When it comes to the internet and how we interact with the content therein, web applications are the tools that help us view the content, kind of like spectacles.
A web application is basically any functional component on a website that enables you to do a certain task. We access web applications via internet browsers.
Examples of the functions that web applications conduct are Social Networking, blogging, online forums, online booking and ecommerce. Web applications that we use daily include Expedia, Google Search, Google+, Face Swap Live and many others.
The fundamental question to ask yourself is, “Does this web site component do anything for the user?” If it does, then it is a web application. This of course means that there is a wide spectrum of web applications from the very basic to the complex ones built with Ajax on multiple APIs.
Front End Vs Back End
To better understand web application development, we can loosely categorize the programming process into two parts:
- Client Side Coding: This is, in a nutshell, the part of the web application that the user sees and interacts with. It has a lot to do with the design, formatting, and hyperlink behavior. Some of the web technologies that are used to build the front end of web application are:
- HTML (Hyper Text Markup Language): In the beginning there was HTML. Though it is very simplistic and difficult to scale up, it is the foundation language upon which other techniques have been developed over time.
- CSS (Cascading Style Sheets): This is the next tier in building up an application. CSS mainly creates ease in managing the various HTML documents and making it easier for the developer to tweak the design and look of the application.
- Server Side coding: This essentially tackles the engine or the workings behind the user interface. It is the wiring that a client does not see. Here are a few key technologies that developers rely on when programming the back end:
- PHP (Hypertext Preprocessor): One of the most popular, open source fast and flexible scripting languages
- Python: a more complex, high level scripting language. It requires previous coding experience.
- Perl: a group of different programming languages
- Ruby: a high level, object-oriented scripting language
Web Application Frameworks
If one were dealing with a single HTML document, all these other languages would be redundant. However, web applications and the functions they perform are increasingly complex and nuanced. If a developer had to figure out each component of the web application from the ground up every single step, it would significantly slow down the development process. This is where frameworks come in.
Frameworks are a system of libraries, tools and program components that form the skeleton upon which a developer builds. They simplify and speed up the web development process, making it accessible even to less skilled people.
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