To gather insights on the state of web application development today, we spoke to 13 executives from 12 companies developing web applications or providing web application development tools to their clients.
Specifically, we spoke to:
Samer Fallouh, Vice President, Engineering and Andrew Turner, Senior Solution Engineer, Dialexa | Anders Wallgren, CTO, ElectricCloud | Brent Sanders, CEO, Fulton Works | Charles Kendrick, CTO, Isomorphic Software | Ilya Pupko, V.P. of Product Management, Jitterbit | Faisal Memom, Product Marketing, NGINX | Bruno Correa, IT Coordinator, Ranstad Brazil | Craig Gering, Vice President, Engineering, Sencha | Joachim Wester, Founder, Starcounter | Michael Morris, CEO, Topcoder | Greg Law, CEO, Undo | Alexey Aylarov, CEO, Voximplant
When we asked them, "What are the keys to developing web applications?," here's what they told us:
- Developer productivity and the user experience (UX). Writing code, services, and APIs are not what applications developers are supposed to do. Developers should be writing the UX code or the logic on the backend and letting computers worry about the infrastructure or “glue” code to increase developer productivity. Automate the process by using artificial intelligence (AI) letting the computer determine how to build the infrastructure of the application.
- Thinking through requirements up front so you choose the most appropriate platform and technology to meet the requirements of the project.
- You used to need to be a “jack of all trades” knowing database, front end and backend. Now you need to be specialized in certain areas like design, wireframes, developing software, testing, and algorithms. You want to be able to assemble teams and models that allow you to tap into specialists. Understand the proper way to design, develop techniques, and accessibility in order to be successful. Having specialists is more important today than in the past because there is a lot more to know.
- As key points or key factors, we consider integration flexibility, browser compatibility, performance, and mobile awareness.
- Native mobile apps synch and connect to the web. You must understand what you are building for. Beautiful design without an end goal in mind is worthless. Provide a solid, straightforward UX. Know modern frameworks and use what the Open Source community has to offer. Have an understanding of how modern frameworks work (i.e. the “Full Stack”), we’re not looking at server generated pages as much. Don’t reinvent the wheel unless you are going to make a better wheel.
- Have a stable infrastructure on-premises or in the cloud. Have a strategy for what you’re trying to accomplish and get the proper tools in place to accomplish your goal. Get an automated toolset for DevOps/CI/CD so you don’t have to do redundant things. No waiting makes developers happy. Anything that improves quality of life for developers will improve application quality.
- Planning and getting started with prework and requirements gathering. Everyone writes specs but no one reads them. We now use the Google Ventures Design Sprint process with our developers and designers and the client CEO, COO and subject matter experts to define the problem we’re trying to solve, and an emotion we’re trying to create or address. We create a paper prototype in five days and are able to address potential problems upfront.
- Planning, planning, planning. Make sure to identify what you are trying to achieve, what are all of the true MVP requirements, what security threats might you be exposed to, which medium will people use and what kind of people will use it. All of this needs to be planned and decided upon ahead of time.
- Reliability across a complicated and fragmented world. Provide a reliable, seamless experience across all devices and IoT. Web apps have advantages over native apps because there’s more logic on the server side.
- The most important thing in developing web applications is to ultimately deliver a great UX - the right experience, on the right screen, at the right time. The other key factor is to enable your team to design, develop, and test the web application as efficiently as possible. Teams are under pressure to deliver great looking, high performing apps as quickly as possible without increasing resources, so productivity-enhancing tools and solutions are key.
Creating a great UX is good marketing. A poor UX will hurt your brand will likely lead to abandonment. According to a May 2016 report from Localytics, 23% of users abandon an app after one use.
What are the keys to developing sound web applications from your perspective?