A web application is a client to server software, stored on a remote server, which the client accesses via the internet on a web browser to perform a specific function.
Web applications basically connect the user to the back end of web sites providing specific functionalities to the user. Some of the functions that web applications provide include internet search indexing, social networking, content management systems, online banking, e-commerce, blogs, just to name a few.
Most websites contain a web application because any website component that performs a function for the user, no matter how small, can be considered an application.
For example, Google Search is a web application, but a much smaller-scale example are the applications that enable you to subscribe to a blog mailing list.
Web Application Development Process
The process of developing a web application is more cyclical than linear. After the analysis and programming result in a functioning application, that application must be monitored continuously. If tweaking the application is necessary then the process begins again. These are the steps of the process.
- Detailed analysis of the business requirements
- Development of design specification
- Brainstorming of design concept
- Quality Assurance and testing
- Deployment and Training
- Support and maintenance
Web Application Programming Technologies
The programming or development of web applications can be loosely divided into two categories:
- Front End Scripting / Coding: This is the programming involved on the client side of the web application. Some of the technologies and languages that facilitate the melding of content, structure, formatting behavior and links on the front end include:
- Hyper Text Markup Language or HTML. This serves as the base layer containing the basics of content, structure and hyperlink behaviour. It provides programmers with a foundation vocabulary to build both simple and complex applications.
- Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) deals with the design or aesthetic aspect of a web site (what it looks like) and simplifying the management of the libraries of HTML documents.
- Ajax is a development pattern built on an API. It also helps to extend browser behavior.
- Back End Scripting or Coding: This Server side script is the glue between the front end or user interface and the content. It is basically the engine of the site. Server side coding is usually not visible to clients or visitors. Some of the server side scripting technologies are:
- PHP – an open source (Unix/Linux) language that usually combines with MySQL database
- Ruby – an open source object oriented programming language
- Python – a very powerful, high level programming language
Web Application Frameworks
These are a collection of program components, libraries and tools organised into a system that facilitates the development of web applications, services, resources and APIs. They provide the skeleton upon which application developers can build their own applications. Examples of frameworks are Django, Meteor and Flask.
Benefits of Web Application Frameworks
- They hide or simplify the technical aspect and infrastructural code associated with handling HTTP requests and responses
- They assist in HTML templating, thus enabling a person with little experience as a programmer to modify an interface without too much difficulty.
- They also enable programmers to work faster by providing a base that is consistent. Therefore, a programmer does not have to start from scratch with each new web application.
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