7 top tips for web app development

13 min read
December 8, 2023

Developing a web app is a great way to expand your online footprint and reach more users.

But, you need to do it right – and that’s easier said than done.

That’s why we’ll discuss 7 top tips for web app development that will help you get it right.

Let’s dive in!

What is web app development?

Web app development is the process of creating an app that runs on a web server and can be accessed through a web browser.

And browser access is what separates them from mobile apps.

But, we need to clear up a misconception – web apps aren’t the same as websites.

Here’s how they’re different:

web app vs website

source: Wesrom

The main difference is in their complexity and functionality.

And developing a web app can be a great idea for your business.

Now, let’s discuss why that’s the case.

Why should you build a web app?

With the rise of mobile apps, web apps might seem like an unnecessary investment.

But, that’s not true.

Just take a look at the software-as-a-service (SaaS) market, for example.

SaaS

source: The Motley Fool

That’s one segment where web apps are common and it’s thriving – according to Precedence Research, the SaaS market reached a size of $314.54 billion in 2023.

It’s also expected to grow to $1,016.44 billion by 2032, reaching over a trillion dollars in value at a compound annual growth rate of 13.92%.

And that’s just one market segment.

There are other reasons why you should build a web app, like:

  • Wider reach
  • Convenience (no installation needed)
  • Lower development costs
  • Easier troubleshooting

And those are pretty compelling reasons to build one for your business.

Top tips for web app development

Now, let’s discuss some top tips for successful web app development, which are:

  • Understand your target audience
  • Create a software requirements specification
  • Build an MVP for your web app
  • Focus on scalability
  • Use responsive design
  • Build a progressive web app
  • Rigorously test your web app

Let’s discuss each in more detail.

Understand your target audience

The most important thing you need to know before developing your web app is knowing who you’re building it for.

And that means understanding your target audience.

Without that, it will be much tougher to build an app that meets your users’ needs.

target market vs target audience vs target personas

Understanding your target audience is the first step to successful market research.

And thorough market research will help you get a product-market fit, which is essential if you want a successful app.

Like startup coach and investor Marc Andreessen said:

The only thing that matters is getting to product/market fit. Product/market fit means being in a good market with a product that can satisfy that market.

But, how can you get to that point?

There’s a simple answer to that question – thorough product discovery.

During product discovery, you’ll dive deep into researching your users’ needs and pain points.

This will help you find out what your target audience wants and how your app can solve their problems.

You should use a variety of qualitative and quantitative research methods, like:

  • User interviews
  • Focus groups
  • Surveys
  • Social media listening
  • A/B testing
  • Questionnaires

With these methods, you’ll get a deep understanding of your target audience and cover all your bases before you start developing your web app.

And that’s key if you want it to be successful.

Key steps

  • Analyze your competitors – study your competitors’ reviews and feedback to see what their users like/dislike about their apps
  • Use social listening – you should monitor social media to see what your target audience wants from your web app
  • Create a feedback loop – having a feedback loop is essential if you want to successfully iterate and improve your app

Create a software requirements specification

Developing a web app without a software requirements specification (SRS) document is like building a house without a blueprint.

And would you move into a house that was built without a blueprint?

Of course you wouldn’t.

And that’s why you shouldn’t build an app without an SRS, either.

But, what exactly goes into an SRS?

Here’s what a typical SRS table of contents looks like:

SRS table of contents

source: Medium

Of course, your app’s SRS will be slightly different.

But, your SRS should always cover 2 key areas – your web app’s functional and non-functional requirements.

An easy way of thinking about them is like this – functional requirements cover what your app does and non-functional requirements cover how it does it.

Here’s a more detailed breakdown:

Functional vs non-functional requirements

source: DDI Development

Your app’s functional requirements cover everything your app should do when users interact with it – this includes all its features and functionalities.

And the non-functional requirements cover how your app does things and they’re more focused on performance and security metrics.

The reason why an SRS is so important is because it helps align everyone working on your app.

This means that you can create a clear development timeline and prevent scope creep.

And that will help you get your web app to market faster.

Key steps

  • Use simple and clear language – using simple and clear language will help you avoid misunderstandings
  • Use visual aids – visual elements like diagrams and flowcharts will make your SRS document more engaging and understandable
  • Regularly review the SRS – regularly review your SRS to ensure it stays relevant and useful as 

Build an MVP for your web app 

Building a minimum viable product (MVP) of your web app is a great way to make sure your idea works before fully committing to development.

That’s because an MVP is a bare-bones version of your app with only the essential features.

It’s the ultimate idea validation tool that shows you if there’s demand for your web app on the market.

vTLWD4

source: TatvaSoft

If your web app’s core features resonate with users, you’ll know that your app has a good chance of success.

And if they don’t, you’ll save a lot of time and money because you didn’t commit to full development.

And the best part?

Your MVP doesn’t even need to be a working version of your web app – you can make a fake door MVP.

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In 2011, Dropbox famously started as a fake door MVP with a 3-minute video describing how the technology behind their app worked.

And it worked – the number of users on their beta waiting list grew from 5,000 to 75,000 overnight.

Building an MVP is a great, cost-effective starting point for your web app development.

And it will lay the foundation for your app’s success.

Key steps

  • Iterate based on feedback – get as much feedback from your users as you can to iterate on and improve your MVP
  • Be prepared to pivot – make sure you’re ready to pivot based on user feedback or changing market conditions
  • Keep the design simple – you should focus on your MVP’s functionality and create a simple, user-friendly interface

Focus on scalability

Scalability is a key area you should focus on when developing your web app.

It’s what ensures your app can handle growth in:

  • Users 
  • Data
  • Traffic

In other words, scalability is the ability of your web app to manage growing user demand without sacrificing performance.

And performance is critical to your app’s success.

A report by Akamai shows that even a 100-millisecond delay can reduce conversion rates by 7%.

Luckily, web apps are more scalable than mobile apps.

They can scale horizontally and vertically, as you can see in the picture below:

Vertical and horizontal scaling

source: Tutorial Dojo

Still, making sure your web app can scale as your user base grows is key if you want it to be successful.

So, how can you do that?

The main factor here is your web app’s architecture – you should go with an architecture like microservices that supports scaling.

And you can use cloud computing services to do that, such as:

Using them makes developing scalable web apps easy and cost-efficient.

And that’s why you should go for them.

Key steps

  • Use load balancing – load balancers distribute traffic across multiple servers, which improves your app’s performance and helps in handling large traffic loads
  • Continuously monitor your web app – continuous monitoring tools will help you find performance bottlenecks and plan future scaling
  • Regularly optimize your code – optimizing your code on a regular basis will improve your app’s performance and make scaling easier

Use responsive design

Your web app’s design is as important as the technology behind it, if not more important.

Your users agree with that, too – according to Zippia, 94% of users will leave a website if it has a low-quality design.

That’s why getting it right is essential.

And using responsive design is one of the best ways to do just that.

But, what exactly is responsive design?

Responsive design means that your web app automatically adapts to your user’s screen size, regardless of the device they’re using.

Responsive design

source: IxDF

This means that your users have a consistent optimized experience, no matter the platform they use:

  • Laptops
  • PCs
  • Tablets
  • Smartphones

A good example of responsive design is Google’s search engine – all users get a uniform experience.

So, how can you use responsive design in your web app?

The cornerstone of responsive design are media queries.

Media queries

source: Seobility

Media queries allow you to apply CSS styles based on the type of device your users are using.

In simple terms, they make responsive design possible.

Another important method for responsive design is fluid grids.

They’re a visual way of creating design layouts for different devices, and you can use them to specify the layouts for each device type.

They’ll help you provide a consistent experience for all of your users.

And that’s what responsive design is all about.

Key steps

  • Use flexible images – flexible images scale with your fluid grid, which is key if you want to use responsive design
  • Test on multiple devices – make sure your design provides a consistent experience to your users on all device types
  • Use responsive typography – just like images, text in your web app should adjust to every device type

Build a progressive web app

If you want to take your web app to the next level, building a progressive web app (PWA) is the way to go.

Alex Russell, the software engineer who coined the term, described PWAs as “websites that took all the right vitamins”.

PWAs are web apps that combine web and native mobile app technologies – in simple terms, they’re web apps that feel like mobile apps.

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And this means they provide users with a better experience, which has numerous business benefits.

The stats back that up, too.

Flipkart, one of the biggest Indian e-commerce companies, built a PWA in 2015 – their PWA increased conversion rates by 70% and tripled the amount of time users spent on their site.

So, what exactly sets them apart from standard web apps?

PWAs are built just like any other web app with HTML, CSS, and Javascript but are different in a number of ways:

Progressive web apps

source: TechAhead

PWAs can be installed on users’ devices, for example, mimicking how a native mobile app works.

But, the essential component is the service worker – it’s a background script that caches data and content.

It’s what enables offline access to PWAs, which is what sets them apart from standard web apps.

It’s also one of the main reasons why they provide a better user experience (UX).

And that’s a pretty compelling reason to build one.

Key steps

  • Prioritize offline access – make sure that your web app’s core features can work without an internet connection
  • Add push notifications – push notifications increase user engagement and are a great way to keep your users informed about new content and updates
  • Focus on UX – providing a good user experience is key to your PWA’s success, they should offer a similar experience and functionality like a native mobile app

Rigorously test your web app

Excellent quality is non-negotiable when developing a web app.

And that’s why rigorous and thorough testing and quality assurance (QA) is an essential step in web app development.

Testing isn’t just about making your web app better, either.

Doing it yields other benefits as well, as you can see in the picture below:

Benefits of software testing

It can also prevent you from losing out on potential revenue – slow-loading sites cost their owners $2.6 billion in lost revenue every year.

And that’s a huge loss you can easily prevent by thoroughly testing your web app.

But, how exactly do you do that?

There are a number of testing methods and metrics QA teams use to test web apps, like:

  • Integration testing
  • Unit testing
  • Regression testing
  • Performance testing

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

But, keep in mind that you shouldn’t just rigorously test your web app during development – it should be a continuous process.

This way, you’ll ensure that your app has consistently good performance and UX.

And that’s why it’s a good idea to invest in testing and QA.

Key steps

  • Create a testing strategy – set clear goals you want to achieve and plan for different types of testing in advance
  • Automate testing – automate testing with tools like Selenium to increase efficiency and save time 
  • Test on real devices – on top of using emulators, test how your app works in real-world scenarios

Top tips for web app development: FAQs

What is web app development?

Web app development is the process of creating an app that runs on a web server and can be accessed through a web browser.

Why should I build a web app?

You should build a web app because they:

  • Have a wider reach
  • Are more convenient to use
  • Cheaper to develop
  • Easier to maintain

How can I improve my web app’s performance?

You can improve its performance by making your web app scalable, building a progressive web app, and rigorously testing it before launch.

Why is a software requirements specification document so important?

A software requirements specification is important because:

  • It helps align all stakeholders
  • Reduces risk
  • Helps you avoid scope creep

What are the best tips for web app development?

They are:

  • Understand your target audience
  • Create a software requirements specification
  • Build an MVP for your web app
  • Focus on scalability
  • Use responsive design
  • Build a progressive web app
  • Rigorously test your web app

Need a web app?

Are you thinking about developing a web app for your business but aren’t sure where to start?

We’ve got you covered.

To successfully develop your web app, you need to have the right team building it – that’s where we come in.

Feel free to get in touch with us and we’ll help you turn your idea into reality.

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Written by

Tarek Saghir

JS Team Lead

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