What is a Web Application? Definition, Benefits and How it Works | RingCentral UK Blog (2024)

In this article, we'll cover:

  • What is a web application?
  • What are the benefits of web applications?
  • Web applications vs. other application types
  • How do web applications work?
  • How to develop a web app
  • What is the agile software development model of web applications?
  • Examples of web applications
  • How RingCentral’s cloud computing solutions can boost your business

It’s fair to say that apps have changed our lives. From shopping and leisure to work, a few aspects of our lives have been left completely unaffected by the app revolution. We’re all very familiar with mobile apps as they’ve come to play such a prominent role in our everyday lives. But web apps are equally ubiquitous, and every bit as important.

Web apps include a plethora of online services and functions. These include some of the most commonly-used programmes around, including word processes and spreadsheets. Even something as straightforward as filling in a contact form on a website will involve the use of a web app. That’s how common and important they are.

Before we cover anything else, we need to ensure we have a thorough understanding of what web apps are, what they do, and how they work. In this guide, we’ll aim to shed some light on the matter. We’ll start by explaining more about what a web application is, then we’ll list some of the key benefits they offer and discuss how they work. Then we’ll touch on how to develop a web app, and elaborate on the agile software development model widely adopted in designing web apps.

Hopefully, by the time you’ve finished reading, you’ll have a thorough understanding of what application programmes are and which ones might be best suited to your business. Clearly, web applications are put to an enormous variety of different uses. What is clear, however, is that they’re increasingly vital to keeping businesses up and running.

What is a Web Application? Definition, Benefits and How it Works | RingCentral UK Blog (1)

What is a web application?

A web application is a kind of computer programme. It uses online technology (including browsers) to perform a huge range of different tasks. Many apps are used for the purposes of online retail, as we’ve already briefly discussed. However, they can serve all sorts of different purposes, from ordering takeaway food to booking holidays. Alternatively, a web app may be something as simple as website contact forms or online calculators.

Web apps retrieve and store information by using server-side scripts (in scripting languages such as PHP and ASP), while client-side scripts (in JavaScript and HTML5) present the relevant information on the user interface. This information might take any number of forms. Common types of web applications include shopping carts, content management systems and online forms, as we’ve already mentioned.

Because they’re so versatile, web apps allow people to perform a variety of different functions. For consumers, this includes placing orders, creating wishlists and making enquiries about products or services, all through web pages. Apps also enable employees to share documents, communicate with one another, edit files, and collaborate together on common projects. In the new age of remote working, this is vitally important.

We often tend to conflate web applications with eCommerce mobile apps, but there’s much more to the former than just the latter. We’ve already mentioned that word processors, spreadsheet programs and other such software can be considered as web applications. They may also include customer relationship management (CRM) and content management systems.

What are the benefits of web applications?

There are countless benefits to web applications. In particular, they help to cut costs for businesses and individual users. This is because they require less maintenance and can also have lower requirements for users’ computers (in terms of processing power and so on). This is because the processing effectively takes place elsewhere. They can be run on web browsers such as Mozilla Firefox, Safari, and Google Chrome, making them more accessible.

Subscription-based web apps, such as software as a service (SaaS), also help to reduce online software piracy – which can create major problems. SaaS is only usable via the cloud, so users can only access it after they’ve paid for it. Such apps don’t need to be installed on a hard drive because they can be accessed entirely online. Therefore, users can save space and avoid the hassle of uninstalling and reinstalling programmes when they start to run out of space. There are also no problems with compatibility as all users access the same version.

Additionally, web apps can run across multiple platforms provided the browsers are compatible. This allows colleagues (and sometimes clients as well) to collaborate across different operating systems or devices. Finally, another benefit of using web applications is that updates are automatic and, because they’re applied centrally, all users should be working from the same version.

What is a Web Application? Definition, Benefits and How it Works | RingCentral UK Blog (2)

Web applications vs. other application types

We’ve noted already that there are many different types of apps. Web apps are our main concern here, but it’s worth taking a moment to look at other kinds – namely mobile and hybrid apps. Here we’ll provide a quick overview of what they are, what functionality they have, along with a brief assessment of their varying advantages and disadvantages.

Web, mobile and hybrid applications all have important uses. Therefore, it’s essential to weigh up the pros and cons of each when deciding which best suits your needs. Each application serves very different purposes. To get a clearer understanding, it’s worth taking a closer look at how web applications such as the RingCentral Office desktop app work.

Mobile apps

In particular, mobile apps (also known as native apps) are hugely popular. Native apps are software applications developed for use on a specific platform or device, such as Android or IoS. They’re built in a particular programming language for that purpose. They are typically acquired by users through app stores and are installed directly on to the devices in question

Mobile apps can perform a huge variety of roles, whether they’re helping us find directions to our chosen destinations or streaming video content on a mobile device.

Hybrid apps

There are also hybrid apps, which – as the name indicates – combine elements of mobile apps and web apps. On the face of it, hybrid apps look just like any native apps. They’re built using programming languages like Ruby, JavaScript, HTML5 and cascading style sheets (CSS). Hybrid apps are installed on a mobile device, as with native apps, and to the end-user, they look the same. However, internally they are essentially web apps with a dashboard like a frontend.

Advantages and disadvantages

Native and hybrid apps have their plus points. Both mobile and hybrid apps can work offline (despite the latter’s internal similarity to web apps). They also have access to the resources of the device they’re installed on. This means that they can make use of features such as cameras and GPS. This is in contrast to web apps, which have to be accessed via a web browser; as a result, web apps can’t be accessed when users are offline.

However, there are also disadvantages too when compared to web apps. Firstly, mobile and native apps have to be downloaded and installed from an app store. They need to be installed to the device itself, which means they take up storage space – and this can soon run out, forcing users to juggle around their other apps to make room for new ones. Mobile apps may also have supporting plugins for web browsers.

Then there’s the issue of updates. Mobile and hybrid apps may require users to download updates themselves; this means that people may be using different versions of the same app, which can make team collaboration more difficult. Web apps, on the other hand, are updated centrally and automatically. Users aren’t required to do anything themselves, which saves them the hassle and facilitates more efficient collaboration.

What is a Web Application? Definition, Benefits and How it Works | RingCentral UK Blog (3)

How do web applications work?

A typical web application workflow looks like the following:

  1. A user sends a request to a web server via the internet, using either a web browser or the user interface of an app.
  2. The request is forwarded by the webserver to the corresponding web application server.
  3. The web application server then performs the requested task (for example, processing new data) requested of it, and then generates the appropriate results.
  4. Results are then sent, with the requested information, from the web application server to the webserver.
  5. The web server then responds back to the client and the requested information is displayed to the user.

Web apps are generally built-in programming languages like JavaScript and HTML. This is because these languages are browser-supported: in other words, they rely on web browsers to make the app executable. A web server is required in order to manage client-side requests, as well as an application server to perform the relevant tasks. A database may also be needed so that the information at issue can be stored.

When developing an app for web browsers, developers tend to use templates rather than software development kits (the latter being commonly used for mobile apps). This makes the development process easier and quicker than it is for native apps. However, mobile apps can also offer a wider variety of features than their web equivalents. Some service providers, businesses developers therefore prefer mobile because they can do more with it.

Nonetheless, web apps are very simple to use. There’s no need to download anything and they can be accessed entirely through web browsers, making them fast and convenient for users. They update themselves, without the need for users to do anything. As an added bonus, they don’t need to be approved by app stores – something which can sometimes be laborious. This means that they can be launched quickly.

You can learn more about RingCentral’s desktop app, used by more than 400,000 global customers, here.

What is a Web Application? Definition, Benefits and How it Works | RingCentral UK Blog (4)

How to develop a web app

As we discussed in the previous section, web application development is simple and straightforward when compared to mobile applications. Of course, there are still a lot of different aspects to consider; web application security obviously being of paramount importance. Much of the development process is self-explanatory, and the general principles involved can be applied elsewhere. Here we’ll discuss some of the key things to bear in mind.


When developing a web app, a clear concept is a prerequisite. This is the starting point for everyone developing a new app, whether a web app, mobile or hybrid. You must have a clear idea of why your app is necessary and why it might be useful to users. Use the initial planning stage to flesh out your concept, and draw up a workflow map to work from.


Another important consideration is innovation. It’s one thing to develop a web app that’s useful and valuable to users. But is it really doing anything new? Survey the rest of the field. Look at what your competitors are doing – think about what they’re getting right, and what they might be getting wrong. If you feel that other apps in the field have shortcomings, your app may be able to take advantage.


Rigorous design is vital to developing a successful web app. When designing an app, think about the user experience: what can you do to make your app accessible and simple for users? Understand what users are looking for and think carefully about how they’ll use your app. Your user interface should be both visually engaging and easy even for novice users to understand.

RingCentral’s desktop app is designed to make it easy to use. It also integrates with hundreds of other tools, including Microsoft 365, relying on skills users already have rather than teaching new ones.


Developers must have clear guidance and access to the tools and scripts they need. Whether they’re a backend or front-end developer, they must have precise specifications and goals to work to; without these, the project is likely to encounter delays or fall short of expectations. Pre-built templates are very useful when building web apps and can help to simplify the development process.


You must remember that your web app could be handling queries from hundreds if not thousands of users simultaneously. This is why it needs to be robust enough to withstand that pressure. The application delivery process must therefore be similarly robust to ensure that any major snags are caught and dealt with efficiently.

What is a Web Application? Definition, Benefits and How it Works | RingCentral UK Blog (5)

Don’t forget to check what hardware and software it runs on too – is it suited to Microsoft Windows only, or can it run on Mac and Linux? They may have different requirements that can complicate it, so be sure to factor this in.

What is the agile software development model of web applications?

Agile software development is an umbrella term used to categorise various frameworks and practices for developing applications, including web applications. As well as a set of practices, agile development also encompasses a set of principles which developers should keep in mind as they go about their work. Agile development places great emphasis on collaboration and self-organising teams; its advocates argue that this helps to spur greater creativity.

There are four key values of agile development, and these (taken from the ‘Agile Manifesto’) are as follows:

  1. Individuals and interactions over processes and tools: Emphasising the value of people and the creative contributions they make in driving development over that of the tools they use.
  2. Working software over comprehensive documentation: Agile development stresses the need to streamline documentation (without eliminating it completely) in order to spur innovation and unleash creativity in developing software.
  3. Customer collaboration over contract negotiation: Advocates of agile development insist that customers must be engaged as collaborators in the development process so that the end product truly meets their needs and expectations.
  4. Responding to change over following a plan: Traditionally, software development has tended to get bogged down in elaborate plans and resisted disruption. Agile development takes the opposite approach and embraces change as a force for creativity and innovation.

While team autonomy is important to agile development, there is still a place for managers. The role of managers, under an agile development setup, is to create an environment where the creative juices can flow. They’re also there to provide a helping hand combined with a light touch. They can step in where their teams are unable to resolve certain issues, but generally, they’re expected to let those teams take the lead.

Examples of web applications

We’ve already touched on the plethora of forms web applications can take, including web services such as the following

  • RingCentral’s desktop application, including team messaging, video meetings and business phone calls
  • Online shopping carts
  • Email
  • Word processors
  • Photo and video editing
  • File scanning
  • Spreadsheets
  • Presentations

Google Workspace, for example, brings a number of web apps together under one roof. These are commonly used in businesses as team members can work on the same documents simultaneously, without the need to download, upload, and send files.

As well as the RingCentral desktop app, there’s also the RingCentral mobile app, which puts unified business communications in the palm of your hand.

What is a Web Application? Definition, Benefits and How it Works | RingCentral UK Blog (6)

How RingCentral’s cloud computing solutions can boost your business

In this bold new age of cutting-edge web technology and the Internet of Things (IoT), businesses are undergoing a technological revolution. RingCentral’s cloud platform supports hundreds of thousands of users, offering instantaneous scalability and enhanced flexibility. Find out more about RingCentral Office and browse our cloud messaging plans today.

Sam O’Brien


    Sam O’Brien is the Director of Digital and Growth for EMEA at RingCentral, a Global VoIP, video conferencing and call centre software provider. Sam has a passion for innovation and loves exploring ways to collaborate more with dispersed teams. He has written for websites such as G2 and Hubspot. Here is his LinkedIn.

    What is a Web Application? Definition, Benefits and How it Works | RingCentral UK Blog (2024)


    How does web application works and what are its benefits? ›

    A web application reduces costs for both the end-user and the business. Web applications are always up to date because updates are applied centrally. All users can access the same version so it eliminates any compatibility issues. You can access web applications anywhere with a web browser.

    What are some benefits of web based applications? ›

    The benefits of using web-based applications
    • Compared to desktop applications, web-based applications provide a whole range of business advantages. ...
    • Accessibility across devices for users. ...
    • Customization for different devices. ...
    • Integration with other systems. ...
    • Maintenance headaches removed. ...
    • Increased flexibility and scalability.
    20 Dec 2019

    What is application and how it works? ›

    Simply put, an app is a type of software that allows you to perform specific tasks. Applications for desktop or laptop computers are sometimes called desktop applications, while those for mobile devices are called mobile apps. When you open an application, it runs inside the operating system until you close it.

    What is web application explain with example? ›

    Web applications include online forms, shopping carts, word processors, spreadsheets, video and photo editing, file conversion, file scanning, and email programs such as Gmail, Yahoo and AOL. Popular applications include Google Apps and Microsoft 365.

    How does the Web work short answer? ›

    The browser sends an HTTP request message to the server, asking it to send a copy of the website to the client (you go to the shop and order your goods). This message, and all other data sent between the client and the server, is sent across your internet connection using TCP/IP.

    What is the purpose of web application? ›

    A web application is a computer programme that allows you to log-in to a web address in order to submit and retrieve data to/from a database over the internet, these programmes are developed using web technologies such as HTML, CSS, JS etc and can be accessed using your preferred web browser (e.g. Google Chrome, ...

    What are the benefits of Web services? ›

    Web services have the advantage of allowing programs developed in different languages to connect with one another by exchanging data over a web service between clients and servers. A client invokes a web service by submitting an XML request, which the service responds with an XML response.

    Whats the definition for application? ›

    Definition of application

    noun. the act of putting to a special use or purpose: the application of common sense to a problem. the special use or purpose to which something is put: a technology having numerous applications never thought of by its inventors.

    What is an application simple definition? ›

    : a form used in making a request. filling out an application. 3. : a program (such as a word processor or a spreadsheet) that performs a particular task or set of tasks.

    How does a web application look like? ›

    In general, a web application can contain online shops (or we can also say them e-commerce shops), webmail's, calculators, social media platforms, etc. There is also some kind of web application that usually requires a special kind of web browser to access them.

    What is web application structure? ›

    Web application architecture is a blueprint of simultaneous interactions between components, databases, middleware systems, user interfaces, and servers in an application. It can also be described as the layout that logically defines the connection between the server and client-side for a better web experience.

    How does web browser work? ›

    How does a web browser work? A web browser takes you anywhere on the internet. It retrieves information from other parts of the web and displays it on your desktop or mobile device. The information is transferred using the Hypertext Transfer Protocol, which defines how text, images and video are transmitted on the web.

    How does web design work steps? ›

    7 Steps of Web Design Process
    • Step 1- Identify your goal. ...
    • Step 2- Determine the scope of your project. ...
    • Step 3- Design your website. ...
    • Step 4- Content Creation. ...
    • Step 5- Visualize the content. ...
    • Step 6- Develop the website. ...
    • Step 7- Launch the website.

    How does web server work? ›

    At the most basic level, whenever a browser needs a file that is hosted on a web server, the browser requests the file via HTTP. When the request reaches the correct (hardware) web server, the (software) HTTP server accepts the request, finds the requested document, and sends it back to the browser, also through HTTP.

    What is web service application? ›

    Web services are self-contained, modular applications that can be described, published, located, and invoked over a network. They implement a services oriented architecture (SOA), which supports the connecting or sharing of resources and data in a very flexible and standardized manner.

    Which benefit of web services is the most beneficial? ›

    Web services give a typical stage that permits different applications based on different programming dialects to be able to speak with one another.
    1. Revealing the Existing Function on Framework. ...
    2. Interoperability. ...
    3. Ordered Protocol. ...
    4. Ease of Use. ...
    5. Re-Ease of Use. ...
    6. Send Capacity. ...
    7. Agility. ...
    8. Quality.

    What are the benefits of web development? ›

    Pros of being a web developer
    • Short education time. ...
    • Salary. ...
    • High creative potential. ...
    • Ability to work in various work environments. ...
    • Freelance opportunities. ...
    • Career growth. ...
    • Opportunity for innovation and invention. ...
    • Chance to learn transferable skills.
    14 Apr 2022

    What is difference between website and web application? ›

    A website provides visual and text content that the user can see and read, but not affect in any way. In the case of a web application, the user can not only read the page content but also manipulate the data on this page.

    What are web applications PDF? ›

    A web application is an application that operates on the Internet or an intranet using a web. browser. An application written in a web-language (such as HTML, JavaScript, Java, etc.) that. needs to be run through a browser.

    What are the main components of a web application? ›

    All web-based database applications have three primary components: A web browser (or client), a web application server, and a database server. Web-based database applications rely on a database server, which provides the data for the application.

    What are the two types of web development application? ›

    Front-end web programmers build the pages the web designer creates. Back-end web programmers write the server code that runs the website.

    What are the four layers of web application? ›

    The four common layers of web applications are:
    • Presentation layer (PL)
    • Data service layer (DSL)
    • Business logic layer (BLL)
    • Data access layer (DAL)
    20 Oct 2020

    What are the types of application? ›

    General Applications
    • Word Processing Software.
    • Graphics Software.
    • Spreadsheet Software.
    • Presentation Software.
    • Web Browsers.
    • Multimedia Software.
    • Education and Reference Software.
    • Simulation Software.

    What is the best definition of applicant? ›

    /ˈæp.lɪ.kənt/ a person who formally requests something, especially a job, or to study at a college or university: How many applicants did you have for the job? SMART Vocabulary: related words and phrases. Applying for a job.

    What is application software definition examples & Types? ›

    When a user interacts directly with a piece of software, it is called application software. The sole purpose of application software is to assist the user in doing specified tasks. Microsoft Word and Excel, as well as popular web browsers like Firefox and Google Chrome, are examples of application software.

    What is the importance of application software? ›

    Application software development helps the end-users perform single or multiple tasks. Businesses can work well even without the help of application software but the integration of application software can deliver extraordinary results.

    Why is it called an application? ›

    The word "application" is derived from the phrase "application software", which was intended to contrast against "system software" (IE operating system, drivers, etc).

    What are the advantages of application? ›

    Advantages of application forms
    • You can quickly adapt application forms to specific job vacancies. ...
    • Identify the most relevant applicants faster. ...
    • Gain a better idea of a candidate's competency in the role. ...
    • Increased applicant accuracy. ...
    • It's more convenient for applicants to complete.
    23 Jun 2021

    How do modern web applications work? ›

    Modern web development uses microservices, an architectural style that breaks down entire applications into separate smaller components or services. Unlike monolith application architecture, these decentralized and loosely coupled services can be developed, tested, deployed, and maintained independently.

    What is a web application for beginners? ›

    What are Web Applications? Definition and examples. Web applications or web apps are interactive computer programs that run on a remote server, contrary to computer-based programs that run locally on the end user's machine. They can be accessed through a web browser with an Internet connection.

    What is free web application? ›

    With web-based apps, users don't have to install additional software, and developers don't have to write multiple versions of the same application for different operating systems. Web apps work on any device that can run a supported browser and has an active Internet connection.

    How do web server applications work? ›

    At the most basic level, whenever a browser needs a file that is hosted on a web server, the browser requests the file via HTTP. When the request reaches the correct (hardware) web server, the (software) HTTP server accepts the request, finds the requested document, and sends it back to the browser, also through HTTP.

    How does a web application session work? ›

    A session is a group of user interactions with your website that take place within a given time frame. For example a single session can contain multiple page views, events, social interactions, and ecommerce transactions. Learn more about the different request types in Analytics.

    What are the advantages and disadvantages of using web applications or services? ›

    Advantages of Web Apps
    • Cost-effective. One of the most attractive advantages of creating web apps is the cost factor. ...
    • Always up-to-date. They do not require to be updated often, in the way common apps usually do. ...
    • Free from Downloading needs. ...
    • Runs easy. ...
    • Internet Reliance. ...
    • Website Dependency. ...
    • Reduced Speed. ...
    • Less Secure.
    7 Sept 2021

    What are the 5 components of web based applications? ›

    These components include the client or web browser, database server, and web app server which are directly responsible for functions deciding the user interactions within the application. In the majority of cases, JavaScript, CSS, and HTML are used to create these components.

    How many phases are there in a web application project? ›

    There are 6 phases that turn a website concept into a fully functioning web application.

    Why is the Web important? ›

    The world wide web opened up the internet to everyone, not just scientists. It connected the world in a way that made it much easier for people to get information, share, and communicate. It has since allowed people to share their work and thoughts through social networking sites, blogs, video sharing, and more.

    What is the greatest advantage of web-based applications? ›

    A web-based application runs in a web browser. That means that a single, responsive web application can be used across multiple device types. Although web apps will need to be tested on different browsers, there is no need to test them on different operating systems. This makes development and testing much easier.

    Which benefit of Web services is the most beneficial? ›

    Web services give a typical stage that permits different applications based on different programming dialects to be able to speak with one another.
    1. Revealing the Existing Function on Framework. ...
    2. Interoperability. ...
    3. Ordered Protocol. ...
    4. Ease of Use. ...
    5. Re-Ease of Use. ...
    6. Send Capacity. ...
    7. Agility. ...
    8. Quality.

    How a web application is developed? ›

    A majority of web applications can be written in JavaScript, Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), and HTML5. Web application development will typically have a short development life-cycle lead by a small development team. Front-end development for web applications is accomplished through client-side programming.

    Top Articles
    Latest Posts
    Article information

    Author: Lilliana Bartoletti

    Last Updated:

    Views: 6184

    Rating: 4.2 / 5 (53 voted)

    Reviews: 84% of readers found this page helpful

    Author information

    Name: Lilliana Bartoletti

    Birthday: 1999-11-18

    Address: 58866 Tricia Spurs, North Melvinberg, HI 91346-3774

    Phone: +50616620367928

    Job: Real-Estate Liaison

    Hobby: Graffiti, Astronomy, Handball, Magic, Origami, Fashion, Foreign language learning

    Introduction: My name is Lilliana Bartoletti, I am a adventurous, pleasant, shiny, beautiful, handsome, zealous, tasty person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.