We often describe Bilberrry as a custom software development agency, but what we actually build are web apps. We’re obviously not too fussy about vocab, but when we’re on a call with clients, for example, it matters that everyone is on the same page. Luckily, even the most technically unsavvy among us knows way more about web apps than they think they do.
Some of your favorite, most-visited pieces of software are web apps: Twitter, Gmail, Trello, Salesforce, YouTube, Facebook, Asana, Wikipedia. If you’ve ever put something in an online shopping cart, or filled out an online form, or logged into your personal online account, you’ve used a web app.
They’re everywhere because, frankly, they’re awesome: extremely convenient and super accessible. It’s software you can access from almost any computer or device without downloading anything. That’s why when we build software at Bilberry, we build web apps.
What is a web app?
A web app is software you access on the internet. It’s a series of connected, dynamic web pages.
When we think web, we immediately think website. And when we think software, it’s easy to picture a disc from the early 90s that you take out of a box and install on your computer. A web app is a little bit of both those things — software whose information is stored in a database on a server (as opposed to your personal computer) and retrieved via a URL in a web browser like Chrome or Firefox.
The easiest way to tell if you’re using a web app as opposed to a website: check the level of interaction and personalization that’s happening. If you can alter the site, then it’s likely a web app. So, if you’re customizing the trim on your Tesla and watching the rendering update as you modify the paint job — you’re on a web app. If you log into Netflix and the recommendations change based on your viewing history, then you’re using a web app. If you’re filing your taxes with TurboTax, doing your budget in Ynab, or editing your photos with Creative Cloud — you get it. These are all web apps.
Spotify is a great example. You can listen to Spotify through your web browser at play.spotify.com — that’s the web app, which is different from Spotify’s website, spotify.com. You can also download Spotify to your computer — that’s the desktop app — or download the mobile app from the app store to your phone or tablet. One piece of software in three different app types, plus a website where you can find the contact info for support, read about musicians, learn about pricing, and so on.
The benefits of web apps
No compatibility issues. You can run a web app on any platform — Mac, Windows, Linux, you name it.
Widely accessible. Web apps are available on any computer or mobile device, from any of the most popular web browsers.
No installation required. With a web app, once the page loads, the software is “installed.” No downloading, no zipping and unzipping, no finding room on the hard drive, no administrator permissions necessary. You’re good to go.
Self updating. If a new version has been released, it loads with each browser refresh. This is huge. It means that if there’s a security patch released, it’ll be “installed” on every computer the next time the software is used. This level of adoption is impossible when users have to download and install an update. We know better and we still swipe “Remind me later” when we’re prompted to update our OS.
Security installed on the global level. Most security vulnerabilities in web apps can be deployed instantly and addressed universally — solving them at the root.
Flexible seat licenses. This really only applies to those using an off-the-shelf web app instead of building a custom version, but still worth mentioning: seat licenses are usually cheaper and more flexible with web apps. In fact, they’re often paid as you go, so you can adjust your seat count up or down as needed.
Our POV: We build web apps because they’re awesome
We love building web apps because they are so successful at getting out of your way and letting you focus on the task you’re doing. No downloading, no updating, no waiting to get your administrator’s approval — just go to the url, log in, and start doing what you’re there to do.