You’ve come to the right place if you want to build your first web application. In this post I’ll examine both common, universal tips for newbie developers as well as tips that can be used by persons with a technical background, those who have a sound knowledge of web design. At the outset let me make one thing clear: starting web apps are normally simple ones; you have to subsequently build on the code. Simply put, that’s what the evolution of web software is all about.
What Are Web Apps?
Let’s begin by explaining exactly what web apps are. So as not to get confused about the definition of a web application we’ll learn how Wikipedia defines it:
A web application can be explained in three simple operational procedures whatever be its size or complexity: A web application will take data from users; it will process this data and then decide what to do with it; and finally produce output for users.
How to Start?
In the beginning you will have to put these queries to yourself: How must your web application is built? How will it deal with the data from users and present the same? What features of your web app should you give priority to? What technologies and services related to the web you will have to learn etc, etc.
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Minimum Viable Product
The creation of an MVP (Minimum Viable Product) is the initial phase in the creation of a web application. MVP comprises the most basic elements of the app and is used for testing purposes, before the actual work on the web application starts. It can be called a quick market test of a product and its features. The advantage of creating an MVP is to get authentication of your web concept in a cheap way and fast. It helps you to know your users’ needs as you get feedback of this ‘prototype’ from them.
Designing the Right User Interface
An app’s user interface holds the key to the success of a user-friendly web application and it’s imperative that you design one that is perfect for your app. The interface interaction is as essential as the UI and it’s not just the interface alone; the interaction of the interface is important too for it explains how all the elements of the interface must function when users interact with your app.
Track UIs and Inspirational Websites
Track everything that you come upon on the Web, from the tiniest icon to a huge color scheme of a site. Use tools like Evernote to note things down, or picture bookmarking services like Pinterest. Get inspired by the interface and website designs that you gather when you begin the actual web app work. Find the best solutions for your user interface elements by getting acquainted with popular UI design blueprints.
Focus on App’s Behavior, Not Looks
Your web app’s looks are naturally of concern to you, but your users are generally more bothered about how your app behaves and whether they are getting what they want from it. Your app’s appearance won’t frustrate them but its behavior will. The main aim of your app should therefore be solving users’ problems. So you should focus on using dependable CSS/HTML framework or boilerplates like Bootstrap, Twitter, Foundation and Skeleton to develop your MVP’s front-end interface. Since your design and development work gets faster with these frameworks you can focus better on your app’s behavior and come up with innovative stuff.
Use Affordable/Free/ Web Services
Don’t hesitate to use web services that are free or affordable; don’t throw your money away, even if you have plenty to spare. For your modern web app you’ll find lots of great services that have very affordable pricing plans or that are even free. They range from Heroku to Amazon S3 – the latter to store images and other content; SindGrid (to handle your business emails) to Stripe (which takes care of your payments and only takes a transaction fee) and Google Analytics (for comparatively vigorous web analytics).
Use Intermediary APIs Cautiously
You must be very selective when it comes to selecting the APIs you use. The performance of your web app can be severely affected by your choice of API. Even if it’s a high performing API, you may not escape the fits and fancies of the company that owns this third-party service. For example, Twitter’s API had been criticized when Twitter put into effect new usage terms which ruined some web applications.
Execute Your Ideas Excellently
An idea is only great if it is properly executed. It’s one thing to hit on a great idea and then sit on it! You have to make your idea work. Indeed you have to make many small ideas work in your web application so that the final product is one terrific concept brought to throbbing life which will make things easier for your users. This includes doing away with the necessity of your users having to do some page re-loading. Transforming your ideas into practical concepts is the difference between success and failure of your app.
SaaS — Software as a Service
There is always the possibility that someone else may be in need of the app that you are developing; somebody who has a problem which your app can fix. You then have the option of providing a solution to someone else – you either open source it or charge a fee for it. Maybe you could give a hosted solution to those who need it or market it as a licensed product in any way you wish to.
RE or Requirements Engineering refers to the needs of your client. RE makes it clear what the system’s functions and features will be. More than that, the requirements document entails the efforts that have to be put in to find out what users truly require and how it can be given to them within the given budget and time frame. RE brings to fruition your ideas and concepts. Of course, if you are developing a web application for yourself then your requirements will be different and lesser. You could note them down on bits of paper and you won’t need to acquire information from clients.
You may have the best ever web app idea but that alone doesn’t spell success. How you manage your project will define how really successful it is. You have to thus quickly test your app and all the time improves on past projects. You have to become familiar with the methodologies of effective software management and general SDLC – software development life-cycle which will make your web app dev project.
Version Control System
Version control helps you to return to the scene of your initial actions, that is, examine files in their previous state and evaluate the changes you made to them over a period of time. Version control also assists you to see the whole project in an earlier phase so that you can effect modifications in the manner you find best. You could find things that were causing a problem or get back files that were lost. Thus you must have a Version Control System (VCS) in place. Try out Git, which is a free, open source VCS that can handle all kinds of projects. Along with it, you can use Pro Git Book and Git Documentation to study this great system.
The design of your software architecture helps you to structure your app’s foundation correctly. Architecture is the basic outline of your app. It shows the relationship between the body of your system and its outline. Most web apps use Client-Server architecture: the client asks for services and the server gives it. These services may be any resources like file, object, data etc. The best Client-Server software must function independently of the OS (Operating System) hardware. That is, a client could become a server and vice-versa. Such a system can be scaled vertically as well as horizontally with just a little impact on performance. To build or develop your app on its foundation it’s vital to have it structured right.
The framework that you choose for your web app is vital, since frameworks provide code reuse, an organized approach in web engineering. You may settle on writing your own framework so that you have a custom code or can increase the performance of your web app; you may also want to put your app on a framework that would raise the pace of your code development by offering a group of capabilities like Model-View-Controller (MVC) architecture.
If you have the right tools your app development will undoubtedly be very pleasing. If you are familiar with the tools you will be able to navigate your code easily. A few of these tools are: your database manager/design tools, code editor, image editors, FTP/ SSH tools etc. You could select NetBeans or Eclipse as your IDE – Integrated Development Environment — for having a built-in FTP or Git client. Choosing these tools is a personal choice; it depends on the kind of projects you generally work on and your familiarity with the tools.
Coding Customs, Best Practices
Reading code that’s unfamiliar is not pleasing; reading code which doesn’t follow standard coding procedure is much, much more unpleasant. You could return and work on your project after one year and not even know what’s going on! But if your code is properly styled and follows a standard, you could quickly return to where you were left off. Best coding practices state that we must encrypt secret information like credit card passwords. Hacking is news every day so knowledge of security and principles will help to use our judgment the best way while developing our web app.
Testing is Vital
Testing is possibly one of the most essential aspects in web app development and is always the one that’s most neglected. However much you test, it’s not enough, but there are methods and tools for testing and also a development testing approach called Test Driven Development.
If you tend to all the aspects of web applications that I’ve listed here, you’ll taste success. I have experienced the joy of accomplishing great projects because the best customers thought deeply about these things. I hope this post has inspired you and will help you in your first tryst with building a web app. If you have some thoughts on it, please share in the comment column.