By now, adages about the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic are getting more and more familiar. In-person work has become out of the question in most cases, and people across all age, wealth and national demographics rely on the internet and their mobile devices for basic services such as food, transportation, news, and even employment. As a majority of commerce and entertainment continues to migrate online, global users are making use of web applications at even greater rates than they did during the highly-digitized 2010’s.
Regardless of trends, though, the question remains: why does this shift towards web application use matter to businesses looking to bounce back in today’s economy. A review of the relevant data and cause-and-effect logic may help elucidate the necessity for a well-performing web application. With a web application, users can quickly access your services and database from anywhere, regardless of the device he or she is using, by using the browser app on his or her phone. Having more web apps in the current economy means users can be more independent, relying less on downloaded apps and software to reach services like e-commerce sites or online news.
Web Apps During the Pandemic
Without even looking at the figures, you may deduce that use of mobile phones has increased during the pandemic, due to fewer opportunities for in-person activity and communication. Not only can people pursue fewer activities in public or outside the safety of their homes, but also users can meet many of their emotional needs, such as those for communication or lighthearted entertainment, on mobile phones and web applications.
A study from a well-regarded news outlet indicates that once the pandemic hit, the use of web applications exploded. Just a few weeks after the onset of lockdown, traffic on Facebook’s web app increased by 27.0%, traffic on Netflix’s web app increased by 16.0%, and traffic on YouTube’s web app increased by 15.3%. People are spending more time than ever on their phones, and in particular, visiting web apps at ballooning rates.
This trend follows in the sense that web apps are readily accessible from anywhere. You do not need to purchase or download any special app or software in order to access a web app. Moreover, the top web apps get updated with new content every day, often multiple times a day. A web app is frankly the quickest way to get information while away from a television or laptop (you could also download a mobile app and receive push notifications, but that is a separate topic for another day).
What is a Web App?
Before we start, be aware that jargon and technical terms can get tricky with regards to web apps, because involved in the process of a web app are web servers and web browsers. Both servers and browsers are different from each other and different from the web app itself, but all three interact with each other.
If you get confused, you may use a silly, relatable analogy to help you remember – let’s say you want to get ice cream from a local fresh creamery. A web app is the ice cream shop, a web browser is your ride to the ice cream shop, and a web server makes the ice cream possible by producing the ice cream (the web app in this analogy) and serving it to the shop.
In the dryest of terms, a web application is an application software connected to a web server, accessible to a user through basic web browsers on his or her mobile device. The databases for web apps require a web server, which a web browser can access remotely. A web browser is simply a software app that allows a user to browse the internet. Examples of web browsers include (the commonly used) Safari, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, and if you want a throwback, Internet Explorer.
Web browsers exist almost omnipresently, available as a basic feature on a wide array of devices such as laptops, desktops, smartphones, and tablets. Though accessible through web browsers, web applications actually exist outside of the software you download for your phone or laptop. You don’t download a web app to your phone the way you download a mobile app. But you do access a web app using browser apps such as Safari.
Responsive Web Apps and Progressive Web Apps
Under the umbrella of web apps are the common terms Responsive Web Applications and Progressive Web Applications. Though deeply similar, they are slightly different from normal web apps.
A responsive web app is a web app that a developer designs for use on any interface, no matter how low-tech it is. If you are using an iPhone from 2008, a responsive app can try to adapt to the old model and render itself as efficiently as it can give a limited bandwidth
Progressive web apps are normal web apps that integrate higher-tech software into the web app interface to mimic the luxury features of a mobile app. Pinterest is an example of a service with a progressive web app, and if you compare the web and mobile apps side-by-side, you may notice minimal differences.
How Developers Create Web Applications
A web app works by retrieving information from a remote, internet-accessible database. This information could be in the form of images, text, video, et cetera, depending on the services provided by the particular web app. A gaming app may need to retrieve data about the next level of the game, whereas a stock market app may need to get live updates on the Dow Jones or S&P 500. A web application has the flexibility of only needing one basic app, the web browser on your phone or tablet, in order to function.
In most cases, there are two sides to a web application: the client-facing front end, and the server-facing back end. A developer must code the front end in a common, browser-supported language such as HTML or Java. Some apps have dynamic interfaces, meaning that the page changes depending on how the server processes it, while others are static, meaning the app will produce a page independent of any server-side processing.
On the back end, the web application needs a web server in order to process requests from the client on the front end. In addition, the app needs its own application server to perform the tasks requested by the client as well as a server database to store and retrieve information. Developers usually code application servers with languages such as ASP.NET, ASP and ColdFusion, to PHP and JSP.
How a Well-Designed Web App Can Support a Business During Covid-19
One of the benefits a web app provides is its widespread accessibility. As long as you have internet connectivity, you can reach the current, most backed-up version of a web application. Users gravitate towards accessible, easy-to-use programs, especially during hectic, stressful times like the pandemic.
A good web app offers a user the flexibility to use the app anywhere, and simultaneously reduces the user’s dependency on software native to particular devices. Even if your business can’t afford a custom mobile app development, it can start with a smart web app, which potential clients can access anywhere.