A Step-by-Step Guide to Designing a Web Application

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In today’s world, businesses must create new digital experiences, as customers expect it. But designing a web app may seem complicated and confusing. The truth is there’s no single method, but there are specific sequences of steps and principles behind the web application design process. In this article, we reveal steps to designing a quality web app to help you build a successful product. 

What’s the difference between a website and a web application?

Before embarking on the design process, a few words about websites and web apps. Explaining the difference between these products can be daunting. To get a clear understanding, let’s dive into the details of each.

What is a website?

In short, a website is a collection of static web pages that contain information. A website isn’t very functional but provides content to users in the form of text and other media. To set up a website, developers use HTML, JavaScript, and CSS. Due to the simplicity of websites, users have almost no interaction with them. The primary purpose of a website is to convey information. Here are some examples of websites: 

UGEM design
Source: https://ugem.design/
AdobXD
Source: https://xd.adobe.com/ideas/
Nike news
Source: https://news.nike.com/

What is a web application?

A web application is an interactive technology. Compared to websites, web applications are designed to interact with users. They can also be informative, but web apps are developed to receive and process users’ data. They require a more complex combination of programming languages: not only frontend HTML, CSS, and JavaScript but also backend languages like PHP, Ruby on Rails, or Python. The ultimate purpose of web apps is to perform different tasks over the internet in a browser. Great examples of web applications are Asana, Dropbox, and Airbnb.

Asana features
Source: https://asana.com/?noredirect/
Dropbox features
Source: https://www.dropbox.com/
Airbnb features
Source: https://www.airbnb.com/

The line between website and web application

In some cases, websites and web applications are very similar. For example, using a website, you can leave comments on articles, and in this way you aren’t just receiving information but also interacting with the site. Conversely, in web applications, you can get useful information but not perform any specific interactions.

Still, there are differences, and they’re quite noticeable. For example, more complex programming languages are used for developing web applications than for developing websites. Properly setting up a web app and ensuring its functionality requires more time and knowledge than doing the same for a website. Also, web apps tend to cost a bit more. Finally, the result for the business will be completely different. Web applications offer useful tools for users. Accordingly, developing a well-established web app will involve more users to stimulate your profit.

Now that you know the difference between web apps and websites, let’s move to the process of designing a web application. 

How to design a web app in 4 steps

A great way to succeed in business is to come up with a working design. But how can you do that and what does the whole design process look like? Let’s walk through four fundamental steps in the web app design process.

Step 1 — Project Discovery

The first step is project discovery — the bridge between the initial idea and the final result. This step is critical, as it’s when business owners, business analysts, UX designers, and the technical lead lay the groundwork for the project. Don’t be afraid to spend a lot of time on this.

At this step, product managers conduct a lot of research: namely market research, competitor analysis, and consumer analysis. But first, it’s necessary to get an in-depth understanding of the project idea. In a series of workshops and meetings, the UI/UX design team, business analysts, and client set out goals, strategies, and ideas for the product’s design. After that, it’s possible to go ahead with market research, competitor analysis, and user research. 

Market research

Market research aims to uncover a product’s capabilities, search for market niches, and target users. It involves evaluating, and comparing your product with competitors’. Market research helps you determine users’ attitudes to your web application so you can make it more attractive.

Competitor analysis

Every product faces competition, and to stand up to it you need to know who your competitors are. Competitor analysis allows you to study your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses to size up their possibilities. It also helps you see your own blindsides and gaps in your own product so you can close them and add value to your web app design. It’s a way to identify possible risks and eliminate them based on ideas from competitors. 

User research

Since the user is central to the design process, user research is crucial. You can perform user research by conducting interviews and studying users’ behaviors, motivations, and needs. The goal is to find out real pain points so you can solve them with your web app.

It’s worth noting that everything you discover during this step will help you design a reliable and high-quality web application. The more valuable data you have, the more value your product will bring. So devote time to collaborative work with UI/UX designers and business analysts to get the best results for your business. 

Step 2 — Ideation: Information architecture, wireframes, and prototyping

Once you’ve conducted your research and have information to work with, you can go to the ideation and prototyping step. Here the design team generates ideas and possible solutions to make a prototype of the web application. 

Using brainstorming, association, or some other ideation approach, the UX design team outlines ideas. There can be a lot of them, so to organize them all, the team creates an Information Architecture (IA). An IA helps to organize and structure information in a logical way. At this stage, designers categorize content and create a site map and consistent navigation to make the web application intuitive for users.

Information Architecture

The next step is to create wireframes on the basis of the IA. In this way, UX designers outline the layout of elements like buttons, images, and texts. The result doesn’t look like a finished product, but it’s a black and white plan.

Prototypes are next. This step is the midpoint of the design process, when wireframes turn into an interactive version of the web application. Here we can see the concept for the final product design. 

The result should be approved by the product owner and web developers. If everything is okay, you can move on. 

Step 3 — UI design

At this step, the focus shifts to the appearance and style of the web application. During a series of meetings, the design team discusses the necessary components of user interface design with the product manager. This helps the owner to set out a common style, color palette, typography, and forms to implement in the product. 

This step has a special significance for capturing customers and raising product awareness. Since users form their first impression of a product in the first few seconds, your web app’s visual design needs to awaken their interest and turn them into customers. That’s why UI design is helpful in this stage .

When all the design components are assembled and approved, the designer team places them in a UI guidebook that’s followed by teams until the end of the UI design step. The guidebook is like a binder for designers that helps them speed up the design process and achieve a quality result. After the process of creating mockups begins, a lot of attention is paid to details and minor improvements.

“The details are not the details. They make the design.”

Charles Eames

During the UI design step, designers work every angle of the web app layout, creating icons, illustrations, and animations. The team does everything so that the product maintains all brand ideas. 

Step 4 — Testing and evaluation

Finally, when all of the previous steps have been completed, the UI/UX team can test the usability of the web application through a series of user testing sessions. This is the best way to see how real users interact with the app. The goal of usability testing is to get feedback and make sure users can achieve their goals with the web app. 

To ensure that users don’t encounter technical problems, the QA team also conducts a series of tests, carefully checking each component and function in order to find possible bugs and deliver the highest quality web app design. 

In conclusion

The main idea of the steps outlined above is to break down the web app design process into small pieces. This is an excellent way to create a balanced workflow and make fewer mistakes. Follow all these steps to come up with design solutions for your next web application. Good luck! Want to get a fantastic web application design? Contact the UGEM team.

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