What is a website application?

A website application provides customers and staff a way to interact with data over the internet. This may not sound that significant but unless we are completely cut off from internet access, all of us use some form of website application. The vast majority of mobile apps also interact with the internet in some way. As far as mobile and desktop apps go, there are two kinds, installed apps and browser based apps. The reason we separate and continue to separate between websites versus mobile/desktop apps is for the following reasons:-

Security

If a computer doesn't connect to the internet it is completely secure aside from physical theft or a person attempting to log in. A web application throws many more questions around security. If an application isn't secure your user's behaviours could be exposed and your reputation lost.

Computer access

We are far more comfortable saving personal documents on our computer than over the web although the boundaries are fuzzy these days. A reason why machine access can be important is simply because some large content is better stored and processed on a local computer than on a web server.

Distributing resources

Computers have a larger capacity and are capable of providing more power to one user locally than hundreds of users on a website server. For example, it is possible to develop an online photo editing tool but it makes far more sense for this to be run on a local machine. If, however, we want users all over the world to be connected and interacting, a website application may be better.

What does a typical web application contain?

A typical website sits on a web server which is like a computer. On this web server installed is software designed to securely permit the transfer of data between other computers on the network. Most websites contain at the very least, an html file, but often pictures and documents. A fairly IT literate person could learn how to build a simple website in a weekend but this is just the beginning. The act of publishing a website is saving a copy of the website on the web server and it would be possible for somebody without a website development background to launch a simple website within two to four days.

At Info Rhino, we are much more interested in dynamic websites versus static websites. As we mentioned earlier, most websites are documents made up of a markup language known as HTML which details what text a page should contain and links (hyperlinks) to other web pages, images, videos, music and documents such as PDFs. Dynamic websites have a degree of programming which automatically writes HTML to the page. Think of this like mail merge where a list of customers can produce different copies of a document. Code that is considered dynamic is either client side or server side. At Info Rhino we specialise in both JavaScript (client side) and C# (server side).

Some of our clients simply wanted a website to get them started and we set up a mainly static website for them. Info Rhino is itself mainly static content, there is nothing wrong with static websites if they are fairly simple.

As websites grow, customers don't want to keep paying website development companies to keep modifying website content - it costs money and is a slow process. Content Management Systems(CMS) are perfect for this and we are experts in setting up and developing CMS websites.

At Info Rhino, we tend to think of websites as being another way of interacting with data. Just as we are experts at building Business Intelligence solutions and reporting interfaces and dashboards, we understand perfectly how to implement websites for clients that can display data and capture data.

One misconception commonly found is this idea that websites are easy to build, or that there are tools to make building websites really easy. Whether it is adverts on television or developers in other countries offering very low prices to develop a website as a customer you should be aware that building a website is a highly complicated and highly skilled process. Any sensible development company will always reuse components or use frameworks already existing to cut down on development time but the better companies know when to develop specific components themselves because that is what the client needs.

Another misconception on website development is that the task can just be given to a website development company. Your website is your voice and the way you want others to see you. This is one reason why websites are so confusing an item to commission. Sure - install a WordPress site and set up all the content and upload the pictures yourself, indeed you can speak to a branding company to create your brand and logo and without too much effort you can create a website. A website needs to have regular engagement between the client and the website company. This is one of the rare occasions where an Agile approach to building websites works.

Layout and style

The one thing few people can agree on is style. We know Info Rhino is not an attractive website to many, the pink and blue may work in a crèche but in terms of a professional corporate image not so likely for some but to others it offers a change. The important element of layout and style is it is better to use standard templates and make modifications rather than spend lots of time perfecting the styles and layout of a website. We use Twitter Bootstrap - somehow we do find the designs and customisations a bit limiting but most major organisations all use responsive website templates because they know it is effective and works.

Functionality rules

Applications that are functional last and get users- good layouts, easy access matter. Our website keeps only a few key links at the top and has a flat dropdown list for other pages for more inquisitive minds. We avoid the spaghetti menu linking of other sites. We avoided lots of links all over the place because users are perfectly capable of deciding whether they want to leave the site, email us or view another page. Maybe there should be more pictures and less text, maybe there should be more images but what there should always be is sensible access links for users to decide what they want to view.

Social media ready

A huge number of providers allow websites to interact with their platforms to help give their users a better experience and to take advantage of being on a larger platform. It isn't one-way traffic and you benefit from not needing to write authentication, record users activity and authenticate payment. By creating a Twitter or Facebook page and making relevant content you give yourself a shot at being noticed. There are some gotchas though and we have a strong understanding of what to look out for and how to adapt to changing host platforms. We definitely recommend using mash-ups with social media platforms where possible.

Websites and applications conclusion

We wanted to highlight some of the overlooked activities around having an interactive website. We actively recommend clients devise content, source pictures and ideas but always be open to suggestions. Websites really are subjective and what looks good today can look terrible tomorrow. Whatever you decide you want, get in touch with Info Rhino Limited to give you a clear website development and social media strategy from a data driven software consultancy.

The future of online payments with website applications?

We mentioned our findigl platform we will be implementing next year (2018) and to do this we have been heavily looking into the different types of ways to handle payments on our website. Lloyds has CardNet, HSBC has Global Iris and you will find each bank has their own payment gateway, some will have heard of Stripe and Go-Cardless as being non merchant account mechanisms of handling online payment. We are seriously looking into blockchain and crypto-currencies.

It isn't for us to tell you how to handle online payments and how to join the online payment revolution but we are very happy to work on behalf of clients interested in pursuing payment handling solutions.