Why Build a Web App? Why Build a Web App?

September 10, 2012   |   Business, Tech
Agile League

Due to the popularity of smartphones, it’s not uncommon for our customers to envision releasing new products as iPhone, Android, or Windows Phone applications. Given the features and energy surrounding mobile development, is building a web application passé? Hardly. If a product doesn’t require native technology, we encourage a customer to release their product as a web app. The web remains an ideal medium for launching a new product. Here’s why:

Write Once, Run Anywhere

The web browser is the true “write once, run anywhere” platform. And because all modern computing devices have web browsers, you can target the widest market by shipping a single web application. The differences between web browsers are trivial compared to the differences in native development platforms.
Native application development traditionally means that you will develop a version of your app for each native platform that you want to support. While hybrid mobile development frameworks like Phonegap and Titanium enable cross-platform development, they do so by either compromising the native application experience or exposing you to the differences between the platforms.

Efficient Distribution

In the first months of an application’s lifespan, app owners strive to prove their business model, incorporate customer feedback, and meet the market on a lean budget. Efficient execution during this period is key to the application’s growth and success. The distribution model of the web can help you make the most of this time by reducing time to market and accelerating product iteration.
The client-server model of the web enables you to serve many clients with a single copy of your application. Web browsers act as thin clients, downloading the most up-to-date parts of your application as needed. This means that upgrading your application is as simple as copying code to your application server. When users visit your web application or refresh the page, they will be using the latest version.
Native platforms, on the other hand, act as thick clients, downloading a copy of your application in its entirety. Updating your native app could mean submitting it to a vendor for a lengthy approval process. Once your update is accepted, upgrades aren’t automatic; existing users must elect to upgrade to the new version. This leaves you supporting legacy versions of your application.

Maturing Web Technologies

While lacking the fanfare of iPhone and Android announcements, the emerging HTML5 and CSS3 standards empower a new breed of more interactive, flexible, and compelling web apps. For example, CSS Media Queries have opened the doors for Responsive Web Design, a method of designing web applications that are optimized for mobile and desktop devices alike.
The open source ecosystem surrounding web development continues to flourish. New CSS frameworks like Zurb Foundation and Twitter Bootstrap significantly reduce the cost of delivering an attractive prototype, and JavaScript frameworks like Knockout and Ember afford a level of interactivity in web apps that rivals native counterparts.
There’s never been a better time to develop a web application.