Web applications have taken over the web, to help us do everything from remember our daily chores, connect with our friends, or to play games. Virtually every modern website on the web today, uses some type of web application to help process and serve data. The popularity of web applications really started around the late 90’s, and was accelerated during the .com boom in the early 2000’s. Today, it is easier than ever to bring an idea to life on the web, by developing a web application. You don’t need millions of dollars in venture capital money to get started. You just need a good idea, a bit of time, and a little perseverance.

This article presents 5 great tips that will show you how to develop a web application, from start to finish, on a budget!

1. Start With a Clear Wireframe Model

The first step to any good web application starts with a clearly designed concept. This first step can save you a lot of time and money, by helping to clearly map out the scope of the project, before the first line of code has been written.

Wireframes are placeholders, for where the main elements should sit on the page.

In this step, don’t worry about adding colors or styling. Wireframes are intended only to show where the elements should fit on the page.

Here are some additional tips that will help you design effective wireframes:

  • Use a grid system: Grid systems have been used traditionally by print designers, but the clean fundamentals are relevant to good web design. The 960 grid system is one of the most popular. Free templates are available to download for the most popular graphic design programs.
  • Use a digital graphics editor: Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop are probably the most well know, but other great apps include Inkscape (open source), and OmniGraffle, to name a few.
  • 2. Outsource the development

    With websites like Elance and Guru, access to thousands of overseas developers is readily available. In addition, if you are eventually looking to raise investment capital, a working application is always better than a bunch of static images. However, hiring overseas developers is not necessarily easy, as careful planning and clear communication is more important than ever.

    • Hire a developer that has completed a lot of projects in the same application language that you want to use (ruby, php, java, .net, etc…). Don’t know which language to use? Here’s a comparison chart.
    • If possible, contact the owners of the applications or websites, which the developer has listed in their portfolios. Ask them their opinion on the developer.
    • Have a clear design and development plan. This goes back to step 1. The more time you spend fleshing out your concept in the beginning, the more accurate the developer quotes will be, and the closer the finished product will be to your original idea.
    • Use an online project/task management software to track milestones and goals.

    3. Use an open source content management system

    Content management systems are an essential part of any type of blog, brochure sites, social networking site, portals, news sites, or an e-commerce store. Content management systems allow for the easy management of all of the pages within the site.

    There are so many great open source platforms that will help you kick start the development of your app. And who knows, maybe someone has already developed most of what you need!

    Here are some great options:

    Drupal: PHP based CMS

    Pros:

    Very extensible through the use of thousands of pre-developed plugins.

    Is used by some very large websites, some with more than a million monthly unique hits

    Joomla: PHP based CMS

    Pros:

    Simple interface and more user friendly for people less familiar with programming

    Easily create your own social network with JomSocial.

    Radiant: Ruby on Rails

    Pros:

    Simple and extremely clean user interface

    Perfect for small websites

    WordPress: PHP based CMS/Blogging platform

    It’s roots are grounded in blogging, but it’s dynamic and user friendly UI can be modified to work for many different types of websites, including e-commerce!

    Pros:

    Simple and easy to work with

    Thousands of free and beautiful design templates

    4. Start a design contest

    Need help designing your brand identity, logo, or marketing materials? At both crowdSPRING and 99designs, you can host design contests for your company graphics. Choose a category, your budget range, and submit to the world. I have seen some cool designs surface through these competitions.

    Tip: A more closely defined concept, with clear design guidance, will typically receive higher quality work.

    5. Leverage the cloud

    Hosting and server costs can be a significant part of your budget at launch, especially once you start getting some traffic. Having a low burn-rate is a huge part of a successful business model.

    Here are some great ways to leverage the “cloud” to help keep your data storage, bandwidth, and server costs as low as possible.

    • Use Amazon Web Services: Amazon Web Services(AWS) offers many different great products that help you keep costs low and provide for infinite scalability.
      • Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) – Use the EC2 as a remote server farm for CPU intensive applications. They charge you by the hour, so your costs scale with your needs.
      • Simple Storage (S3) – Access one of the biggest and most sophisticated cloud storage networks in the world. Prices start as low as .15 cents per GB / month! Yes, gigabyte!
    • Rails in the Cloud: Engine Yard managed hosting, makes it easy to connect your application to Amazon’s cloud network.
    • Cloud Sites: Prominent hosting provider Rackspace, now offers cloud servers and storage that scale as you use them.

    Did I miss some great resources?

    So do you now know how to develop a web application? Or at least have the basics to get started? Please feel free to suggest interesting, helpful, unusual, creative, or other great resources or tips in the comments to this post! There has never been a better time to start your own company! Good luck.

Rishi Chowdhury

Customer Acquisitions Executive


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