Desktop applications appeared in the software development market long before web solutions.
But when widespread internet coverage became the norm, web applications started growing in
popularity and, ultimately, won a much bigger market share. It, of course, doesn’t mean that
the era of desktop apps is over. Both desktop and web applications have their strengths and
weaknesses, so today’s businesses can choose the option that fits them best.
In this article, we’ll outline the main benefits and drawbacks of web and desktop apps. Check it out if you still cannot decide which path to follow.
The key difference between a web application and a desktop application
How is a web app different from a desktop application? A web application is a software
application stored on a remote server and run in a web browser. Simply put, web apps request
the content from a server and immediately generate web documents for users. The role of a
web browser is essential here since it interprets the scripts and displays the application
to users in a form of web pages, not code lines.
It’s also important to understand that web applications and websites are different types of web solutions. While standard websites usually use static layouts, web applications are dynamic and interactive. They allow users not only to view the content but also to make changes to the interface and interact with its elements. For example, web apps include message boards, guest sign-in books, email programs, social media, booking platforms, and many more.
Meanwhile, a desktop application is a software application that is installed on a computer
(laptop or PC). A user can download it from the internet or install it via a data storage
service. Desktop apps operate as stand-alone software, which means they can be used offline
and do not require access to the internet or web browser to work. Some classic examples of
desktop applications include graphic editors, spreadsheets, media players, text editors.
In general, desktop and web applications may perform similar functions, but their nature is different. So let’s take a closer look at the pros and cons of web and desktop apps.
Desktop vs. web application: pros and cons
Before deciding whether to build a desktop or web application, you need to understand what advantages and disadvantages each option brings to the table. So let’s discuss them in more detail.
No need to install
To access both web and desktop, you need a computer. But web apps do not require installation. Due to this, they don’t occupy any space on your hard drive. An URL, a user name, and a password are enough to use these applications.
No hustle with upgrades
Web apps do not require any actions from a user to upgrade. Since upgrades are applied directly to a server, users always get the latest version of an application whenever they launch it. It means no annoying notifications, reloads, and slow performance of the old version.
Since web apps are cross-platform, they can be launched on different platforms. Basically, you can run them on any device that has internet access and a web browser. Although some browser compatibility issues may occur, there is no need to build an app around a specific platform, which extends the app’s possibilities and saves costs.
The level of accessibility is another vital difference between desktop and web applications. You don’t need to have your computer near-at-hand to use a web app. Users can access web apps from any PC (or another device) with an internet connection. So your location and the device you are using do not matter at all.
Access from a mobile device
One more benefit of developing a web application is its mobile-oriented nature. Most web apps have a responsive design and can be easily accessed from a mobile device. Since modern people use smartphones a lot, it’s a huge advantage.
Web applications are exposed to more security risks than desktop apps. There are multiple reasons for that, for example, internet access, a variety of users who are not always identifiable, cyber-attacks, etc.
The internet is widespread, but it is still not everywhere. If the internet coverage is lost, web applications are of no use.
Web applications are also considered to be slower than desktop applications. While it’s not always the case, and everything depends on the internet speed and many other factors, transmitting large amounts of data every time you request an HTML document can make the app performance sluggish.
There are many web browsers. So web applications must be compatible with all of them to give users the freedom of accessing a solution from any device. It also makes you dependent on the way the browser supports particular functions and features. If it’s not taken into account, users may face some difficulties when working with an application.
No regular fees
Users are usually charged some monthly or annual fees for using web applications. Unlike web applications, desktop apps are either free or require one-time payments. So, when you use a desktop app, you don’t have to worry that one day you can lose access to it because you didn’t pay the bill. Once you buy an application, it is on your computer and it is totally yours.
No reliance on the Internet
Dependency on internet coverage is another difference between desktop and web apps that must be considered. With desktop apps, you don’t have to worry about a slow internet connection. Basically, you’ll be able to access your application as long as you can access your computer. Meanwhile, an internet connection is a must when you use web apps.
If compared to web applications, desktop apps offer much stronger data protection. When it comes to privacy, users usually feel more comfortable about storing their information on their computers, not on the internet. Of course, the data on a computer is also not totally safe, but it’s definitely safer than on the web.
Better use of computer resources
In general, desktop applications are faster than web applications since they run independently on your computer and do not require an internet connection.
In general, desktop applications are faster than web-based ones, run independently on your computer, and do not require proper connection to the Internet. In this case, independency from web brings a positive result.
Lower hosting costs
Developing a desktop application requires minimal hosting costs. All you need here is to serve several pages and download a file to every user. Meanwhile, hosting costs for web applications are much higher.
Lack of portability
Unlike web applications, desktop applications can be used only on the computers where they are installed. So, for example, if you change a computer, it won’t impact your interaction with a web application. But if you use a desktop app, you will need to install it on every new device and start all over again.
Need to install an app
Unlike web applications, desktop applications require installation, which means you need to have some vacant space on the hard drive. The installation process also takes some time.
As mentioned, desktop apps have to be installed on each computer separately. The same applies when it comes to updates. You must ensure that all users updated the app, no matter how many of them are there – a few people or thousands of people.
Extra storage needed
Unlike web applications, desktop apps need some space on your computer to be installed and operate smoothly. If there is no enough available space on the hard drive, you’ll need to delete some other solutions or files.
Today, web applications are extremely popular. However, they haven’t fully replaced desktop apps which still have their benefits. You can decide whether building a desktop or web application is more suitable for your business by comparing their advantages and disadvantages. Since all companies are unique, there is no one-size-fits-all solution in the desktop vs web app clash. You have to make a choice based on your needs and requirements.