- Based on logic, build dynamic content retrieved from relational databases.
Rich Internet Applications (RIA)
Why did the Need Arise?
The preliminary dynamic web apps couldn’t offer an enriched UI experience. There were certain computational, cross-browser compatibility and scalability issues that came up. These apps were limited to browser-based clients. With new web browsers entering the market, there was a need felt for a more responsive UI that would build dynamic pages, respond to user actions instantly without reloading from the server.
- Enhanced dynamic UI experience
- Originally depended on plugins like Flash, Silverlight etc.
- Business logic spread within the client and the server
- Service side MVC implementation via different languages
- Transforming into different types of web apps now
Single-Page Web Applications (SPA)
Why did the Need Arise?
With technology moving faster than ever, the new millennium saw trends moving from static to dynamic, server focussed to client independent, self-building to framework based. There were certain inconsistent features that were hindering the success of RIA. Also, complexity increased owing to UI generation both on the client as well as the server.
The best part of this is that the presentation layer and business logic is totally executed on the client end. Thanks to the introduction of API services, the client gets the information from the server using JS/AJAX. The server reciprocates the data through the different medium like JSON/XML. From there onwards, the data flows to models to views through templates.
- Highly responsive and scalable user experience
- Free interaction with a web app through a single page
- Limited to-and-fro to the server
- Supports manifold client types
- True to its name – fast communication on a unified basis
- Instantaneous responses in terms of data transfer
- Their agility benefits apps in social networking, email services, and audio/video players
- API facilitates integrating content from disparate sources
Multi-Page Web Applications (MPA)
Why did the Need Arise?
MPA work in the traditional manner. Each display or data transmission renders a new page from the server in the browser. These apps are larger than SPAs and have multiple UI levels. Because of latest technologies like AJAX, heavy data transfer between the server and the client is no big deal. Yes, it does add a high complexity factor but is perfect in terms of catering to multiple requirements.
- Leveled menu navigation
- Effective SEO management possible
- Utilization of a framework with total logic on the backend
- Client-server communication to-and-fro
- Mobile friendly, responsive and highly secure
- Considered apt for enterprise-level apps and web portals
- Facilitates instant changes barring a full page reload
Mobile Web Applications
Why did the Need Arise?
Today, mobile computing is becoming increasingly ubiquitous. Since the world was going mobile frenzy, there was no technology that could afford to be away from mobile devices. There was a need for web applications that would function on any mobile device just the same way it would in other devices. Of course, with ever-changing mobile devices, it was challenging but surely a must.
With the utilization of HTML and AJAX, mobile web app development also makes use of RIA technologies like Flash, Silverlight etc. Mobile web apps have almost equivalent usability to RIAs except that they are designed for small sized devices. These apps exist in your mobile device browser, are SEO friendly and doesn’t have to be installed on the device.
- Mobile-optimized page display and user engagement features
- Native-like functionality on a mobile device, anywhere, anytime
- Leverages the responsive framework
- Search engine friendly
- Feature-rich responsive website experience
- Can offer a hybrid experience along with native app features
Progressive Web Applications (PWA) – The Future of Enterprise Web Application Development
Why did the Need Arise?
Native apps offered good user experience but were limited to certain devices and were inflexible. Mobile websites were efficient and quick but had limited user experience. What was needed was a combination of both – the mobile and the web. And then came Progressive web apps. It associates the best fundamentals of mobile sites and native apps while diminishing their shortcomings.
- A confluence of two technologies – the mobile and the web
- A cutting-edge mantra of today with better data transfer
- Looks like a website and feels like an app
- Construction of a website using remarkably less time
- Utilization of the best both worlds – web & mobile
- Easy API maintenance with effective compatibility
- Simplistic deployment and maintenance
Functional Categories of Web Apps – An Overview
These categories of web apps operate based on the required workflow. It could be based on any of the technologies that support web apps.
These web apps are robust, dependable, flexible and competent to manage and monitor workflows of enterprises with varied sizes and segment. They contain web services for interoperability, B2B eCommerce solutions, being one of the perfect instances.
At places where group communication is a vital factor, these web apps are an ideal fit. Some instances like chat rooms, online mediums, and online learning websites are an ideal sample of such web apps.
Available anywhere, anytime as per the name, these web apps offer flexible services for any device. It is a little tough a task since it needs progressive skillset to manage dynamic needs.
A place on the Internet that offers its services to many features is a web portal. The requirement here is that all the features need to associate with users allowing them to operate on their own. Email contact, personal profile, published content, and financial businesses are few of the skilled web portal accomplishments. There are multiple kinds of web portals that are in demand – some that facilitate eCommerce, some that offer hospitals/patients to view their own information, some that provide employees their desired information and many such more.
Business Automation Web Solution
There are many enterprises that go in for automation of their day to day activities apart from the normal enterprise web applications. Web solutions for such business automation are quite profitable and effective. It also assures employees of faster, productive output and business owners of maximized RoI.
Be it B2B, B2C eCommerce is in demand all over. And hence eCommerce web apps steal the show with their profitable and significant results. Encompassing almost all industry segments under its purview, these web apps involve products, services, shopping carts, online payment options to list a few. These apps are a sure shot way to increase client retention and attract more visitors.
Relying on the latest semantic web techniques, these web apps are utilized to offer knowledge for humans as well as machines. Certain situations where these apps can be useful are web mining, knowledge reusability etc.
Being document-centric, these web apps are static HTML docs which reside on the web server. They are sent to the client depending upon demand. There is a manual intervention in terms of updating these apps. These apps are simplistic, steady and static.
As the name suggests, these apps comprise interaction through different media like radio buttons, forms, menu options and more. Fast by nature, these web apps, and related links respond based on user requests.
A step further to Interactive, these apps possess the feature of modification by the end-user. They have a close coordination with the database for stable and effective data extraction. Structured queries help garner desired information with ease.
Classification of Web App Development Domains
To understand the different types of web applications and their categories, it is imperative to know the domains that could be involved:
|Informational||Related to information and awareness media like newspapers, catalogs etc.|
|Communicating||Involves user interaction during different access medium like games, registration etc.|
|Transactional||For online shopping, banking services and placing orders|
|Workflow||Inventory management, status monitoring, planning & scheduling|
|Online Marketplaces||Chat assemblages, marketplaces|
|Portals for malls||Shop through electronic malls|
|Web services||For enterprise business apps|
A Quick Look at Parameters that Help Choose the Apt Web Application Type
With multiple types of web applications floating around, it becomes a tough choice on what to choose and how. It is vital to understand, analyze and study the perspective of all three stakeholders – the users, developers, and the business owners.
|Business Owner’s Perspective|
A Few Good Reads
In a Nutshell
If we try to sum it up, these were just a glance at what all classifications of web apps float around the globe. It would be interesting to delve deeper into each one of them, which is the next target. Going online is nothing new, but leveraging web apps to collect data, listen to the ongoings and integrating the powers of social media is hot. Approaches defined by modern-day techniques when successfully availed through a variety of web apps make a huge difference for a business. Enterprise web application development today caters to intuitive ways to make the most of this approach to software design and development.
Looking at the future of web applications, PWA is a happy medium bringing out the best between web pages and native mobile apps, garnering an augmented user experience. There is a lot to look for since all these categories of web apps have so much in common as well as have an individualistic identity of their own. Comparison between them is bound to happen. It surely would be interesting to analyze each one of them and relate it to other types.