What is a web application and why do you need one?

by Andy Jones ,
June 15, 2021
Custom Software Development, Software Development Company

Every day, UK consumers spend 3.7 hours on smartphones, tablets and computers, with much of that time spent on web applications.

But what exactly is a web application?

In the simplest terms, a web application is a piece of software that runs in a web browser like Google Chrome, Safari, Firefox or Microsoft Edge.

Web applications are distinct from websites because they enable users to interact with and manipulate the content displayed on the screen.

For instance, an online banking application enables users to perform transactions and interact with their financial data in a way they wouldn’t be able to on a static web page.

Today, web applications are some of the most popular consumer apps on the market, from Netflix to Microsoft Office, Google, Docs and Trello.

With the mobile application market anticipated to reach $366.34 billion by 2027, it appears likely that many organisations will take the plunge into developing web applications.

After all, these consumer-grade applications are just the tip of the iceberg. Web apps provide a medium to offer features ranging from email inboxes to IM services, contact forms, social media platforms, online portals and eCommerce sites.

Now that we’ve explained what exactly is a web application, we’re going to take a closer look at how web applications work, and why you need one.

Why Do You Need a Web Application?

Building a web application enables users to access your application without installing any software. This means they can use your app across multiple platforms and devices without needing to go through a lengthy installation process.

Generally, organisations build web applications when they want to offer users functions or features that they couldn’t provide with a static website.

For example, if you wanted to launch a new social media platform, then you’d need to build a web app to enable users to interact to submit content and view their personalised feed in real-time.

A web application also provides you with a highly interactive channel to engage directly with customers on desktop and mobile apps, no matter what platform they’re using.

You can also monetise this channel through a mixture of in-app purchases, subscription services, advertising and affiliate marketing, to drive revenue.

It’s important to note that monetising your web app can be a very lucrative option.

In fact, global app spending reached $64.9 billion across the App Store and Google Play in the first half of 2021, highlighting that consumers are willing to spend money on in-app purchases if you can offer the right digital product or service.

How does a web application work?

In addition to understanding what exactly is a web application, you also need to understand how a web application works. Web applications are built under a client-server communication model. Under this model, when the user loads the web application, the client sends a request to the server, which handles the client’s request, and executes the tasks requested by the client, storing and retrieving information from a database.

The process is outlined briefly below:

  1. The user visits the URL of the web application.
  2. The user’s request is sent to the Domain Name Service (DNS).
  3. The DNS Service replies with an IP address that the web browser uses to make a request to the application’s IP address.
  4. The application’s web server recognises the request and sends it to storage to locate the queried data.
  5. The response travels back to the user who now sees the web application content in their browser.

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