What are web apps?

Category: Blog, Uncategorized

In My last blog I discussed the pros and cons of native apps… the ones you get off the app store. This time I’m going to talk about web apps.


Web apps are more common than you might think… facebook and twitter are web apps, Xero accounting software is also a web app. They are applications that use the internet browser on your device to run. Most of the time web apps behave the same as a native app in that you can log in, store data, run reports and with some, you can use them offline. The two most common mobile operating systems: Android and Apple’s iOS are recognising this now and have made it possible to create a shortcut on your home screen so you can access the web app like a native app, without the address bar at the top like a normal web page in the browser. Of course a lot of web apps have also created native apps that operate the parent web app… but we won’t go into that today!

The benefits of web apps are:

  • Web apps can run more independently than native apps because they aren’t subject to the approval process of app stores. Both Google and Apple need to approve everything that goes on their stores subject to meeting the visual and ethical standards of the store.
  • Web apps are usually written in one type of code which means that developers only need to do things once and everyone can get the update, rather than needing to write it in Android code as well as iOS code and Windows code.
  • Web apps can also be accessed by a range of different devices, so if you have an iPhone, Android tablet and Windows Laptop, you can access the same app on all devices without needing to install them from the app store.
  • Web apps are better for accessibility, you could be on holiday on the other side of the world, without your phone or pc, pop into an internet café and check what your workmen have done in the last week! You simply enter the web address of your web app into the web browser on that machine.
  • Technology is starting to emerge that allows web apps to access hardware on your device such as the camera and GPS.
  • Web apps can have a native app to “Drive” it, so you get the best of both worlds… access your app through a native app or your web browser.

The downsides to web apps are:

  • Web apps generally run a bit slower than native apps.
  • They can be more complex to set up in that you would want to add a shortcut to your home screen or create a book mark within the browser to quickly access it.
  • Up until recently web apps have been unable to use the hardware on your device such as the camera and GPS radio. So most still don’t have this capability.
  • Web apps can’t work offline and automatically sync to the cloud. You can only have one or the other unless you can put up with a very slow load time.
  • iOS 7… Apple really made life difficult in that version, if your web app is playing up on your iPad, contact the developer!
  • From a developer’s perspective, promotion can be more difficult with a web app if it is only available through your website.

Apps come in all shapes and sizes and what makes them better or worse isn’t whether they are native or web based, its whether they do their prescribed job properly, whether they display your information clearly, whether entering data is easy and whether they run deeper than some pretty screen shots and produce some meaningful calculations for you to use and improve your farming system.


James McShane


Thank you to www.web-dat.de for the featured image