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What is Web App Development?

6 min read

Internet terms, development vocabulary, and marketing lingo can get confusing quickly. Often the terms mean multiple things, and often we use terms interchangeably. Let’s go over some frequently misunderstood and misused labels: Web App vs. Desktop App vs. Mobile App vs. Website.

Mobile Apps

It helps to think about where you access the application. It’s easy to identify a mobile app: it’s on our phones and usually is represented by a small icon on our home screens. Usually, a mobile app is a custom interface for a specific company’s product. Think of it as a web browser, except that it is specially made to only interact with one company’s site, instead of interacting with any website on the internet.

Because of this specificity, a mobile app can be designed and optimized to bring a better user experience. For example, on Twitter’s mobile app, you can change your profile settings, update your home feed, message your friends, and look up news, all without changing web addresses or switching apps. They aren’t only specialized web browsers though. A mobile app could perform special computations specific to the app. For example, a mobile game runs most of its code on your phone, communicating with the web only when it needs to.

Working on a laptop
Working on a laptop

Desktop Apps

Desktop apps are very similar, except that desktop computers typically have much more computing ability. Most desktop apps can perform more complicated computations because of the access to faster processors. This is a reason why most 3D gaming or design programs are desktop apps: they take a lot of calculation (and a mouse and keyboard are much more intuitive to use than your two thumbs on a small mobile screen).

Desktop apps can also interact with a company’s website, but usually, a company will focus on improving the web experience over providing a better desktop experience, as more people visit them on the web.


Websites are generally where visitors can come to read information about a company. While there can still be interactions with visitors on the site, there aren’t any user-created accounts or profiles to keep track of. Think of the way you probably use Wikipedia: you look up some information on their ‘site’, and change to a different web address when you are done without ever logging in.

Web Apps

This is a tricky term that is often misused. A web app is a software program that runs on a server on the internet. Think of you can log in, adjust your settings, and post content, all without having to download an app. You can access all of the features and benefits of an app without to have any specific software on your computer.

This is a great way to get a top-notch experience for your users without any barrier to entry. All users would be able to use their web browser to visit your web app, and no download or special computing power on their end would be needed. Web Apps have the complex and custom functionality of a desktop or mobile app but the accessibility of a website, which you can get to from any device with the internet.

It’s not all benefits though: because everything is being accessed over the internet instead of being downloaded, there may be longer load times for the web apps, and you most likely won’t have the same computing power as a desktop app (although this may change in the future with the ever-increasing speed of processors). But for most businesses and startups, web apps are exactly the right fit.

Showcasing a webapp
Showcasing a webapp

Say you wanted to build a company that allowed users to order groceries online. Putting things onto a list and ordering them on the internet is not complex or computationally heavy, so to be accessible and fast, we’ll make a web app. We’ll need the ability to have users track their purchase history and past orders, so both a signup and login form are needed. We can then create a way for users to save their frequently purchased lists for future use. You can see that all of these activities are more interactive than just a website that displays the prices for groceries. By providing more engaging interaction and allowing the user to save unique data for future use, we are creating a web app.

The choice to go with a web app is an amazing one: customers/users can come to your app and interact on desktop or mobile. They don’t need to relearn how to sign in or navigate to your specific app, because it would be hosted just like any other website: with a domain name. Modern browsers and technology allow for much more functionality, encouraging the growth and possibility of web apps. For example, web apps can now send you notifications about what is happening, something that is much more like the behavior of a mobile app. The abilities of web apps are growing so much that large companies like Google and Mozilla are encouraging their use through SEO incentives. High-quality experiences provided by web apps are promoted higher and often increase visitor traffic easily.

That being said, it takes good, hard work to produce a high-quality web app. Even though the way of the future on the internet is through web apps, that doesn’t mean that it is trivial to code a well-crafted app.

With seriouscode, you can leverage years of development experience without having to go through the learning process yourself, allowing you to focus more on developing your product and business. We consult and work with your team so that you get exactly the custom web app you need to be successful. Rather develop the app with your own team but are not sure how to do it? At seriouscode, we help out with any knowledge transfer that you might want to get you through the roadblocks.

Our team designs and builds our own web apps too, so you can check out our work yourself! Also take our client’s word for it (and check out their web apps!). The time and effort saved are well worth it.