More than 12 years have passed since Steve Jobs first introduced the idea of web apps “which look and behave exactly like native applications.” In 2020, we can confidently state that web application development has reached its peak of popularity.
Actually, the most advanced model of web apps, known as a Progressive Web Application (PWA), is predicted to replace a great number of iOS apps and significantly improve mobile performance. In addition, a massive introduction of PWAs can increase production and maintenance savings by 33%. These are the main reasons why web app development is so trendy today.
Do you want to launch your own web application masterpiece? This guide will help you with all aspects of web app development, from the definition to the trends overview.
Namely, you’ll know:
Let’s dive in.
The concept of web apps may still sound confusing to the majority of users. So, what is a web application in simple terms?
The web app is a kind of application that can be accessed only through the web browser. It runs on remote servers only when connected to the internet. Thus, the web application is client-server software that allows users to interact with a web server (app content) via a browser.
The distinctive feature of web apps is dynamics. They contain pages with partially or completely unformed content. The final content is formed only after a site visitor requests a page from a web server. Due to the fact that the final content of the page depends on the request formed based on the actions of the visitor, such a page is called dynamic. Hence the main difference between web application and the regular website.
A site is primarily an informative static resource: a business card, a recipe site, a city portal or a wiki. It’s represented in the form of pre-prepared HTML files that are on a remote server and are passed to the browser upon request.
Sites contain various statics, which similarly to the HTML file are not generated on the fly. Most often these are pictures, CSS-files, JS-scripts, mp3, mov, csv, pdf and so on.
Blogs, business cards with a contact form, and landing pages with different effects can also be referred to sites, even though unlike completely static sites, they contain some business logic.
In turn, a web application is technically more complex software. As we mentioned earlier, it instantly generates the content of the HTML pages depending on the user’s request. Email clients (Gmail), social networks (Facebook), search engines, online stores, online business programs – these are all web applications.
When reading the definition of web apps above, you could assume that web apps and mobile apps are extremely similar types of software. However, there is a critical difference between them.
Mobile applications are designed for mobile devices and adapted to a certain platform (iOS, Android, cross-platform). Unlike web apps, you can use a mobile app without connection to the internet. You download it from the relevant app store which takes up space on your smartphone while the web app works in real-time in a browser using the CPU resources.
When it comes to web app development, naturally, one of your primary questions is what type of web app to choose. Basically, we can classify all web apps by three core categories, depending on the used stack of technology:
Server-side web apps (backend technology only)
The server-side web application runs on a remote computer, which can be located anywhere. You can code it in different programming languages: PHP, Python, Ruby, C # and others, according to your expertise.
If you create the app using only the server-side, then, as a result of any transitions between sections, form submissions, and data updates, the server will generate a new HTML file and the page in the browser will reload.
Client-side web apps (frontend technology only)
Single page application (SPA)
So here we come to the most exciting option. Single-page applications are built using both the backend and frontend technology. Thus, the SPA is a more complex software that provides server-side and client-side and works without any page reloads in the browser.
And now, let’s dig deeper into the topic of an actionable stack of technology used for web application development.
2020 is the end of the current decade. We’re on the verge of new discoveries and it’s high time to determine the technology that is slowly fading away, opening the way for the new web technology stack.
So, these are some of the web app development technologies that won’t be the best option for your next app in 2020 and years to come:
AJAX. As a progenitor of Web 2.0., AJAX has become a relic of the past. A more modern and simpler fetch API replaced the XMLHttpRequest API and JSON is used as an alternative to XML.
The list is surely longer and disputable, so we won’t focus on the out of fashion stuff. Instead, let’s define the technology that will allow you to build a fast, high-performance and advanced web application.
Today, the obvious leader among the databases used for web application development is MySQL. Its main advantage is simplicity and multifunctionality. Using it, you get the highest speed of executing SQL queries.
Other good options are Oracle and PostgreSQL. PostgreSQL is a free, open-source database management system focused mainly on UNIX-like systems.
And Oracle … just show us a programmer who hasn’t heard anything about it! It reigns in the market of powerful commercial, corporate databases and is actively expanding its influence on the global network.
For the development of a public part of web applications which the user interacts with, we should define some highly efficient frontend JS frameworks (of course, except for JS itself). Our favorites are:
The main pros of React are its simplicity and universality – “Learn once – use everywhere.” It’s free and open-source and supports virtual DOM functionality. A truly universal solution for the front-end part of your web app.
This world-famous front-end framework from Google is perfectly suited for dynamic web applications using HTML for static web pages.
Millions of developers and designers adore Angular.js due to these features: it’s open-source, allows to save code snippets for later use, provides fewer errors as data binding is based on Angular elements, supports various MVC elements, works well in an Agile environment, and offers lots of test tools.
A pretty young JS framework, designed from the ground up for greater applicability. It provides an accessible basic library and an ecosystem of supporting libraries, which are used to implement complex large single-page applications.
Its advantages are the absence of necessity to install any default compilers, a transformation from the library to the framework in process, the capability of managing advanced single-page applications, an excellent balance between readability, maintainability and writing of the code.
The strongest positions in the back-end development of web apps were taken by Python with the framework of Django, Java and Node.js, Ruby, and the increasingly popular Go. Each language and framework is appropriate when it meets the specifics of the assigned task.
A few words about the most actual back-end technology for web app development in 2020:
It’s a modern, simple, fast and non-blocking runtime environment designed to create lightweight and fast applications. GoDaddy and Paypal are just some of the giant services that were built on Node.js. This technology is ideal for apps dealing with Input/Output and streaming applications.
Other advantages of Node.js are the possibility to run software on multiple hosts and enabling of fast servers.
Python + Django
The times when the use of Python was limited to desktop applications have sunk into oblivion. Today, this programming language also covers web development backend. Most contemporary backend developers use Python as a replacement for PHP.
The reason for this choice is that Python is advanced, flexible, lightweight, and has a pretty low learning curve. Together with its framework, Django, Python is able to fulfill all backend web app development tasks.
Same as Python, Java is a multi-purpose programming language. It’s used in desktop development, Android development, and most importantly for us, in web app development.
Many people prefer newer technologies such as Node.js, but Java has been around for a long time, which proves its stability and security. If you want to delve deeper into the back-end development with Java, also check out the Spring framework.
Ruby can boast of an active community thanks to which it has excellent documentation and impressive open-source dependencies. In addition, coding in Ruby is simple.
Using Ruby on Rails, you can raise a RESTful API and launch CRUD resources in a matter of hours. Not just prototypes, but current APIs with security, unit and functional tests and databases.
Whereas, the choice of favorite web app development technology is a matter of taste and preferences, there are commonly recognized trends. A few words about them.
Do you want to hit the jackpot with your next web application? Think about introducing these hot, trendy solutions:
The virtual assistants have gained incredible popularity since 2017 and still don’t lose their relevance. They are mainly used to interact with customers or, for example, with employees. Both large companies and small organizations can afford bot implementation.
The main advantages of chatbots are their ability to cover different areas of life and instant responses. Companies use them for more productive work with clients or with the aim to deliver entertainment content and engage users.
So, how about developing a web app with an integrated chatbot, for example, for a bank, an insurance agency, an online store, a local restaurant or an IT firm?
Mobile-first optimization strategy
To get your web app to the top of Google SERPs, mobile optimization is vital. This will boost your traffic, convert more customers and increase the company’s income.
Google is currently prioritizing responsive sites. Choosing from a number of sites on similar subjects, mobile users will give preference to one that is adapted for their gadgets. Therefore, if you do not have an adaptive layout, you risk losing a lion’s portion of the mobile traffic.
The idea that the use of the intellectual potential of devices and their sensors is gaining momentum. Continuous interaction of technologies and applications will play a key role in web app development.
Today, not so many sites, smartphones and applications have IoT integration. Among them are Google Home and Uber. For example, you can call the car through the application and confirm the completion of the trip by voice commands upon arrival home.
As seen on the Statista infographic, by 2025, nearly 85 billion devices will be connected to the Internet. This has a huge impact on future web app development trends. So maybe it’s high time to benefit from this actively developing trend right now, before others?
Progressive web applications
We’ve already mentioned this term but didn’t explain the essence of progressive web applications (PWAs).
In fact, PWAs are a product of the joint evolution of mobile sites and native applications. Installation and opening of the mobile site and the functionality of the native app (push notifications, gps navigation, and other native functions) have become a single whole. You run it through a browser as a regular web application.
Why are PWAs so trendy?
The deal is, PWAs do not take up space on your device, they allow you to work with the service at any time, regardless of Internet access, and they provide an interface identical to optimized mobile applications.
Such an application can be developed several times cheaper and faster than native, which opens up many new opportunities for small companies.
Web application development is an extremely trendy direction that will only gain popularity in 2020 and the years to come. Companies and users appreciate web apps for their high performance, excellent interaction, and a wide range of functionality.
By empowering your next web application with some trendy features and solutions, you’ll also ensure that your product brings you a large base of users and clients, and stays popular for more than one year or even decade.
By the way, what’s your opinion and forecast on web app development? What’s your technology stack composed of and what trends do you think will dominate the web development market? We’re excited to see your comments!
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