Web-Based Application Development – Do’s and Don’ts
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What is web-based application development?
Web-based app development is the software development process of creating applications that users can access and interact with through a web browser. Unlike traditional desktop or mobile applications, which are installed on a user’s device, web-based apps are hosted on servers and need the Internet connection to run.
For the backend development, programmers likely use server-side programming languages such as Node.js, Python, Ruby on rails, or PHP, coupled with databases like MySQL, PostgreSQL, or other SQL database. The backend is responsible for processing requests from the frontend, managing data, and performing any necessary business logic.
Types of web applications
There are several types of web applications. We explored them in our previous article about making a web app from scratch. What you need to know is that you can encounter:
- Single-page applications: Web-based applications that load a single HTML page and dynamically update the content as the user interacts with the app.
- Multi-page applications: Web applications that consist of multiple HTML pages, with each page representing a distinct view or functionality, requiring full page reloads when navigating between them.
- Progressive web applications: Progressive web apps (PWAs) provide a native app-like experience, offering features such as offline access, push notifications, and responsive design while being accessible directly through web browsers.
You also have static and dynamic web applications. To explore them, read our article about creating a web app.
What is a web application development process?
Web application development process is a systematic approach to creating web apps. It comprises multiple steps that result in building a user-friendly web app. The process is similar to creating a mobile app: it has a design stage with a few iterations, development stage, and testing phase.
Whenever, design and developmenet teams want to add a new feature, they follow the same workflow as if they were building a new web app. They design a feature, iterate on it, and develop it. The same process gets replicated for web development for mobile devices.
The Do’s of web app development
We’re creating a web app. It means that we need to follow a couple of principles regarding app user experience and user interface design as well as software development. We recommend you stick to those do’s.
Follow responsive design best practices
Responsive design is an approach to web app development that ensures a web application’s user interface and layout adapt seamlessly to different screen sizes, resolutions, and device types. The primary goal is to provide an optimal viewing and interaction experience for end users.
Since your users can access your web through a wide range of devices, from desktop computers and laptops to tablets and mobile devices, you need to take care of responsive user interface design.
Some tips about responsive user interface design include:
- Start with a Mobile-First Approach: Begin your design process by focusing on the smallest screens first, typically mobile devices. This approach ensures that your core content and functionality are prioritized for smaller screens and then progressively enhanced for larger ones.
- Use Fluid Grids and Flexible Layouts: Implement fluid grid systems and flexible layouts using relative units like percentages and ems instead of fixed units like pixels. This allows your web content to adapt proportionally to the screen size, ensuring a consistent user experience across devices.
- Use Media Queries for Breakpoints: Use media queries to set breakpoints at which your design will change to accommodate different screen sizes. Adjust your layout, font sizes, and other styles based on these breakpoints to provide an optimized experience for various devices.
- Test Across Multiple Devices: Regularly test your responsive web design across a variety of devices and browsers. Emulators and browser developer tools can help, but real-world testing on actual devices is crucial to identify and address specific issues that may arise on different platforms.
- Prioritize Content: Prioritize and organize content based on its importance and relevance to users. Ensure that critical content is accessible and prominent, especially on smaller screens where space is limited.
- Typography Adjustments: Adjust font sizes and line heights to ensure readability on different devices. Consider using relative units for font sizes to ensure that text scales appropriately across various screen sizes.
- Consider Touch and Gesture Inputs: Design with touch and gesture interactions in mind, especially for mobile devices. Ensure that buttons and interactive elements are appropriately sized and spaced to accommodate touch input.
- Accessibility Considerations: Pay attention to accessibility standards. Ensure that your responsive design accommodates users with disabilities and provides a seamless experience for everyone, regardless of their abilities or the devices they use.
- Performance Optimization: Optimize your website’s performance by minimizing unnecessary assets and reducing the overall page load time. Consider lazy loading images, minimizing HTTP requests, and leveraging browser caching to enhance the user experience.
Want to build an app wireframe that is responsive from the start? Follow our guide on how to do that with UXPin Merge and MUI components: How to Build a Responsive Dashboard?
Adhere to coding standards
Coding standards are a set of guidelines and conventions that developers adhere to when writing code. Coding standards act as a common language, ensuring that all team members write code in a similar manner. This consistency fosters better communication, minimizes misunderstandings, and allows developers to seamlessly switch between different parts of the codebase.
Additionally, when coding standards are followed, it becomes simpler for software developers to identify and fix issues. Debugging becomes a more straightforward process because the code is structured in a predictable way, making it easier to trace the flow of execution and locate potential problems.
Coding standards cover various aspects of coding, including naming conventions, indentation, formatting, and best practices.
Optimize images and media
Optimizing images is crucial for web-based apps because it directly impacts the app’s performance, user experience, and overall loading speed. Large or poorly optimized images can significantly increase page load times, leading to slower user interactions and potentially driving visitors away from a web page or application. Here are some ways to achieve optimized images and media:
- Compression: Use image compression techniques to reduce the file size without compromising image quality excessively. Tools like ImageOptim, TinyPNG, or online services like Squoosh can help in compressing images effectively.
- Resize Images: Ensure that images are resized to the appropriate dimensions for their display on the web app. If an image is larger than needed, resizing it can significantly reduce its file size. Use tools like Photoshop, GIMP, or online platforms to adjust dimensions.
- Choose the Right File Format: Select the appropriate file format for each image. For photographs, JPEG is often suitable, while PNG is ideal for images with transparency. SVG is a good choice for simple graphics and icons. Each format has its compression and quality considerations.
- Lazy Loading: Implement lazy loading for images, especially for those that are not initially visible on the user’s screen. Lazy loading ensures that images are loaded only when they come into the user’s viewport, reducing the initial page load time.
- Responsive Images: Use responsive images that adapt to different screen sizes. This prevents unnecessary loading of large images on smaller screens and ensures a better user experience on various devices.
- Content Delivery Network (CDN): Utilize a Content Delivery Network to distribute images across servers geographically. CDNs reduce latency by serving images from servers closer to the user, further improving loading times.
Leverage caching strategically
Caching is a technique used in web development to store and reuse certain data or resources, reducing the need to repeatedly request and retrieve them from the original source.
It improves the performance and user experience of web applications by minimizing the time and resources required to load and display content. Caching is particularly beneficial for frequently accessed or static data.
Use browser caching, server-side caching, and content delivery networks (CDNs) to reduce the load on servers and improve the overall speed of your web-based application.
Engage in Continuous Integration and Deployment (CI/CD)
CI/CD stands for Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery, and it represents a set of modern software development practices aimed at improving the development and delivery process.
Continuous Integration is about automating the deployment process of software to staging or production environments. Continuous Delivery focuses on automating the deployment process of software to staging or production environments.
So, set up a CI/CD pipeline to automate the testing, building, and deployment processes. Continuous integration ensures that changes are merged seamlessly, and continuous deployment allows for faster and more reliable updates to your web application.
CI/CD is crucial for web-based apps because it enhances the speed, reliability, and collaboration aspects of the development and deployment process, ultimately leading to a more efficient and competitive development lifecycle.
The Dont’s of web app development
There are a few no-no’s when it comes to web-based apps. Here are key things that front-end developers and designers need to avoid.
UI consistency in web app development refers to maintaining a uniform and cohesive design across the user interface elements, visual elements, and interaction patterns throughout the entire application. It ensures that users encounter a predictable and harmonious experience as they navigate different pages and sections of the web app.
Consistency involves adhering to established design patterns, styling conventions, and interaction behaviors to create a seamless and intuitive user interface. Here are a few dangers of having an inconsistent user interface:
- Confusing User Experience: Inconsistencies in the UI can lead to confusion among users. If elements like buttons, navigation menus, or color schemes vary across different pages, users may struggle to understand how to interact with the application, leading to a less intuitive and frustrating experience.
- Higher Cognitive Load: Users must invest additional cognitive effort to adapt to an inconsistent UI. When design elements behave differently or have varying visual cues, users need to constantly readjust their mental model of the application, resulting in increased cognitive load and potentially hindering their overall experience.
- Increased Error Rates: Inconsistencies may lead to higher error rates. Users accustomed to a certain interaction pattern may make mistakes when confronted with unexpected changes. This can result in unintended actions, frustration, and a higher likelihood of errors during the use of the web app.
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Usability encompasses factors such as ease of use, intuitiveness, navigation, and overall user experience. A web app with poor usability often presents challenges that lead to frustration, confusion, and an overall negative user experience.
Identifying poor usability in your web app involves assessing various aspects of user interaction and experience. Here are signs that may indicate your web app’s usability needs improvement:
- High exit rates on key pages: If users are frequently exiting your web app on crucial pages, such as checkout or registration pages, it may signal usability issues. Analyze exit rates on important pages to identify potential roadblocks or confusing elements.
- Frequent support requests: An increased number of support requests or inquiries related to how to use the web app may indicate poor usability. Users should be able to navigate and perform tasks intuitively without the need for extensive guidance.
- Low task completion rate: Users might encounter difficulties in completing tasks, leading to task abandonment, they may leave forms unfilled, not convert to paid users or they won’t invite friends or coworkers to join them in app.
- Limited user engagement: A lack of user engagement with key features or functionalities may suggest poor usability. Users might not be discovering or using certain elements, indicating that the design or placement is not intuitive.
Not handling users errors
Handling user errors effectively in web applications is crucial for providing a positive user experience and preventing user frustration. Web developers and designers should provide clear and descriptive error messages that convey the nature of the problem and suggest possible solutions.
The text should be written without technical jargon or complex terminology that might confuse users further. Communicate the error in a way that makes sense to the user. Another important thing is the error message placement. Display error messages in proximity to the specific field or area where the error occurred. This helps users quickly identify the problem and understand which part of the form or process needs attention.
Implement real-time validation for user inputs. As users fill out forms, provide instant feedback on whether their input is valid. This proactive approach helps users correct errors before submitting the form.
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Lack of testing UI before release
The development team may forget about testing the UI before they release the first version of the app. Testing the user interface is crucial for identifying and addressing potential issues that end users may encounter.
Testing the UI early in the development process helps detect design flaws or inconsistencies that may have been overlooked during the design phase. Addressing these issues before the release saves time on redesigning app’s user interface.
Gather feedback from potential users through usability testing sessions. Observing how users interact with the UI can provide valuable insights into areas that may need improvement. You can also release a beta version of your web app to collect feedback, monitor user interactions, and identify any unexpected issues before the full release.
Neglecting cross-browser compatibility
Neglecting cross-browser compatibility is a common mistake in web development that can have significant repercussions on a website’s usability, functionality, and overall user experience.
Cross-browser compatibility refers to the ability of a website or web application to function consistently and effectively across different web browsers. Ignoring this aspect can lead to various challenges and user frustrations, as some users will not be able to use your app or they may encounter performance and layout errors.
Always test UI across various browsers (Google Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Edge, etc.) to ensure that your web app looks and functions consistently across different browser environments. This is crucial for avoiding potential issues specific to certain browsers. There are some tools that can help you with that.
Failing to provide documentation
Documentation serves as a crucial resource for understanding the codebase, facilitating collaboration, and ensuring the maintainability of the web app.
Without proper documentation, app maintenance becomes a challenging and time-consuming process. Documented codebase explanations, architectural decisions, and coding conventions help development team members understand the project more efficiently.
Well-documented code provides clarity on the intended behavior, reducing the likelihood of introducing errors during maintenance. Documented codebase guidelines and architectural documentation are also essential for scaling the app without any problems.
Overlooking security measures
Neglecting security can lead to severe consequences, including data breaches, unauthorized access, and compromised user trust. Since the app is based on web, it is susceptible to common cyber attacks such as SQL injection, cross-site scripting (XSS), and cross-site request forgery (CSRF). These attacks can lead to unauthorized access, data manipulation, and session hijacking.
Neglecting security often results in a lack of incident response preparedness. Without a well-defined incident response plan, software developers and security teams may struggle to contain and mitigate the impact of security incidents promptly.
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We explored do’s and dont’s of web application development. Do you feel inspired to build your own web-based app? If so, try our drag-and-drop UI builder, UXPin Merge and design with React UI components that come from MUI and other open-source libraries to move from design to development 10x faster. Try UXPin Merge.