What are Desktop Web Apps?

Today, cloud computing has added a variety of new app forms to the list. Over the next few weeks, I’ll present three of the most common of these “new apps”:

Let’s start with the simplest form, a Web App.

What is a Web App?

A web app is an application that lives in the cloud and is used via a web browser. It draws on resources available from the cloud – like data, storage, and processing power. It uses capabilities built into the browser to both interact with and display information to the user.

Any device capable of running these web browsers and connecting to the internet can benefit from web apps. Companies benefit from producing web apps because:

  • The browser acts as a “thin client” that negates the need for excessive hardware requirements on the user side. With a web app, you won’t need to upgrade your desktops or your servers.
  • No desktop installation required. Installing software on desktops is a huge pain and incurs significant costs for rollout, updates and conflict resolution, and technical support.
  • A web app only needs to interact with the browser, eliminating the need to interface with all the hardware components of the user’s machine.

The disadvantage of a web app? You need to be on the web, of course. In the past, this was a serious drawback. But with today’s infrastructure and redundancies, companies experiencing prolonged internet outages are few and far between.

What is a Desktop Web App?

A desktop web app is one that’s meant for a larger screen. Whether that means a 34-inch desktop monitor or a 17-inch laptop display, these web apps rely on larger plots of real estate.

It might not seem intuitive, but it’s actually much easier to design web apps for larger screens. You can include more images, more text, and more navigation. You can present your app the way you want to, with fewer restrictions. With a smaller screen size, you have to be much more strategic with your user interface (UI). Space becomes a limitation and some features and presentations simply won’t work.

A desktop web app is also static. By that I mean you can code it for one expected size range. Your users’ browsers and displays may adjust to it naturally – such as reducing/enlarging frames – if your design is based on percentages. But the overall look and layout remains the same.

A mobile web app, on the other hand, needs to be “responsive.” A mobile device display can range from the 4.6-inch Sony Xperia Z5 Compact to the 12.9-inch iPad Pro or 18.4-inch Galaxy View tablets. So a mobile web app needs to offer enough to satisfy larger screens while remaining usable on the smallest. That kind of size disparity, of course, makes it more difficult to design and code.

I’ll talk more about mobile web apps in my next post.

Taking Your Web App Offline

I know I said previously that web apps need active internet connections to run. But if you need a web app that can run all the time – internet access or no – don’t worry. More and more apps are developing offline features so they can be used at any time.

These apps download and store certain data they need to function on your hard drive. That way the user can view and interact with the data at their leisure. While this is seen as more of an issue with mobile devices – dealing with WiFi availabilities and data costs – it can be a safeguard for companies running mission critical desktop web apps, too.

Why Consider a Desktop Web App?

The best situation for a desktop web app is when you know your users will access it from either desktop or laptop computers. A desktop design like this can be the perfect choice for internal applications running at corporate locations, for instance. Or for web applications that are highly likely to be used exclusively in an office setting, or on a full-sized table, as opposed to a small tablet or smartphone.

As for the main reason to consider a desktop web app in these situations, that’s simple: cost. These apps capture all the cost benefits of a web app (no installation, hardware upgrades, system conflicts, etc.) without the headaches of designing for mobile responsiveness. As such, a desktop web app is usually the cheapest form of web app to deliver.

Finding the Right Web App Solution for You

Sometimes the right solution might not seem clear. Sometimes you want to take advantage of both a desktop and a mobile web app.

That’s exactly what Ascendle did for UBERDOC.

We created a desktop web app for the administrative portions of their application. Those features were meant to be used onsite, mainly through employee desktops. Our client was able to save money by avoiding additional coding and testing needed to build a fully responsive app.

At the same time, other end-user facing features were built in mobile responsive fashion. These features were meant to be accessed via smartphone, the medium of choice among other types of end-users.

Just as we did for UBERDOC, Ascendle always focuses on matching you with the righttechnology for your needs. We specialize in web application development, using Microsoft development tools and the Microsoft Azure cloud infrastructure. Want to see how those tools could benefit you? We’ll gladly work with you to discover the best web app solutions.

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