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App Development
7 minutes read

Web Apps Vs. Desktop Apps: Understanding the Differences

By Jose Gomez
By Jose Gomez
App Development
7 minutes read

Are you weighing web apps vs. desktop apps but unsure which one is best suited for your business? Web applications and desktop applications can do many of the same things and may even look similar, but they are vastly different. It will be critical for your business to choose the development approach that gives it the best opportunity for success. 

Success will depend on your organization’s goals, target audience, etc. Therefore, to make the best decision for your business, you need to first define organizational goals and set clear objectives. Once you have a clear vision of your company’s goals and objectives, you can begin to compare and contrast web apps and desktop apps to determine which development approach is best for your business. 

This post will explore the differences between desktop and web apps to give your organization a thorough understanding of this topic. 

Web Apps Vs. Desktop Apps: The Pros and Cons 

Web applications require an Internet connection and use a web browser as a runtime environment. On the other hand, desktop applications are installed on a computer and run locally. This is the primary difference between desktop and web applications. However, there are several pros and cons to each option that are helpful to understand. 

The Pros of Web Apps 

A web application is a software program accessed through an Internet connection. Web apps are similar to websites but are more interactive and allow users to manipulate content and data. The pros associated with custom web app development include: 

  • Cross-platform 
  • Automatic updates
  • Resource friendly 
  • No installation 

Cross-Platform 

Web applications don’t depend on specific operating systems or hardware specifications. Users only need an Internet connection to access web apps. As a result, your development team does not have to build specific solutions for Mac, Linux, Windows, or other systems. Reach the widest possible audience in less time by developing a web application. 

Automatic Updates 

Web apps don’t have to be manually updated by users. Regularly updating software can be annoying for users. In addition, updates can be time-consuming when done manually, and if users fail to update their software, they could have a poor UX and create security vulnerabilities. Web apps ensure that all users have the most recent version of your software. 

Resource Friendly 

Web apps demand less processing power because they are run through a web browser. So even if users have a weak computer or device, their experience with a web app won’t be greatly affected. 

No Installation 

Web apps don’t have to be installed on a user’s device. The primary benefit of this aspect of web apps is that they can be accessed from anywhere on any device with an Internet connection. In addition, web applications don’t take up space on a device’s hard drive. 

The Cons of Web Apps 

While web apps have a lot to offer, there are also cons associated with web app design and development. The cons of web apps include: 

  • Security 
  • Internet required 

Security 

There are more security concerns when using the Internet to store data and deliver services. Users will not have control over the protection of their sensitive information. As a result, users have to trust the web app provider with their personal information. On the other hand, a personal device is less exposed to cyber attacks than a web app and public cloud. 

Internet Required 

Web apps rely on an Internet connection, which can also lead to issues. For one, users cannot access the application when Internet access is spotty or unavailable. Therefore, any connectivity issues will hurt the web app’s performance. In addition, the performance of web apps can be affected by the number of users accessing the app simultaneously. 

The Pros of Desktop Apps 

Desktop applications refer to software installed directly on a personal device or computer. Desktop software comes in many different shapes and sizes. The primary benefits of desktop apps are:

  • Improved performance 
  • Stronger security control
  • No Internet 

Improved Performance 

When properly installed, a desktop application integrates with the operating system, leading to improved performance levels. In addition, desktop apps are designed and built for specific hardware, which means they can outperform web apps. Plus, desktop apps can provide a much larger set of features and functions than web apps. 

Stronger Security Control 

Desktop apps allow users to save private data locally instead of in a public cloud. As a result, desktop apps are better protected from cyber attacks than web apps. Although they are not immune, users must still take security measures to protect their devices and data. Therefore, if you are handling sensitive data or creating intellectual property, it might be smarter for your organization to use a desktop app rather than a web app. 

No Internet 

Desktop apps do not require an Internet connection to function. As a result, users can access the application and the information within no matter where they are without concern for Internet connectivity. Desktop apps are great for people in the field who might not have access to a reliable Internet connection. 

It is important to note that there are some desktop apps that use the Internet to provide full functionality. For example, Chrome, Safari, Firefox, and other web browsers are technically desktop apps. As a result, they require an Internet connection to deliver full functionality to users. 

The Cons of Desktop Apps 

Much like web apps, there are cons to desktop apps, too, including:

  • Limited to device
  • Hard drive resources
  • Manual installation and updates

Limited to Device 

In general, desktop apps are not portable. Of course, in many cases, they can be installed on multiple devices. However, users won’t be able to access a desktop app from another device and pick up where they left off. As a result, organizations must be more deliberate with their devices and software when choosing desktop apps. 

Hard Drive Resources 

Desktop apps take up hard drive space. This might not be an issue if the software is small, but there are plenty of desktop apps that are resource-rich and take up a lot of memory space on the device. Hard drive space can become an issue if you want to install several large apps on your device. 

Manual Installation and Updates 

The biggest con of desktop apps is that they must be manually installed and updated. While installing one app on one device might not be a big deal, enterprises that have a lot of devices and a lot of software to install will face significant challenges. In addition, manually updating every device and app requires a lot of effort, but it is a critical task that ensures functionality and strong security. 

Final Thoughts 

Desktop apps and web apps are both great options. As we highlighted at the beginning of the post, the best option for your business will depend on its needs, objectives, and goals. If you are still having trouble determining which option is best for your organization, reach out to an experienced app development partner to settle the web apps vs. desktop apps debate for your company.

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