In recent years, desktop application development has taken a back seat in the public’s eye to mobile app and web development. There are many reasons why this shift has occurred, but despite the popularity of web technologies, developing desktop applications is still as important as it has ever been. You might hear intelligent people say that web app development killed desktop apps. However, this is not true.
In this post, we will explain what desktop application development is and how it differs from web app development. While comparing and contrasting web vs. desktop development, we will also explore the pros and cons of each type of development project. Desktop apps might not get as much attention as their web and mobile counterparts, but desktop development is still a very important part of the tech industry.
What is Desktop App Development?
Desktop app development is very similar to mobile app development in that software is developed for particular devices and operating systems. In this case, desktop development refers to software built to run on computers. There are three major operating systems that dominate the desktop development field; they are:
Most desktop software is native, which means it was specially designed and built for a particular operating system. However, developers can also create cross-platform desktop applications using desktop development tools such as Universal Windows Platform (UWP) and Electron, to name a few more popular frameworks. Once again, this is similar to mobile app development.
Desktop apps do not require an Internet connection to run, and they must be downloaded to your computer in order to run. Plus, desktop applications can access the device’s drivers on your computer (i.e. speakers, etc.). You might not be aware that only software downloaded to your machine can access the device’s drivers. For example, the only reason you can play sound from a web app is that your web app is running on a desktop app, which is your browser of choice (i.e., Chrome, Firefox, Safari, etc.).
Desktop Development vs. Web Development
Web development has been gaining a lot of popularity, and for good reason. Not only is the Internet getting faster all the time, which makes delivering great web app experiences better than ever before, but there are also several development tools that are helping web apps perform a wider range of functions. It should be noted that desktop apps and web apps both offer great solutions. However, one choice might be better suited for your business goals than the other. As we compare desktop development vs. web development, remember that both options have pros and cons.
The points we will compare in this post are:
- Connectivity requirements
- Development tools and technologies
Web applications are heavily dependent on the Internet. In fact, without an Internet connection, web apps don’t function. Conversely, desktop applications are not dependent on the Internet. As long as your computer has power, a desktop app will work just as well in the middle of a desert as it will in an office.
Even a spotty or slow Internet connection can severely affect the performance of a web app. Internet dependency is a strong aspect to consider during the product design phase of your development project. If your target users might not have reliable Internet access, developing a desktop application makes more sense. For example, if you’re developing software for workers who will be working in the field, desktop app development is probably a smarter choice.
Development Tools and Technologies
For example, if you were creating a desktop application for macOS, you would use Swift, Xcode, and the various SDKs Apple has released for macOS development. Native desktop app development is pretty much exactly the same as native mobile app development but for a different type of device.
Native desktop applications are often able to outperform their web app counterparts because they can better utilize the specific computer resources of each device since they were built explicitly for them. A well-made native desktop app will be faster and more responsive than a web application.
When you have a desktop application, it must be installed on a device, but web apps require no installation. With a web app, all you have to do is open it online. Plus, since these apps are accessed over the Internet, users never have to worry about updating web apps. Software developers can make app updates on the server, and the next time users open a web app, it is already fully updated.
Every update must be downloaded and manually installed with desktop apps. In addition, users might install updates at different times, so you will not be able to guarantee the same experience for everyone. On top of this, desktop apps and every subsequent update take up storage space on the computer.
The flexibility and accessibility associated with web apps has made them very popular with users and businesses. Web apps don’t have to be downloaded. Anyone can access them on any device if they have an Internet connection. From a business perspective, this is much more efficient than downloading and installing software on every device that employees will use.
In a business world where employees are working from several locations and using multiple different devices, web applications just make more sense. Desktop apps can only be used on the device they were installed on. Installing and maintaining software on all devices used by employees is a time-consuming task that will require an engaged project management team.
However, there will never be a time when your team loses access to a desktop app. The inherent risk of relying on web apps is that the service could be down even if you have an Internet connection. Not having control over your web apps can present problems.
Security should always be a major concern for businesses large and small. Web apps are more vulnerable to cyberattacks than desktop apps. This is because web apps and all of their data are hosted on third-party servers. There are more potential areas for hackers to attack with web apps. Desktop apps store information on a user’s device, and they present fewer opportunities for a cyberattack to take place.
There are pros and cons to developing a desktop application over a web application and vice versa. Speak with an app development partner today to determine what your best course of action is. A partner will help you determine which development path best suits your business goals and target users, whether that is desktop application development or web development.