Web apps have become utterly common in the corporate world, which has prompted many companies to invest in them for both internal and external business purposes. But if you've never been involved in web app development, there are certain things you need to be made aware of.
Seven Web App Development Considerations
As many companies have discovered, the software you create and deploy essentially becomes a part of your competitive advantage. If you want to maximize this investment and ensure that it benefits your business in as many ways as possible, though, you'll have to be strategic about how you approach app development.
Specifically, you'll want to think about the following seven elements:
1. Data Relationships
According to developer Marc Gayle, any web app can be broken down into simple data relationships. No matter how complex or large it is, a web app does three specific things:
- The app takes in data from users
- The app processes and decides what to do with the data
- The web app produces a specific output for the end users
In other words, data comes in, the app does something with the data, and the outputs are presented to the user. Gayle uses the example of Instagram, in which users upload a photo, the app applies different filters and effects, and a modified image is displayed and shared. This is how you should look at all web apps.
"I know you may not be able to think naturally like that at first whenever you look at web apps," Gayle notes, "but the more you use other web apps, and the more you think about them in all of these little pieces of data relationships, the easier it is for you to conceptualize and build your web app."
2. Web App Security
Did you know that many hackers' preferred method of attacking businesses online is via web applications? The reason is simple. According to one study by HP, 69 percent of web applications have at least one SQL injection error, while 42 percent contain cross-site scripting vulnerabilities.
It's critical for you to make security a priority, both in the development phase as well as after deployment. You should recognize which vulnerabilities you are likely to face, and be prepared to counter any issues that could arise due to these weaknesses. A failure to do so could ultimately put your entire operation at risk.
3. Cost-Effective Design and Development
As new features and technologies have emerged, web app design and development capabilities have grown. But you shouldn't let the dizzying array of available options cloud your judgment and lead you to assume more is necessarily going to be better.
In fact, less is often more ... even when people are telling you otherwise. "I know, it sounds counter-intuitive to disregard your customers' and your own ideas for improvements -- but it's necessary. Every button you add is another chance for a new user to get confused and leave," one designer explains. "Ask yourself: If this app only did one thing, what would it be?"
One massively significant facet of successful web app development and deployment that businesses frequently overlook is monitoring. A failure to monitor your app properly could result in costly problems that hurt your business, both in the short and long terms.
The wise move is to invest in an application performance monitoring solution that empowers you to identify and resolve problems before they become major incidents. Any investment you make up front will save you money down the road.
As you're well aware, simplicity and minimalism are attractive in today's app development world. The problem is that the push for minimalism often compromises the integrity of an app's design. One specific way you'll see this unfold is through the use of tabs.
"Tabs can be an incredible visual metaphor for organizing content. Their function is intuitive and everyone knows how to use them," developer David Talbot admits. "Unfortunately, tabs can also allow lazy designers to allow forms to get out of control and become confusing messes."
As a rule of thumb, you should never use tabs to break up complicated forms. If you find yourself doing this, it's an indication that you need to spend more time focusing on ways to make the form less complicated. As Talbot notes, if it's too complex to exist on a single page, it's probably best to break it up into a wizard.
6. User Experience
It's often the small details that set the most successful web apps apart from the less successful ones. One of the things you need to pay attention to is user experience and how people interact with the app.
For example, are you providing enough feedback? Many users are frustrated when they click on a button and fail to get immediate results. If something is loading or waiting on a response, you can reduce user impatience by indicating this with some sort of loading bar or status.
7. User Support
Finally, how's the user support on your end? If people have issues with your app, they need to feel they can readily get in touch with you.
User support will differ from one company to the next depending on your available resources, obviously. For some firms, simple email support is the only option. Others might offer phone support and live chat as reasonable solutions.
Is a Web App Right for You ?
Web apps aren't perfect for every business. Another type of software might suit yours better. But if you've done your research and identified the advantages of web apps and anything else they bring to the table, you may discover that a well-developed one has lots to offer. If you do choose to go the route of web app development, be strategic in your approach and take time to make your selections. It's far better to spend a few weeks more on app development and create a highly functional solution than it is to rush through the process and end up with a web app that's a poor reflection of your business.