I frequently use the term, “web app,” but I realize that with all the other similar terms that exist today, it might be confusing for some. After all, there are mobile apps, desktop apps, mobile web apps, rich internet apps, and more. In this post, I’d like to explain what web apps are and why they’re important to your business. First, let’s define a few terms:
Desktop application: A desktop application is a piece of software that is installed on a single computer. For example, Microsoft Office is an application suite that is installed on individual computers.
Web application: A web application is an application that is hosted on a server and accessed via a web browser. Unlike desktop applications, nothing is installed on the user’s computer. There are different types of web apps, such as Rich Internet Apps or Web 2.0 apps, but they all have one thing in common: They are accessed via a web browser.
Mobile application: Also called a “native app”, mobile apps are installed directly on a mobile device. For instance, when you download apps from an app store, you are using native mobile apps.
Mobile web apps: These are web applications that are formatted for use on a mobile device. Unlike native apps, nothing is installed on the device. Rather, they are accessed via the browser.
Why are web apps good for business?
Despite all of these application types, we can narrow them down to two basic categories: Web-based apps and installed apps. Which type is better for business? I’m a big fan of web-based apps for business, and here’s why:
Compatibility: Installed apps are only compatible with the platform for which they were created. For instance, I can’t install the Mac version of MS Word on my Windows PC. I can’t install an Android app on an iPhone. On the other hand, the web spans across all platforms. If I build a web app for my business, I can open it anywhere. Sure, it might need a different presentation layer for use on a smartphone, but one web app can work across every platform.
Accessibility: An installed app is only accessible on the device where it’s installed. A web app is accessible from any web browser. The importance of web apps is only amplified with the rise of mobile. With web apps, you can access one app from anywhere, using any web-enabled device.
Simplicity: One of the biggest headaches with installed apps is the very fact that they must be installed in multiple locations. If the application needs updating or maintaining, it must occur in every place where it’s installed. In short, it’s time consuming and difficult. On the other hand, since web apps are installed in one location (a server), maintenance is simple. You’re only maintaining one app.
In conclusion, I believe web apps are only becoming more important for business. With the increasing number of devices and operating systems, the web gives us a platform that works on all platforms and is accessible from anywhere. If you want some examples of web applications used for business, check out this demo site, crazybikes.com.