web application development icons overlayed over laptop computer

Web Application Development vs Desktop App

How Does Web Application Development Differ from a Desktop App?

Hiring a web application development company to design and build a web app for your organization can be an important step towards your business growth goals, both in terms of customer satisfaction and internal productivity. We often find in the planning stages with our clients that they desire further distinction between a web application vs a desktop application. Which app type will suit their business best? Which is better? 

Much of that depends on your intended use and potential concerns. 

Both desktop and web application development can accomplish similar goals, but the choice often comes down to the intended use for the application. Below we’ve provided a comparison of a web app vs desktop app. It’s important to understand the pros and cons of each in order to choose the one that best suits your unique software needs. 

Desktop Application vs Web Application Development

A web application is an interactive program that runs through your internet browser. It is hosted and accessed via an internet connection. Google Docs, Gmail, Facebook and your financial institution’s online banking portal are all examples of a website application. 

A desktop application is a program that runs locally on a computer device, such as a desktop or laptop. It is installed directly onto the device and accessed only through that device. Word, Excel, Adobe Photoshop, and Numbers are all examples of desktop applications. 

For years, desktop applications were the only interface available for running and using programs. But with the continued evolution of the internet, web applications have become increasingly popular and accessible. 

So which one should your business use? Let’s delve into the differences between them to shed some more light on the decision. 

Pros and Cons of Web Application Development

Pros of Web Apps

No Need to Download and Install

A web application is hosted and accessed via the internet. This means, your computer doesn’t need the software to be downloaded or installed in order to operate it. This can be a boon to productivity, as it allows the user to access the application anywhere, as long as they have an internet connection. 

Access Anywhere

This brings up the second advantage of website applications – they can be accessed from any device that has internet access. No need for downloading and installing the required software to access the platform and functionality. Most web applications also have full (or almost full) capabilities on mobile devices, making them an easy way to stay current and connected with your business operations on the go. 

Cross-Platform Ease

Web applications also provide ease of use across a variety of operating systems (OS). Whether you use Windows, Mac, or Linux, your web application will be easily accessible and provide a consistent user experience across platforms.  Take for instance, ASP.NET Core applications with their scalable and flexible capabilities across platforms. Desktop applications must be developed separately for each operating system since the User Interface can vary considerably between each different OS.

Automatic Updates

With downloaded desktop applications, the software must be periodically updated in order to keep operations running smoothly. This necessitates a manual download and installation each time an update is required. A web application, on the other hand, is constantly updated, ensuring that every time a user accesses the app, the most recent version will be displayed. 

Less Processing Power

With a web application, you only need a good internet connection. This allows you to run complex applications on a PC that may not be powerful enough to handle those operations on its own hardware. However, as we’ll mention when we discuss the pros of Desktop Applications, for apps that have extensive processing needs, a desktop app may be the way to go. 

Cons of Web Apps

Internet Access Required

This goes without saying…to access a web-based application, you’ll have to have internet access. That can be a disadvantage at times. However, recent improvements with web applications now allow for some program functionality even when offline. 

Speed of Processing is Slower

For heavy processing requirements, such as video editing and gaming, a web application simply will not be able to keep up with the demands of the user, especially if internet access is slow. A web application may still be able to complete the required functions, but with much less speed.

Security Risks

Web applications have a greater risk of sensitive information being compromised, as all your information and data is stored in the cloud. A desktop application has much more control over the protection of your personal information. This is why it is especially important to have a qualified web application development company handle your web app development, as cyber-security is a complex issue.  

Pros of Desktop Apps

No Internet Required

Desktop apps don’t require an internet connection as they are downloaded and installed on your device. Desktop apps are convenient when traveling or when connectivity is poor. 

Better Processing Capabilities

As mentioned above, a desktop application is ideal when heavy processing jobs are required. A desktop app uses the computer’s resources to operate, needing no reliance on internet speed. Even functionality that may work just fine on a web application, will almost always run smoother and quicker on a desktop app. If speed and efficiency are your goals, a desktop application will normally outperform. 

Better Security 

A desktop application is only available on your device. All information is stored and processed completely within your realm of control. This provides added security benefits for those needing to process and store sensitive information. 

Cons of Desktop Apps

Not Portable

Wherever you have installed your desktop application, that will be where you access your work. With a web app, you can log in on any device in any location to access your app, but a desktop app is tied to…well, your desktop. Aside from having the app on your laptop, you can’t access your work anywhere when you are utilizing a desktop application.

Space for Operation

With a desktop app, the functionality will be limited by the amount of processing power and storage that your computer hardware has available. Website applications store information on the cloud, giving you virtually unlimited storage. However, a desktop application is at the mercy of your device’s storage space. Depending on your computer’s hardware, this can be a limitation. 

Manual Installation and Updates

Desktop applications require a manual installation as well as a periodic manual update. This requires that you download and reinstall the app. This may not seem like a big deal, but it can become cumbersome when projects are under tight deadlines and the updates are required at inopportune times. 

License for Each PC

This really is only a drawback if you’re purchasing off-the-shelf software. You must pay for the software for each PC within your organization. However, if you are employing a software development company to build a custom desktop application for your company, these individual licensing fees may not be an issue. 

Conclusion: Web App vs Desktop App

Which is better? As you can see, there isn’t a clear answer to the question. It depends on your primary needs, the specific functionality you would like to see for your application, and a variety of other factors. 

When we approach this important discussion with our clients, we always take the time to fully understand their business processes before making recommendations. We believe it is important to discover their business goals as well as their pain points, both for their customers and their employees. This helps inform our custom software solutions, whether that be through the development of a web application, a desktop application, or other software products. 

“Market leaders are increasingly focused on the people, processes, and tools required to integrate technology across their enterprises, resulting in a digital maturity effect that impacts everything from differentiation to conversion rates.” (Adobe Experience Cloud). 

We are here to help our clients be those Market Leaders. 

Talk to us today to learn more about how we can help streamline your business with customized website application development. 

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