When talking about cross-platform web app development, we are usually talking about developing for mobile devices. This includes smartphones, phablets, and tablets.

There are also apps for the web and wearables like smartwatches, but for the purposes of this article, we’ll stay within the bounds of mobile devices like phones and tablets.

Web Apps

According to Wikipedia, a web app “is an application that is accessed via a web browser over a network such as the Internet.”

So how is this different to a web site?

The difference is subjective, but most would agree that a web site will generally just be informational and a web app provides functionality. For example, Wikipedia is a website; it provides information. Facebook is a web app.

Facebook web app screenshot
Facebook is a web app

Don’t let the word “app” confuse you, though. Web apps don’t need to be downloaded like mobile apps do.

Web apps load in browsers like Chrome, Safari, or Firefox and they don’t take up any memory or storage on the user’s device.

How are they built?

The vast majority are built in JavaScript, CSS, and HTML5.
Unlike an iOS or Android app, there is no software development kit (SDK) for a developer to work with.

There are templates and frameworks like Angular, React, and Vue.js you can use to get a quick start.
As opposed to mobile apps, developing a web app can be simple and quick.  It’s often a good way to test out an idea before investing in a mobile app. However, their simplicity is also their downside, as they don’t let you do half of the things mobile apps do.

Progressive web apps

Until recently, web apps lacked the functionality of native apps, like the ability to send push notifications, work offline, and load on the homescreen.

However, there have been a few improvements to browsers and web apps that offer these features. Apps that take advantage of these features are called progressive web apps.
There are a few steps you need to take in order to make your web app into a progressive web app. They go beyond the scope of this article, but you can find a comprehensive guide

Web app development: Is your website accessible from mobile?

Many online websites and web communities bank on an amount of users who are loyal to the services they offer. This is also the case of those requiring users to register and log in by introducing their credentials. Furthermore, if we also take into account that − according to the Spanish National Statistics Institute − 85% of Internet users get online regularly via their smartphones it seems that moving forward in this direction is a must. This means making it easy for our customer to use our service. Web app development is the next step your website should take towards betting on mobility

What’s a web application?

Before presenting further details, statistics and arguments that encourage creating apps, let’s first state clearly what we mean by web application and also how it differs from native apps − the kind of apps which we are constantly talking about on our blog. In short, a web app is “a programme that runs on a PC through a web server while users interact with it from a web browser” regardless of whether the browser is installed on a PC, tablet or smartphone. Maybe it’s not made clear yet. Let’s explain it a little more.

These are ‘web’ applications because they reside within the cloud and require an Internet connection to work. However, they don’t need to be installed on a computer as they run through any traditional browser such as Google Chrome or Firefox. They store all the data they need to work on servers, and these data are recovered from there when required by the user.

The biggest advantage is that the user can − in most cases − retrieve his information from any device and from anywhere via his username and password.

Some examples:

You have surely used web applications more than once without even being aware of it. Email services like Gmail or cloud-based document management products such as Google Docs feature among web apps. Also, Facebook games running through the browser such as Candy Crush or FarmVille. These services are increasingly getting more integrated in the browser.