A Complete Guide to Custom Web Application Development
- May 14, 2020
Web apps are everywhere. We’ve been using dozens of them every single day.
Just name it — Gmail, Twitter, Slack, Google Docs, Netflix, Fandango — the list is endless. There’s a web app for everything.
This for consumers means convenience. Just type in the URL and they have a solution to their problem — make bank transactions, book a ticket or stream shows.
While for business, this means a whole new world of possibilities.
You have the platform; you have the market; you have the audience — all you need is to execute your idea.
For more than half a decade, as a web development company, Techuz has been developing custom web apps for startups and enterprises helping them to improve productivity and solve their users’ problems. So we decided to shed some light on custom web application development.
In this article, we’ll give you an overview of what exactly web apps are, how do they work, web app development process and the technologies involved. By the end of the article, you’ll have an idea about how the custom web application development works.
Looking for custom web app development? Our award-winning development team can help.
Understanding Custom Web Applications
In the early 90s, web and applications were two separate entities. The web filled with static HTML text pages while applications were the native software installed on operating systems. As the new technologies were introduced the web became more sophisticated, faster, more productive, with better user experience and eventually dynamic web-based applications became the new normal.
Defining Web Application
To put it simply, web applications are interactive programs that perform tasks over the internet. The users don’t have to install them on the device like native software, instead, they utilize the browsers to interact with the client-side application. The client-side app also known as frontend is powered by server-side app and database which are the part of the backend.
Suggested Read: Web Application vs Website – What’s the Difference?
Understanding the “Custom” in Custom Web Apps
While all web apps can be made to provide a customized experience to users, custom web apps, are focused on serving a certain market, audience or enterprise needs. Custom web application development focuses on learning the needs, utilizing the technology that best fits it and developing a tailored solution to address the specific problems.
Consider this example.
Google Docs is a web application. Users can jot down notes, create drafts, share it, invite others to collaborate and it can be used by — students, authors, project managers — anyone in general who wants to create documents.
Now let’s say you want to develop a document editor that serves a particular user base, provides better options, features and user experience than Google Docs. It may be for students where they can make notes and create flashcards — or for authors with better formatting options and features for style guides. Now, this web app made to address specific problems is a custom web application.
The same goes for custom web apps for enterprises where the app is developed understanding the particular company’s needs, their process, activities and business model. A custom app helps them achieve their business goals way better than any off the shelf web application.
Custom Web Application Development – The Process
Any custom app development can be divided into five stages: ideation, planning, design, development and test & launch. As your web app passes through each stage you’ll observe your idea is getting more refined and tangible. Let’s understand each stage in detail.
1. Ideation Stage
Ideation is the stage where you do the homework — refine your idea, research and draft requirements. It is the first as well the crucial stage on which the entire development process depends.
Your idea is great, but you need to refine it and have a clear vision of what you expect from the project — the problem it will solve, the features and functionalities, the end goals of the project and expected outcomes.
It’s essential to perform research about your competitors and users. Check if any similar products in the market exist to get the data that can be utilized to improve your idea. Perform competitive analysis by googling your idea, go through websites like Betalist and Product Hunt to find similar web applications. A usual competitive analysis should cover the following points:
- Information about the product — features list, functionalities, pricing, market share, etc.
- Users information and demographics.
- Information about companies and brands.
All these will help you collect important data that you can employ to develop a better product with a unique selling proposition.
But what if your idea is completely new and there is no data for competitive analysis?
Even in that case, you need to perform market research. You can conduct surveys, use marketing and SEO tools to understand trends, or even develop a minimum viable product.
Numerous startups have successfully validated their idea using MVP and it can be as simple as a landing page. In fact, many huge names in the industry began their journey as an MVP. You can go through some popular minimum viable product examples and types. This will help you get an idea if your planning to develop one.
Suggested Read: How to Build a Successful MVP in 5 Steps
Once you have collected the data, it’s time to document it — draft an app requirements document. An app requirements document or business requirements document is a plan of your web app. It contains the outline, goals, assumptions, functional and non-functional needs and deliverables. This is used by the development team as a reference during the development process. It is a very important tool that ensures your idea and its requirements are translated exactly as you have envisioned.
You have the idea, you have the data and know what needs to be developed —it’s now time to create a plan. The planning phase includes directions for design, development and project management. This ensures smooth execution of the project. General project planning includes selecting the right technology stack, creating milestones and project sprints, allocation of resources, defining the user flow, app architecture and wireframing & prototyping.
A technology stack is a combination of tools, frameworks, programming language and database. Selecting the right stack has a direct impact on the application’s performance and time to market. Things to consider while selecting a technology stack are performance, scalability, complexity of the project, level of security, budget, development cost and time to market. The following are some of the popular technology stacks used for custom web app development.
- LAMP stack – Linux (operating system), Apache (server), MySQL (database), PHP or Perl (programming language).
- Python-Django stack – Python language used with Django framework for server-side development along with Apache server and MySQL or PostgreSQL database.
Wireframing and Prototyping
Wireframes are low-fidelity representations of the web app’s layout, while prototypes are mid to high-fidelity representations that one can interact with. At this stage, a low fidelity wireframe or prototype that roughly represents the concept can make the entire design process easier and effective. You can perform this either on paper known as sketching or use tools for more refined wireframes and prototypes. Here’re some of the tools we use.
- Marvell App
- Adobe Illustrator
- Adobe XD
(An example of web app wireframe)
Determining Milestones and Sprints
Establishing milestones and sprints is the best way to track the progress and ensure everything is executed as per the deadline. This makes project management more efficient and ensures delivery on time. We plan and evaluate the milestones using Gantt charts that keep things organized and clear both for the team and clients.
Now, this is the stage where your web app gets a visual identity.
Based on the data acquired on the previous stage, the research, wireframes and prototypes — designers give an appearance to the app. The pages of the interface, colours, typography, buttons, drop-down menu, layout everything is designed adhering the principles of design for stunning visuals and experience.
But it’s not just the visuals that make the design successful. In fact, the appearance is just the one-fifth part of web design.
The web app solves the problem and thus the design should embrace different user experience competencies that include:
- Information Architecture
- Interaction Design
- Usability Engineering
- Visual Design
- Prototype Engineering
We ensure the designs tick all the necessary boxes as per the project and the client’s requirements. The goal here is not just to look good but also to create an intuitive visual language, guide users through the different parts of the web app, make the experience delightful and communicate the brand story. An effective design will make the ambiguous things crystal clear; each digital touchpoints supporting to make tasks easier and leave a lasting impression.
Finally, this is the stage when you start writing the codes to implement the designs and build the business logic. Development is divided into two parts — front-end and back-end that may or may not be executed simultaneously.
One of the major things to consider when developing the frontend is its responsiveness and mobile-friendliness. Your web app must work flawlessly across all devices to ensure the same pleasing experience regardless of the screen size and device.
The backend is the part that powers your web application — the database, server, business logic — things the user can’t see but works under the hood. The common function of the backend is to:
- Serve requests of the frontend.
- Authorization and authentication when the user tries to log in.
- Create, read and update data.
At this stage, you build the backend app, set up the database & the server and integrate the APIs. Considering its complexity, building the backend is the toughest and most time-consuming.
5. Test and Deploy
Your app has been designed, developed and now it’s functional. But before the launch, it needs to be tested.
Testing is an important part of the custom web application development. It not only makes the app bug-free but the inputs of the quality team help to improve the overall product. Below are some of the most common tests for any web application.
- Usability testing
- Performance – load and stress testing
- Application security
- Quality assurance and bug testing
- Multiple browser and compatibility
Once the app passes through meticulous tests and the quality team shows the green flag, it’s time for the launch. At Techuz, we deploy the web applications to the servers using tools like GitHub, BitBucket, Beanstalk App and FileZilla.
And once the web application is live it goes into a maintenance phase where updates, improvements and new functionalities are added as per the feedbacks of the user.
So that’s pretty much it — the custom web application development — from ideation to launch. Hope this guide has given you an overview of how the development process works and would be helpful in your next project.
Need assistance to develop your custom web application? Just drop us a line and our team will get back to you.