How to Build a Web App: Key Steps for Starters


The development of web technologies is blurring the lines between websites and native applications. And the point is not only in the different set of software tools used for development but also in the user experience possibilities. Precisely for this reason, the question of how to build a web app from scratch is becoming more and more relevant for business owners.

Web applications are rapidly stamping out desktop applications, becoming key tools for improving the efficiency of modern business. Designed in specific languages, based on specialized platforms, they allow for the most advanced interface and system functionality as far as web solutions go. Such apps are usually written in HTML, CSS, Python, or JavaScript.

But to create your own product, profiled knowledge, skills, and lots of time are required. A team with no experience in the niche wouldn’t this task. That’s why many companies turn to reliable web application development providers. If you intend to do everything yourself, read the article to the end.

Market Research and Idea Formation

Before you create anything, and even more so, build your own web app, you first need to understand what exact results you would like to see. The study of demand and other market experiences will help you clarify the vision of your own product. Market research can help organize ideas and set the right direction. If there is a niche for your product and there is an established competition, you should know what goals the new application is pursuing, what its target audience is, and why users need it. These are the kick-off points to figure out.

Surely, the basic idea should be based on proven solutions that are guaranteed to lead to the solution of the user problem. At the same time, the product must fully meet both the market and your expectations from sales. Even if your concept is not all that original, it should bring value to the market.

The research stage is the most important in the entire development process, as it provides a clear understanding of the business goals, target audience, and, as a result, how to build a web application. Based on the preparatory input, a well thought out action plan is prepared, including a breakdown of tasks, resource allocation, definition of timelines and project milestones.

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Choosing an Architecture

So, you have an idea, you studied the market, and got a general idea of how to build web-based applications. The important thing now is to choose the optimal platform and list everything you want your application to have and do. In particular, for eCommerce applications, you can pick a platform from among this renowned bunch:

  • Shopify;
  • Magento;
  • WooCommerce;
  • BigCommerce.

PHP developers must be platform-specific and build a web application with a transparent architecture that extends store functionality in areas such as product sourcing, ordering and shipping, inventory management, customer support, and more.

For corporate software, any platform from the list goes, but the site architecture should be simple. You should avoid complex code to facilitate the possible need for global refactoring, which can cost a lot. The fewer elements the system has, the easier and better it runs.

CRM is a powerful automation tool for any customer-centric business. The application should provide the following capabilities:

  • Sturdy, reliable database;
  • Analytical tools;
  • Sales-focused tools;
  • Paperwork optimization;
  • Efficient staff management.

Building a web application via an ERP can help you open up new business opportunities:

  • Standardization of reporting and data systems;
  • Enhancement of inter-departmental activity;
  • Synchronization and management of work processes.

All things considered, your end solution should ultimately come out: 

  1. Flexible - i.e., accessible on any device, in any operating system and browser, as well as anywhere in the world.
  2. Secure - centralized protection of system entry points may be a good idea.
  3. Scalable - if data is processed via hardware resources without code editing, you don’t have to limit the traffic support as the user load grows.
  4. Data protecting - user data stored in cloud can be efficiently backed up to forget about hard drive issues.

These nuances form the foundation on which the entire project is planned and developed. A detailed collection of requirements in all these aspects is a must. You should define, discuss, and document all the key elements such as scope, purpose, templates, and functional requirements. Any unknowns such as third party APIs, web services are scrutinized. This is done in order to better understand these third-party systems and to eliminate uncertainties.

To dive deeper into the technical stuff, an MVC (Model - View - Controller) approach is used for setting up basic software algorithms. The Model part typically concerns data that does not need to be tightly coupled so that the code can be easily extended. View outlines headers and scripts, which should be accumulated in separate files. Items should be easy to share for simple scaling. Controller is the key element that powers up the distribution of responses to client requests. 

This is the optimal architecture to create a web app. Each element is customized via object-oriented programming, inherit abstract classes, and is made more complex. Many frameworks out there support this architecture. If the elements in the code are confused, refactoring can be done, after which the development process should speed up.

A common mistake in defining functionality is overdoing it. Your web app doesn't have to be mega versatile. Define functionality that solves the target problems, but make sure future versions can accommodate more requirements.

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Layout Design

The web application development process starts with creating a layout. The most basic sketch can be drawn up on paper. You should have an idea of what a web application is, who its users are, and what features it will have. Sketch the wireframe for the user interface, but it doesn't have to be precise, it's just a sketch.

The appearance of the website is important for the growth of the target audience, so the design prototype is finalized based on the information received from the client.

Among other things, an attractive website design is essential to increase traffic and conversion rates. After the design is complete, front-end coders manually code the UI elements. The exchange of ideas between designers, coders, and client at this stage ensures that the website matches the client's needs and aesthetic preferences exactly.

Consider the following when working on a layout sketch: navigation, branding, shapes, buttons, any other interactive elements. Draw different versions of the web application. Think about how its functionality fits the overall design. Annotate your sketch and outline how the application should work. Taking notes can help clarify and understand why you created certain items at a later stage.

At this stage of building a web application, don't get carried away. Your sketch is for communication and experimentation, not for sale. Over-complicating the design at this stage will only lead to worktime frustration further on.

HTML Markup

There are four different methods for creating multi-column page layouts to develop a web application:

  • CSS framework - if you want to quickly create your layout, you can use a CSS framework like W3.CSS or Bootstrap.
  • CSS float property - typically, entire web layouts are created using CSS floats. Learning float is easy - you just need to remember how the float and clear properties work. Disadvantages: Floating elements are tied to the document flow, which can hurt flexibility. To learn more about float, look up the CSS Float and Clear.
  • CSS flexbox - using flexbox provides predictable behavior for items when the page layout needs to fit different screen sizes and different display devices.
  • CSS grid - The CSS Grid Layout module offers a grid-based layout system with rows and columns that makes it easy to develop web pages without using markers and positioning.
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Creating a web application, you’ll need to integrate an API (application programming interface) to provide a connection between the server and the client software. The APIs also help the server fetch data from the database and pass data to it.

The web application development process includes the construction of functional site elements. Experienced programmers create functions that were completed in the previous steps. This includes coding business logic, integrating the user interface with the back-end database, and creating custom functionality specific to a given project.

At this stage, content management systems, databases, and platforms are installed and configured. Integration with third-party applications, web services, and any other API-based systems is also being completed. Steps are being taken to ensure that the code is consistent with current web standards and is scalable.

Web app creation technologies are selected based on the specifics of a particular project. Most well-known programming languages are used to create the server side of web applications. Typically, HTML, JavaScript, Ajax, and CSS are used for client side implementation.

PHP is a basic language used for development that allows you to quickly and cost-effectively build scalable and reliable solutions. Here’s where the experience of working with the most popular, powerful, and efficient front-end frameworks and libraries matters:

  • Frameworks backend: Yii-2, Symfony, Laravel, Zend, Magento;
  • Frameworks & libraries frontend: Angular, React, Vue;
  • Server environment: Node.js, MySQL, Redis, MongoDB.

It is these tools that allow you to make cross-browser web apps with next-level performance.

Quality Сontrol & Launch

Before you can preview a new web application, it is important to make sure it meets quality standards. Applications rely on a huge number of related APIs. If even one of them fails, the service will not work. To avoid this, you should thoroughly test your API.

At this stage, a comprehensive check of the quality of interrelated functions is carried out. Browser responsiveness testing, regression testing, functional testing, smoke testing, load testing, and performance testing are the main types of quality assurance tests performed here.

At this point of making web apps, the development and testing teams work closely together using an iterative process to ensure that the final product is bug-free. Successful completion of this phase means the website is ready to be deployed to validate and receive customer feedback.

Checking the site from the end user perspective is essential. The ability to pilot test, get real feedback and suggestions for improvement will reduce the number of change requests after the application is deployed to production.

The launch and release is the final stage, after which the application is made available to the target audience. Data migration, server installation, and configuration, code merging, domain name redirection, health check are some of the key tasks in this phase.

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Any web application requires constant maintenance, support, improvements, and regular updates. Namely, from this point of view, solutions created and maintained by third-party companies that know exactly how to build web applications from scratch are always more effective.

Bottom Line

The development of web applications is several times cheaper and faster than native solutions. It also opens up a lot of new opportunities. But it requires an experience- and expertise-driven approach. For beginners, this guide gives a general understanding of the process of how to build a web app from scratch, but only specialists know all its intricacies and can offer unusual solutions to increase profits.

Have big ambitions and are ready to enter the market with an innovative solution? Order progressive web applications development from professionals and get profit now!

For ClientsDecember 6, 2020
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