Benefits of custom web apps
Custom web applications can host an array of useful features to website owners who utilize them, not to mention, they can offer value to the end-user. They can make using online services easier, can help in digital marketing efforts for marketers and businesses alike, and generally, make surfing on the internet a much smoother experience.
They have become a standard in the online realm affecting every online user.
That’s why we’re going to go into detail about the basics of custom web applications, covering their purposes, benefits, and possible drawbacks.
Defining web application
Before we define what makes a web application “custom” we must also describe web applications in general.
A web application is an app that you can access via your web browser on the world wide web. Is it a website, you may ask?
Well, the answer might be more subjective than you’d think, but most developers would agree that a site is generally just an informational platform while a web application provides functionality and thus, even value. To put it into better perspective, Wikipedia is a website providing info, while Facebook or other social media platforms are web apps since they also offer a large amount of functionality.
The “app”-part might be a bit misleading given that most people less tech-savvy would assume that all apps must be downloaded as mobile applications do. Web apps don’t have to be downloaded, rather they simply load in browsers and don’t take up storage space and memory on your device.
How web apps typically work?
- The user triggers a request over the internet (over the browser or the app’s user interface) to the web-server
- The server sends the request to the dedicated web application server
- The web app server performs the triggered request and generates the results of said request, may that be, for example, querying a database or processing data.
- The results with the requested information or data are sent back to the webserver.
- The web servers display the requested info through the web application to the client.
Best web application examples:
Word processors, shopping carts, online forms, video and photo editing platforms, file conversion, scanners, email programs (like Gmail), spreadsheets, online storage spaces are all web applications.
Google Apps are a fine example of what web applications are. With Drive, Sheets, Slides, Docs, Calendar, and others, they provide a high level of online functionality making it ideal not just for individuals but for entire teams to view, use and update documents and data simultaneously.
What are the benefits?
- They are compatible with multiple devices, OS, and platforms, as long as the browser itself supports the app
- Users access the same version so there are no issues regarding the compatibility
- No space limitations on devices since there’s no need to install them
- They reduce the likelihood of piracy in subscription-based web apps
- A lesser degree of support and maintenance means that costs are reduced for businesses
- Lower requirements for the end user’s desktop or other devices.
What makes a webb application custom then?
By now, you’ve probably guessed that a custom web application means a unique solution (app) built to meet the specific requirements of a business, organization or client.
This can range from small configurations and tweaks in WordPress to embedding a plugin to create an entirely new and unique scheduler application for a specific business.
Customized web applications can give a unique touch to a website and can greatly increase functionality and ultimately, offer value to the end-user while boosting traffic and conversion to the businesses who use them.
On the other hand, custom web applications can also cause potential harm to the online revenue of a company, if not configured properly and other criteria have not been fulfilled (more on this later).
The advantages of using custom web applications
In most cases, web design agencies can develop their client’s custom web applications that meet their specific requirements and can add value to the end user’s experience while providing an app to the client which is easy to maintain and needs little to no support.
However, depending on the request, developers can find themselves anywhere between adding a few tweaks to an already existing application or having to come up with a completely new design which requires strategical construction, with the utilization of relational databases and dynamic functionality in mind, all in a user-friendly package for optimal experience.
The main business advantages of custom web apps can be summed up in the following paragraphs.
In the business world, keeping site visitors and paying customers is the number one priority. A well-developed custom web application can help in this since it gives a chance for businesses to interact with their followers regularly. They can be developed to host numerous features, like sending and receiving emails. This enhanced communication link helps strengthen the bond between the business and the customer and gives the buyers a sense of special regard for them from the company’s side.
Ease of use
Ease of use, first and foremost to the business which runs the web application. Developers more or less focus on creating applications that perform most updates and data entries automatically, leaving the company with little to do on the tech end.
Effective and efficient
A well-designed app can reduce costs and improve operational efficiency. For example, filling out forms online can reduce printing costs, can save time and is simply more convenient. It’s also a great thing for buyers in online shops, where they can create and manage their accounts giving them a better insight of their purchases, balance and at the same time, give businesses a great opportunity to target these customers with new offers and discounts even more efficiently.
Good web apps make good ROI
One of the main advantages of using good custom web apps is the fact that it can help businesses generate revenue. To do this, the app must have relevant features and should be easy to use.
Based on the needs and the niche of the client, custom web applications need to be:
- Built on the newest tech and frameworks – In order to create a highly functional and cutting-edge custom web app, developers must be familiar with a great number of different technologies and frameworks, including MySQL, PHP, Zend Framework, CodeIgniter, NET & SQL. They should also be able to integrate custom apps with content management systems like Drupal, WordPress or ExpressionEngine.
- Making it user-friendly – When designing a custom (or any other, for that matter) web application, the end-user should be always taken into consideration. Why? Well, the app will have little to no practical use if the end-user isn’t happy with its navigation or functionality. That’s why custom apps should utilize custom interfaces that are designed carefully to gently blend aesthetics with usability and function, in a single package.
- Administrator-friendly – It’s not solely about the user. Developers should aim to design a great admin dashboard as well so their clients won’t have a hard time managing data and custom features.
- Good hosting options – While it’s not mandatory, cloud-hosted web apps can make for easy access whenever and wherever with the necessary permissions.
- Mobile-Friendliness – In today’s day and age, web applications should (or, better say, must) be responsive meaning that they can be easily accessed from all devices without any bugs or shortcomings. A good custom web application should load and function smoothly from a laptop, desktop, tablet, and mobile.
- Integrated solutions – Most of the time a custom web app isn’t a stand-alone, but an integrated feature in a larger platform like a website. If this is the case, developers need to focus on integrating the custom app into the given web presence seamlessly. Sometimes, it’s necessary to build an entirely new website around the web application. Integrating the app with APIs should also be standard as it allows for compatibility with other apps.
- Simple data management – Developers should focus on creating apps that make the managed data easily accessible, exportable and integrated. Also, being able to track its performance should be a mainstay feature.
- Secure with full support – Private network hosting, unique logins, permissions, and other features can also be added to improve security. A great web application also has ongoing support both for troubleshooting and future enhancements.
- Harmonized with the industry standards – Since custom web applications are purposefully developed, they need to fit the requirements of the industry standards of the industry they are built for. They need to serve the market and the brand they are made for.
Are there any drawbacks to custom web applications?
In the past few paragraphs, we’ve only been talking about the positives of creating and using custom web applications. Like everything else, this also has two sides to it. On one hand, they efficiently help businesses generate revenue, help create a stronger bond with customers and can improve operations, however, there are cases when the app just does not meet the requirements.
So, in which cases can the idea of a custom web application backfire?
Communication is everything. This applies to custom web applications too. More specifically, a good communication flow between the developer and the client. They need to be clear about every detail regarding the application.
This can mean two things: either the client isn’t really sure about the application they need or the developers have a hard time putting their finger on what the client wants from them. This is why communication should always be prioritized. If the client can give the developers a better idea of what they want from the app, the developer team will eventually figure out a solution. On the other hand, developers should listen carefully to what the client says to avoid failure.
No process documentation
Chances are, requirements will change during the development process and that’s entirely normal. That’s why documenting and sending every changed element for approval is of utter importance. This way, developers can signal minor changes in time and clients can adjust to these changes.
Scoping and micromanagement
When the client constantly wants to change something in the application, add or remove feature, wants improved security features and so on… Documenting everything can help a great deal with this issue, however, efficient communication right from the start can eradicate this problem.
A developer knows how to manipulate data, create websites, applications and so on. A business owner knows the trade of their industry, knows the market, staff, and customers. Both parties have a vision of what the application would look like however, they come from different places and thus, need to harmonize their expectations and goals so that they can find the smallest common denominator.
Developers must take their time and listen to their client’s needs and the clients must have a well-documented and structured goal plan. Otherwise, both sides end up with an unsatisfactory app and regrets.
How to avoid failure?
In order to do everything you can - from the developer’s side - to avoid disaster, professionals can use the following strategies:
Minimal Viable Product (MVP)
These products tend to maximize the information learned and dollar spent. In other words, it is a middle ground between a fully customized, pricey app and a generic, out of the box solution which presents a lower risk when it comes to effort and money and generally has a longer shelf-life and a better chance of customer acceptance.
Testing and troubleshooting
It’s utterly important to include beta testers before launching the web application to make sure that every feature is running according to plan. Also, feedback can ensure resolving any issues that were never even considered and can also help with changing requirements. Also, if there’s a chance for integration, create the app with that in mind to avoid future problems.
Keep finances in mind
- Most developers prioritize working smart over working hard. Precisely, some will consider buying an already existing product and build or tweak on top of it, especially when the costumer’s needs let them. Building something custom can cost a lot and can be never-ending.
- Developers will sometimes also rent from various “software as a service” (SaaS) hosted web platforms. This can give an excellent opportunity to learn about the software before creating your version of it. You can take a better look at advantages, drawbacks, and limitations before having to correct errors yourself.
- Be aware of the total cost of your product including shelf-life, updates, and support. Chances are, if you are developing something for the marketplace, your competition will come out with something similar but at a better price. If you are developing a closed app for your own company, in time, it will become outdated. Be reasonable with your pricing.
The technical side of custom web app development
In this segment, we’ll cover the concepts behind modern web application development, touching the best resources and programming languages to use.
A great number of developers use Kotlin as their main programming language to build web apps. It’s concise, has a friendly syntax, it’s clear and easy to learn. It also hosts a myriad of great features that make the development process a lot easier.
Apart from this, with the language, you can get to use Ktor a dedicated framework that lets you develop even easier with a light-weight library that can be extensible through a plugin mechanism. Ktor also provides DSL (Domain-Specific Languages).
Ktor is just one framework developers can use to create custom web apps. Others like Ruby on Rails, Django, Ember.js, Angular, Express and MeteorJS also enable developers to create complex and reliable apps with ease. Web application frameworks are great to help developers streamline the entire programming process and promote codes with the help of setting up libraries, documentation, app structure, and guidelines.
A web app typically needs 3 to 5 main technologies, like HTML, Ajax, Jquery, CSS, and Dojo Toolkit, most of the time.
JQuery is a tool that offers flexibility to developers and gives to app the required functionality. It’s easy to use and it handles cross-browser issues pretty well.
AJAX is a client-side script for communication from and to with servers and databases. What it does is the exchange of information and data with the server without reloading the entire pages of the web app.
Summing it up
Custom web applications don’t differ much from their “regular” counterparts, however, as you can see, there are certain differences that can make their development either relatively easy or incredibly difficult.
They can offer businesses a great way to engage and to reach out to their customers, enables them to simplify operations and to boost sales depending on their goals and audience. A closed company app can speed up internal operations and can give management a great tool to oversee said operations.
In the world of supply and demand, developers and businesses must work closely together to create an application that represents not only the business brand but gives the functionality and even added value to customers.