Application Design & Architecture

Below is a description of the different types of applications that people use today.

Web Applications

Web applications (or web app for short) is a term that refers to software stored on a remote server and presented on an internet browser. Similar to desktop computer software or mobile applications, it performs a specific set of functions based on the desired intent. The only difference is that web applications are powered by an internet browser, making them readily accessible. Webmail, retail shopping, online banking, and social media are common web applications that almost everyone would be familiar with. The frontend is generated with a combination of computer programming languages supported by major browsers such as HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. Often times, it requires less RAM to run the web application since it is not relying on the computer’s power. What follows is a closer look at the intricacies of web applications.

UI – User Interface

One of the integral aspects of web app development is the understanding of the principles of UI (short for user interface). UI is the conduit between the person and the computer interaction that takes place within the web app.  The functions of UI include mouse movement and clicks, gestures, keyboard inputs, and screen resolution displays. Quality web applications are designed to create the optimal user interaction experience ensuring accessibility and ease of use. UI is of key significance for all web applications, and without a well-considered UI/UX design, an application can easily fail based on suboptimal user experience.

Some key concepts of some of the most common engaging UI is as follows:

  • Input Controls: checkboxes, buttons, dropdown lists, date field
  • Navigational Components: sliders, breadcrumbs, search fields, icons
  • Informational Components: tooltips, progress bars, message boxes
  • Containers: Accordion content, dropdown menus

UX – User Experience

The UX (user experience) is the package deal that comes along with UI/UX. It goes hand in hand with UI design in that it is a vital component for application development as it defines, solves, and anticipates the user’s needs and overall impressions. The aim of good UX design is to reach for a positive experience as exceptional design can lead to increased service retention for the product or brand.  For businesses, a bulk of returning users are due to a satisfactory user experience that helps benefit a venture’s success in the long-term. In order to maintain the key principles of UX, one must actively improve the relationship between the user and the product, brand, or service.

Web Application vs. Website

As mentioned above, online shopping is considered a web application, but how does it differ from a website? Sites like Amazon and eBay are examples of websites. Websites are defined as any group of easily accessible web pages under a single domain name. The maintenance is done by an individual, a business, or organization through a common or custom CRM. A website’s purpose is to promote the business, brand, or service.

Examples of web applications contained within websites include online forms, shopping carts, word processors, and email programs. A good example of a straightforward web application is Google’s line of free apps featured within Gmail’s site. The functions are different and complex compared to a website, and they allow you to create word documents, spreadsheets, and much more. These web applications are mainly designed with the end-user in mind.

A website’s focus is on the quality and relevance of the web content. It provides a visual presentation for the user to read and view, and it requires less functioning activities. That said, it’s common for web applications to be installed as a part of a website’s functionality, but the website is not considered a web application in and of itself. A web application’s focus is mainly on cloud-hosting and scalability. The biggest differentiation is how the user interacts with both.

Mobile Applications vs. Web Applications

Mobile applications and web applications are two entirely different concepts. Among the primary differences between them are use cases, software frameworks, and platforms on which the applications can run. Even if a user doesn’t have an entirely clear idea of the differences between the two, there is still a distinction that can be made even by a non-tech savvy consumer. Development and deployment methods also vary greatly from those used in web applications. As previously mentioned, web applications are generated through a web browser powered by a framework located on a server and accessed on the internet. In the case of mobile applications, they’re developed specifically for their specific iOS (Internet Operating System). The two most common iOS on the market are operated by Apple and Android. Mobile applications must be downloaded as a package and installed onto their respective devices in order to function. Some examples of popular mobile applications include Google Maps, Snapchat, and Facebook Messenger.

To understand the difference, mobile applications must be downloaded and installed onto the desired device. Their function cannot be called without the user permitting or opening the application. Web applications, on the other hand, cannot be used outside of an internet browser and very seldom in an offline mode. Both web applications and mobile applications may run background processes depending on the use cases. Most web applications strictly require the use of an internet connection, while mobile applications are often more lenient, and it isn’t necessarily required by the application itself. A communication application like Facebook Messenger requires a constant internet connection as it is constantly reloading data. This is different compared to, say, a mobile gaming application that can be played offline. There are some caveats; however, Candy Crush is an example of a mobile gaming application that is free to play but relies on a steady internet connection for in-game transactions or ad feeds.

Hybrid Applications

A hybrid application is another type of software application that combines both native apps (applications that were originally designed for a particular platform or device) and web applications.  It works similarly to web applications, but it doesn’t require device installation.  Compared to mobile applications, they’re generated with HTML5, CSS, and JavaScript.  Hybrid applications can be used offline similarly to mobile applications, but this varies depending on the application itself.

Swift Applications

A newly released computer language developed by Apple is the Swift language. Swift’s programming language was made specifically for applications on iOS Apple iPhone, OS X, watchOS, and tvOS. Some examples of mobile applications developed under Swift computer language include LinkedIn, Lyft, and Hipmunk. Swift based applications do not fall under the hybrid applications since they are developed in a language that requires package installation. Swift apps may fall under a new category of applications that span over a multitude of different devices and platforms.