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How to build a web app that delights your clients

Plus, how to ensure your app actually fulfills your clients’ needs.

Design by Alice Korenyouk

Profile picture of Ido Lechner


7 min read

Web apps are everywhere: Google Drive, Canva, Spotify, Monday and Wix Studio are just a handful of examples. So, it's possible a client has asked if you can develop one to meet their business needs—or will soon. If you’re wondering how to build a web app and the pros and cons of building a web app, you’ve come to the right place.

Let's back up. What’s a web app?

As the name suggests, web apps are applications accessible via your web browser that provide a more dynamic experience than a typical website. They’re typically built with robust backend and frontend frameworks to handle complex interactions and processes.

Their proliferation has its reasons. Web apps are:

  • Easy to access 

  • Cost efficient to build out 

  • Compatible on all platforms 

  • Inherently data-protected for clients 

  • Highly scalable

Still, developing web apps remains a heavy lift. Between planning, building, deploying and maintaining a web app, there’s much to account for (and a whole lot of web development challenges along the way). 

While the process certainly requires some architecting, it doesn’t need to feel like navigating a maze. Done right, there’s much to gain (just look at the rise in popularity of web apps like Zoom or Slack for instance), and when it’s broken down into manageable steps and toolsets it becomes much less daunting. 

Wix's advanced development platform can help. “Most people think of Wix Studio as a way to build stunning websites at scale, but we also offer user management, login, email marketing tools, and API callouts to additional services to build a web app,” says Binyamin Meron, R&D team lead at Wix.

Let’s take a look at what it takes to build a web app, and how to ensure your app actually fulfills your clients’ needs.

The web creation platform built for agencies

When should you build a web app over a website?

Deciding whether to build a web app or a website depends on your clients’ specific needs. Websites are ideal for sharing information, such as blogs, news, or portfolios, and are optimized for search engines to attract organic traffic. They’re suitable for marketing purposes and building an online presence, and there's not a lot of interaction required.

On the other hand, web apps are designed for high interaction and engagement, providing a dynamic experience. They’re well-suited for applications that require complex functionalities, such as user authentication, data manipulation or integration with other systems. For instance, social networks, online tools and project management platforms perform better as web apps due to their need for real-time updates and extensive user input. Web apps are typically built with robust backend and frontend frameworks to handle these complex interactions and processes.

Plus, web apps can offer a higher degree of customization and personalized experiences based on user data and preferences. They can also support offline capabilities through technologies like Progressive Web Apps (PWAs), enhancing the user experience even when internet connectivity is inconsistent. 

How to build a web app you're proud of

There are five main stages in building a web app from the ground up: 

01. Research the project scope and requirements

Start by figuring out who your clients’ target audience is and what problems they need to solve. Gather detailed information about their needs through surveys, interviews and any demographic or behavioral data your client already has. This will help you prioritize features based on their impact and feasibility. 

Don’t skip this stage! It sets the direction for your entire project and ensures you're building something people actually want. 

“I’ve developed a lot of web applications, and it usually takes a minimum of nine months to build heavier projects,” says Meron. In other words, you’re in it for the long haul when it comes to building web apps for clients, so do your due diligence in the planning phase to avoid as many complications down the road as possible.

At this point, it’s also beneficial to perform a competitive analysis to see what features similar apps offer and how yours can stand out. Create user personas for your clients to help them visualize and understand the end-users’ needs better. Additionally, involve stakeholders early on to align their expectations with the development process, which helps in building a comprehensive feature list that addresses all critical needs.

02. Design the user interface 

Next, create wireframes and mockups of your app. These visual guides help you plan the layout and flow of your app, and help your team align on how everything connects visually. Focus on making the interface intuitive and easy to use: sketch out your navigation, branding, forms, buttons and any interactive elements.

User testing at this stage can provide valuable feedback and help you make the necessary adjustments before you start development. Create interactive prototypes that simulate real user interactions, then put them at your clients’ users’ fingertips.

“We used Velo and to build an MVP for Tulu, a web app used to access ‘smart rooms’ installed in residential buildings with everything you might need to rent out on a moment’s notice: vacuum cleaners, scooters for the go, specific cooking tools, entertainment items," says Meron. "We used the MVP to user test the first room we built,”

03. Develop your front & backend

Building the front and back end of your app is where the real work begins. For the backend, develop the server-side logic and APIs that will handle data processing and storage. 

For the frontend, create the user-facing part of the app. Ensure it’s responsive and works well on all devices. This is where your app comes to life, so make sure to adopt coding best practices and maintain clean, modular code that’s easy to debug and scale. Integrate automated testing to catch bugs early and ensure a smooth deployment process. Using version control systems like Wix Studio’s Git integration can help manage code changes efficiently. Regular code reviews and pair programming can enhance code quality and foster knowledge sharing within the development team.

The waterfall style of development, in which each stage finishes before the next begins, is a common and structured web development approach many agencies choose to use to build and deploy web apps. It follows these steps sequentially:

  1. Choose an appropriate tech stack based on your predetermined requirements. Select appropriate programming languages, frameworks and tools. If you’re running Wix Studio, you’ll use Velo, which is JavaScript-based.

  2. Set up the dev environment by configuring development, testing and production environments. “With the new API scope for Wix CLI and Git actions, you can run tests for any PR and build a CI/CD [continuous integration/continuous delivery process],” says Meron.

  3. Design your web app’s DB Schema (database) by creating a logical structure for storing and managing data. Ensure the schema is scalable and optimized for performance, and use normalization techniques to reduce data redundancy and improve efficiency. It's also essential to consider future data growth and potential schema changes to avoid major overhauls down the line.

  4. Build your Backend API.

  5. Develop the Frontend API following the designs you laid out in the previous step.

Admittedly, this waterfall process is somewhat idealized; it rarely works so smoothly in practice. For the most part web apps are built incrementally, feature by feature (as part of what’s called an ‘agile development process’).

Start with your minimum viable product and build outwards. That might be as simple as a user sign in function. Implement it (in this case use the database schema for a user account, then you build the backend API for that and the frontend). Tada! A web app where the user can sign in.

Keep doing this day by day and your web app slowly grows in features.

Why is this way preferable?

  • Attempting to build and connect everything at once makes separate elements more difficult to assemble. Completing one function before moving on to the next is far more productive.

  • Your first ideas won’t work. The sooner you build out an MVP, the sooner you'll figure out what to keep and what to take out.

  • You always have a working web app that you can improve as time goes on.

Here are some tools Meron recommends in Wix Studio: “For a ‘wizard-like’ app, I build using multistate components,” he says. “For state management I use Mobx-npm, and I always leverage npm-cache to cache our BE and data calls.”

04. Launch your web app to the public 

Before launching, it's wise to conduct a beta testing phase where a small group of users can provide feedback and report any issues. Ensure you have a rollback plan in case anything goes wrong during deployment. 

Once development is complete, it’s time to launch. Deploy your app to a hosting platform where users can access it. Make sure to conduct thorough testing to catch any last-minute bugs. A smooth launch sets a positive tone for user experience and satisfaction. That means tools should be in place to track the app’s performance and user behavior right from the start.

05. Maintain performance and update accordingly

The work isn’t over once your app is live. Regularly monitor its performance and gather user feedback. “Velo has built-in connections between Google Operations and the Wix Studio monitoring dashboard under the developer tools,” says Meron, so you can test feature performance and gauge what to build next. 

Use the insights you get from monitoring to continuously improve your web app. By keeping your app up-to-date, you ensure it remains relevant and continues to delight users. The Wix Studio analytics dashboard gives you a sense of how users interact with your app and highlights areas that need improvement. 

Be sure to schedule regular maintenance checks to ensure the app runs smoothly and securely. Engage with your user community to understand their evolving needs and preferences.

Make a web app that delights your clients

As you build your clients’ web apps, you’ll always want to prioritize a user-centric design for intuitive and enjoyable use. That means keeping the personas you created top of mind, optimizing performance to guarantee speed and reliability, and implementing robust security measures to protect user data. 

Also be sure to design your web app for scalability, meaning it should function the same as it grows without compromising performance. Having feedback loops beyond performance data (such as customer support tickets and community engagement) is the best way to keep a pulse on sentiment.

By following these guidelines and choosing the right development approach, you can create a web app that not only meets but exceeds your clients' expectations.

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