Web application development describes the process of designing, building, testing and deploying web-based applications that will be installed on remote servers and delivered to users or customers via the internet. Once a web application has been deployed on an application server, users can access the application and its functions and services using any web browser (Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Microsoft Edge, etc.)
When software development companies began releasing software for the public, they built native applications that users would either download or purchase from the store before installing on their home computer. Web applications follow many of the same design principles as native applications, but their fundamental architecture lends itself to a web-based deployment model where application resources are stored on remote servers (often in the cloud) instead of on the user's personal computer.
Web application development is a collaborative effort between front-end and back-end developers, although some organizations employ full-stack developers that can fit into either role. Web application development also requires unique consideration when it comes to functional and non-functional testing and securing the host environment against malicious cyber attacks.
When an IT organization recognizes the need to develop new functions or services in the form of an application, one of the first decision points is whether to build a native application or a web application. IT organizations must be aware of the subtle differences and unique advantages offered by each model, as their choice will determine what infrastructure is required, how the app will be distributed, the cost of the project and many other factors.
Let's start by outlining the basic differences between web applications and native applications:
A web app is internet-enabled and accessed via the browser on a personal computer or mobile device. The user does not need to download any content to use the application. A native app is developed for a specific device or operating system. It must either be purchased in a hard format or downloaded onto a computer or mobile device before it will function.
Native apps can be more expensive to develop, especially because developers must customize the application based on the mobile platform or operating system for which it is intended. Different platforms may require developers to use different programming languages, which multiplies the work for development teams releasing a native app on multiple platforms. Native apps on mobile may be sold through a mobile app store like the Google Play Store or the App Store (Apple). Mobile app stores handle payment and distribution, but it can be difficult to earn approval.
Web apps are less costly to develop, as they employ a single user interface and back-end systems for users across all platforms. Organizations that build web applications do not require approval from any app marketplace, but they also lose out on the opportunity for app store distribution and payment processing. This may not always be a drawback though, as it gives the developer more control over monetization and their choice of payment processing mechanisms.
Native apps are also better at making use of the native features of a device - microphones, cameras, biometric sensors, and others. Web application development typically results in software that is limited in how it can leverage native features on the user's device.
There are two basic roles in web application development: front-end developer and back-end developer. To understand their unique roles and responsibilities, we should start with a basic outline of web application architecture. The simplest web application architecture is based on a three-tier or three-layer model:
- The Presentation Layer is the front-end layer of the application. Its main component is a graphical user interface (GUI) that allows users to interact with the application, accessing its functions and services.
- The Business Layer contains the application and business logic that facilitate the functions and services that the application provides. The logic for all application services is contained within the business layer, which sits between the presentation layer and the data layer.
- The Data Layer is a back-end system that houses any data required for the application to deliver services and functionality to users.
With our three-tier model defined, we can now effectively differentiate between front-end and back-end developers.
Back-end developers program the business layer and data layer of an application. The internal logic of a web application is more likely to be programmed in Java, .NET, Python or C++. Back-end developers also program the API calls that will allow the application layer to query the data layer.
In general, front-end developers program the way that an application looks while back-end developers focus on the functional aspects of web application development.
The cloud computing service model has empowered web application development teams with low-cost access to the computing resources, data storage and testing infrastructure that is necessary to build, host and maintain web applications. Software development teams generally choose between two cloud service deployment models to support their development process: Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) and Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS).
In the IaaS model, a cloud service provider supplies a physical data center with servers and data storage along with networking and security capabilities. A PaaS subscription includes all of these capabilities, along with operating systems and a range of web application development, database management and business analytics tools and capabilities that support the development process. The PaaS solution stack is designed to provide developers with the tools they need to develop a functional product, including source code control, test automation, and management tools, versioning and more.
IT organizations engaged in web application development depend heavily on their cloud infrastructure as they build, test and deploy new features. Sumo Logic provides cloud security and operational analytics platform that helps developers monitor the behavior and health of applications deployed in the cloud.
With Sumo Logic, front-end developers can access real-time business analytics to assess the impact of GUI changes on user behavior. Back-end developers can monitor the latency, volume and overall performance of requests to the application's back-end, ensuring that code is optimized to deliver the best user experience.
Web application developers can use Sumo Logic's data analytics capabilities to streamline troubleshooting and issue resolution, enhance cloud security and reduce overall time to market.
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