As a company leader, you may be involved with developing a web application to assist your employees with various business functions like marketing, team collaboration, and document creation, or to enhance your customers’ experience. Whether you decide to work with an in-house team or outsource to a company like BairesDev, your project will be more successful if you understand the web application development process in advance.
Web applications are interactive computer programs that store and manipulate data. Users access them via an internet browser, often with a login or sign-up mechanism, and then use them to perform a wide range of tasks like customer management, bookkeeping, shopping, or searching for information.
When you understand the steps described below, and why developers use them, you get a useful “big picture” view of web application development. You’ll gain more control over projects and will be better able to provide input and feedback to developers along the way, leading to the best possible end products.
Define and Plan
The first step is to define the problem you want to solve with a web application and then gather relevant information about it. A well-defined problem will provide good direction for the project and support the best solution. This step includes clarifying the purpose and end goals for the application.
Developers will identify and research the target audience you expect will use the application, which could include your employees or customers. If the audience is employees, developers might enlist their help in the planning phase. They might also conduct a competitor analysis to find existing apps that appeal to the same audience, to ensure yours will stand out.
During planning, developers will attempt to answer the following questions:
- What does the application need to do to solve the defined problem?
- What features and functions will it have?
- What resources will be needed to build it?
In this step, developers will choose the appropriate tools, platforms, and frameworks to build your web application. The tools will fit the type and scope of the project and their cost should stay within your established budget. The developers will work with you to determine realistic deadlines and milestones for the web application development.
Design and Build
The design step involves creating a wireframe, or a prototype for communicating the solution to target users. The developers will base the design on elements that provide an enjoyable user experience for that audience.
Developers will then present the wireframe to potential users, record their feedback, and make adjustments until they’re satisfied. The following video explains more about wireframing and how it fits into the web application development process:
Once the design is ready, it’s time to build the application. Several steps will happen during this phase:
- Create a database. Developers will determine what data and data types are needed for the application to function well and will create a database for storage.
- Frontend development. Developers will create the frontend of the application, based on elements that users approved during the wireframing process.
- Backend development. Developers will create interaction between the user and the server.
Developers can code from scratch or use frontend and backend frameworks to build the web application. If you learn what each approach is best for, you’ll be better able to understand the choices they make.
Coding from scratch
- Offers the most flexibility
- Requires longer completion time
- Requires a high level of expertise
- Powerful library for building the user interface
- Well suited for large-scale projects
- Smaller and easier to learn than React
- Good for most project sizes
- Easy to implement into a project
- A compiler rather than a framework
- Easiest to learn
- Good for small to medium web apps
- Unproven with large apps
- Rails (written in Ruby)
- Good for metaprogramming and database-oriented web programming
- Suited to small projects
- Django (written in Python)
- Good for scientific programming and data manipulation
- Laravel (written in PHP)
- Includes many tools
- Accessible and simple to use
- Suited to multiple types of apps
Test and Implement
Quality assurance (QA) testing for the web application, either automated or manual, is an ongoing process throughout the software development lifecycle. The QA team will test for functionality, usability, compatibility, security, and performance with rigorous tests designed to eliminate bugs and make sure the application works smoothly without glitches. Testing can also identify possible improvements and upgrades to make in the future.
Once testing determines that the application works well, you can finally implement it in your company or launch it to your customers. If you’re using the application internally, you can offer it to your employees and provide training for how to use it productively. For customer apps, you’ll need to create a communication strategy and decide on the appropriate timing to get the application to market.
Host and Maintain
To create a server location for the application, you must buy a domain and choose a hosting provider. You can choose from shared hosting (you share the server with others), dedicated hosting (you have full use of the server), and cloud hosting (consisting of a system of multiple, connected servers).
Post-implementation maintenance of the application includes the following components:
- Ongoing QA testing
- Fixing errors as they’re identified
- Adding new features based on user feedback
- Providing periodic updates and technical support
Learn the Web Application Development Process Before Developers Start
If your company is pursuing web application development projects, either in-house or through outsourcing, take some time to learn what the process looks like. If you understand the different steps, and why developers use them, you’ll know how and when to give feedback to help ensure that the final product is a good fit.