Web Apps v. Desktop Apps: What’s The Difference?

custom software applications

25 Sep Web Apps v. Desktop Apps: What’s The Difference?

Don’t worry, the desktop isn’t dead- yet.

There’s something to be said for how quickly the world has adopted mobile technology. The phones in our pockets are basically more powerful computers than the ones set up in offices just a few years ago. The main advantage is that phones and tablets give us access to business from anywhere there is an Internet connection.

Web apps are no different. They offer a decided advantage as far as mobility goes. No longer are you forced to work from your office- you can work from the comfort of your own home (if your boss allows it, of course).

Utilising web apps and the cloud are one of the ways Red Rock Software handles software development in Perth and with the help of our remote team.

The thing is, custom software applications have their place both in the form of web apps and desktop apps. A web app might be better for one company and worse for another. On top of that, the line is beginning to blur between the two- both being influenced by each other, hopefully for the better.

If a company is interested in being the best, they can benefit from looking at the benefits and drawbacks to both forms of custom software applications.

Let’s start with the obvious difference: web apps are online, at least the vast majority of the time. This is a foundational difference, and leads to many of the advantages and of course some disadvantages.

Mobility

We’ve already mentioned how mobility has revolutionised the workplace. Web apps allow access to business software from anywhere there is an internet connection. This is a positive the vast majority of the time.

However, in the event of an outage- you might be out of luck until the internet is restored. How likely an internet outage is, is completely dependent on what ISP you have and factors that are usually out of your hands.

Desktop software will work without the internet, but you will have a harder time accessing it remotely. It should be noted that many web apps allow offline functionality.

Google learned that lesson the hard way after the public backlash from its online-only first generation Chromebooks: later models allow for offline use despite its emphasis on the cloud.

Ease of use

Ultimately, the design of the software itself determines whether or not the software is easy to use. However, there are some distinct advantages to web apps in this category.

Web apps can end up being easier to use for the developers and the users, with some built-in functions. Because they are being accessed through a server, and are not stored on user machines, only the server needs to be updated.

This means essentially requiring one update rather than thousands of individual updates that must be downloaded and installed to unique desktops.

And speaking of downloads- software doesn’t even need to be downloaded if it’s a web app. It is simply accessed from within the browser. If you are just trying to get more users to try your software, it feels like way less of a commitment for people to just hop on and try it rather than downloading and installing a program.

Generally, with web apps individual users feel more comfortable with monthly fees than they do with paying monthly fees on desktops. The best example of this: Adobe’s switch to the Creative Cloud, which had users up in arms about not being able to own the software on their computers.

More power, please

Many companies seek out web application development software because of the cloud. Cloud based computing offers many benefits, both in terms of cost and support, that otherwise might not be available to the desktop.

Because web apps are being accessed on a server, a less well-equipped computer or mobile device can be used. The heavy lifting comes on the other end of the internet, within the web app’s server. This is usually less expensive for the client, but might end up being more expensive for the developer.

If the developer creates a desktop app, hosting ends up being cheaper because they only need to supply bandwidth for the initial download and updates. With web apps, they need some hefty servers to run all of the users that might be working with the software at any given time.

Also, web apps can have a harder time being optimised for users because they are based mostly in Javascript and HTML. They might not perform quite as fast as their desktop counterparts.

Ultimately it’s a matter of preference when it comes to web apps and desktop apps. It seems like the two are getting closer and closer together, what with cloud utilisation and mobility being increasingly important factors to companies around the world.

HTML and Javascript are even being used in desktop apps now! The important thing to remember is to choose the right developer and the right software for your company- whether it is online or on your desktop.

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