Small businesses of all types can benefit from web apps — both for improving internal processes as well as for wowing customers with modern, digital experiences.
However, if your business isn’t in the tech space, it can be difficult to get exactly how a web app can serve you.
And, on top of that, it can be downright overwhelming to figure out where to start with creating a web app that fits your needs, is easy to manage, and doesn’t eat up all your time and money.
That’s why we’re here to guide you through the ins and outs of the web app world for small businesses.
In this article, we’ll get right to the heart of what you need to know about:
- What web apps are
- Why web apps are a better solution that websites for many small businesses
- How to create your own web apps without professional development services
- The 12 best web app ideas for your biz and your customers
What is a Web Application?
Web applications, web apps for short, are software programs that run on web browsers (Google Chrome, Safari, etc.).
While you don’t really need to remember these details if you’re not a developer, it’s important to know as it provides insight into what gives web apps their key distinctive feature.
What feature is that?
Compared to their closest relatives, websites, web applications are more interactive by nature. That’s why companies and customers alike use web apps — they’re the best online platform for getting things done.
Gmail, Amazon, Microsoft Office 365, Dropbox, and many of the other powerful online tools we use regularly are web apps.
So why are so many trending online destinations built as web apps?
Because of the many benefits that web apps have over websites.
Why Build a Web App vs. a Website?
Websites have been the status quo for quite some time. And they’re still a fine tool for certain use cases!
However, if things like third-party integration, personalization, and other modern features are really important for what you want to create, you should seriously consider building a web application (more on how to DIY it in the next section).
Let’s explore the characteristics that set web apps apart.
Web Apps Make Integration a Priority
As mentioned, the capability to integrate with other applications is a leading benefit when it comes to web apps over websites.
Yes, websites can integrate with outside apps. However, integrating and playing nicely with other apps is something web apps were literally created to do.
Seamless integration is important because it enables you to expand the horizons of what your web app can do without rebuilding it. This is immensely valuable to be able to do if your app needs unique features sporadically, you see yourself adding new and different user groups in the future, and if your business pivots a lot in general.
For example, let’s say you need a feature that helps smooth out the customer experience during the busy winter holiday season. Integrate with a third-party that provides that feature for as long as you need, then turn it off.
Or, you need a slick new way to gather and use customer data that you don’t have the chops, time, or resources to build from scratch yourself. That’s a perfect case for integration.
Why would a business need such a tool? Because personalization is a big draw for modern consumers.
Personalization is More Easily Achievable
Today, the majority of customers have come to expect brands to understand what they want, personally.
At the same time, the majority of companies aren’t living up to that expectation.
That gives you a great opportunity to outpace your competition when you tap into one of integration’s super powers: personalization.
With a web app that makes integration easy, you can take advantage of the best personalization products on the market to collect, parse, and apply customer information to customize messaging, product/service suggestions, advertising, and more.
Built Specifically for User Interaction
While websites are meant to mostly display static information and sometimes collect one-way communication (like contact forms), web application development was invented with the intent to enable deep user interaction.
These interactions have many forms. With web apps, users can do things like send and receive information, create and share documentation, make purchases, engage in two-way communication (like on social media), and so on.
Think back to our examples of some of the most popular web apps (Gmail, Amazon, etc.) to understand the level to which web apps facilitate interaction.
You may be able to translate many of the ways in which customers — and employees — interact with your business to the digital space with the help of web apps.
Here’s why that matters.
More Functionality Means More Conversions, Engagement
Compared to static content, interactive features are much more powerful in getting web app visitors to engage with your online business presence and convert to a paying customer.
Which do you think is more engaging and more likely to turn you into a customer: a website that just talks about how awesome a company’s services are or a web app that not only talks about those services but also lets you view a calendar and schedule services right then and there?
Engagement and the capability to send and receive information is also a key feature when building internal-facing web apps that modernize your own workflows.
For example, say you need to stay abreast of what’s going on with your remote sales team, or understand inventory levels at your factory offsite. With an interactive web app that enables employees to keep that kind of information up to date easily, your business data can flow to the people who need it in near real-time.
No Web App Developer? No Problem With Glide
The downside of web apps?
They have historically been more difficult for non-programmers to create than websites.
Glide is a no-code platform that enables anyone — even beginners — to build and launch the web apps (and mobile apps!) of their dreams in just days, not months.
Running a workflow on spreadsheets? Just upload your Excel or Google Sheets documents into your newly-created Glide app and the platform will automatically create a robust app around your information. Just like that, you have an easy-to-use and easy-to-update single source of truth that your whole department can operate from.
Airtable user? Glide also connects seamlessly to your bases to automatically create apps. Nearly instantly, any cluttered database can be transformed into a modern, functional web app — making for a much more engaging customer experience!
Of course, you can also build your app from scratch and enter data directly into Glide’s Data Editor.
Glide doesn’t just make it easy to spin up any old app — we’re all about making beautiful apps. So you can always get a head start on an awesome design by choosing from one of our hundreds of templates.
For ultimate customization, take advantage of Glide’s intuitive drag-and-drop functionality to rearrange pages and add new elements like buttons, graphics, text boxes, and tons more.
And don’t miss the Settings page in Glide’s app-building portal, where you can make sure your app matches your vibe by customizing colors, adding your brand icon, creating a sign in screen, and even accessing Glide’s integrations.
Once your web app is ready to go, publishing it and sharing it is as easy as clicking a few buttons. Your app is hosted on Glide’s web servers, so you don’t have to worry about setting up or maintaining any of that on your own.
For a fully-detailed walkthrough of the above process, be sure to read our guide How To Build Modern Web Applications Using Glide Pages.
(And stay tuned as we continue our artificial intelligence generator project, which we hope will eventually be able to use machine learning to create Glide apps from a simple prompt!)
There is a Glide pricing tier to match any size business and level of need. For more help diving in, don’t miss our video resources on learning to Glide, our active community, or our roster of Glide Experts who are available for hire.
12 Best Web App Ideas for Small Businesses
Hopefully we’ve helped you realize just how approachable and beneficial web apps can be for your small business.
Now, let’s cover twelve of our favorite web application ideas to improve both employee and customer interactions with your company.
7 Web App Ideas for Your Business
First up, some great ways to boost everything from your sales performance to customer retention, task efficiency, and more.
Increase Retention Using a Custom CRM
Customer relationship management (CRM) platforms help companies track interactions with both customers and leads whom they hope to turn into customers. Managing these interactions is pivotal to keeping customer relationships healthy, which in turn nurtures retention for new and old buyers alike.
Try Glide’s CRM template to get started building this web app.
Cut Costs With Inventory Management
An attentive inventory management system is core to cutting holding and processing costs, all while improving accuracy and speed when fulfilling orders. In other words, it’s critical for every small business that sells products.
Use this inventory tracking template to convert your old school spreadsheets into a modern web app.
Empower Your Sales Team
Between field sales and more workforces going remote these days, it can be difficult to stay in touch with your sales team — and make sure they have the lead details, updated catalogs, inventory numbers, and other resources they need to close sales. In addition, they need to be able to easily create and send back reports from the road.
A web app that meets all the needs of a remote salesperson will be invaluable to their effectiveness. Spin up yours quickly with this field sales template.
Organize and Track Work Tasks
How many times have you spaced on a really important work task all because you forgot to document it — or lost the sticky note where you jotted it down? It happens to the best of us, but it doesn’t have to with the right system and software in place to ensure tasks are documented, responsibility is assigned, and due dates are set.
That software is a task management web app.
Glide’s task manager template will help you create a simple web app for assigning employees or yourself tasks.
Understand Productivity with a Digital Time Sheet
Trying to keep better track of how long certain tasks take your team, understand how much time you’re devoting to certain clients, and get a better grasp on employee productivity?
The only way to do all of the above is to have employees report their time.
Make it easy and less tiresome with a time tracking web app using this daily time sheet template from Glide.
Get Employees Up to Speed Using a Learning Platform
Speaking of productivity, it’s easier for employees to perform their best, as soon as possible, with the right training.
Don’t have the time or resources to do all that training one-on-one?
Customize this coaching and courses web app template to create a new employee orientation workflow that gets everyone up to speed and creating value quickly.
Surface Important Info Through a Management/CEO Dashboard
Management or ownership team need a bird’s-eye view of important business info like an employee directory, performance reviews, time off requests, and more?
That’s easy enough to handle with a custom-built dashboard app that pulls in everything leadership team users want to keep tabs on.
5 Web Apps to Delight Your Customers
Your business could absolutely decide to use a no-code web app builder to create and sell apps as products. High-demand web app project ideas include:
- Chatbot apps
- Movie and book review apps
- Playlist apps for creating to-read and to-watch lists
- Healthcare-related apps
- Dating apps (Are you the next Tinder?!)
However, today we’re going to keep it closer to home and focus on web apps that build on your current business to create better experiences for customers and end users.
Build a Portal to Get More Bookings
Do you have a service company that runs on getting bookings? Think a hair salon, a tailoring business, a pet groomer, and so on.
Instead of requiring customers to call you and doing the back-and-forth dance to figure out a time when both they and their preferred service provider are available — let a new web app simplify the process!
Glide has several types of booking templates. This salon and spa template, for example, has all the base features you should need and can be customized to fit your specific business.
Create a Simple Digital Storefront
An ecommerce platform is perhaps the best example of where a web app outshines a website, as it allows people to search for, view, purchase, and even leave a review of your products.
There are many ecommerce website solutions on the market, but for small businesses and startups they often have more features and are more expensive than you truly need.
So, build your own! Start with a store template for the basic functionality you need, then flesh it out with your own personal touches and product spreadsheets.
Manage Deliveries With a Delivery Tracker
Are you a store or restaurant serving a specific area? Want to offer the delivery services everyone has come to expect since the early days of the pandemic? And want to manage your own deliveries instead of farming them out to a third-party service that may or may not be trustworthy? There can be an app for that!
This delivery app template will help small businesses manage both inventory and orders, so you can offer anything from product delivery to food delivery, grocery delivery, and beyond with confidence.
Help Customers Find Solutions With issue Tracking
From problems with products to bugs in your software — your customers likely have questions, complaints, and plain ol’ feedback they would love to ask you about or share with you. Empowering them to do so is a sure way to win their favor, may help with retention, and will also give you tools for improving your offerings.
Use this issue tracker template to start creating a web app that customers and users can engage to solve their problems.
Digitize Your Loyalty Program
Have a loyalty program? Or, are you looking to create one to boost retention as well as sales among your client base?
Finally take your loyalty program online with a community rewards web app where you can create a community, post challenges and rewards, and display a leaderboard that adds a fun and competitive gamification element to your loyalty program.
Start Gliding With Your First Web App Today
We make it sound so simple to use Glide because it is.
Sign up and Glide through creating your first few apps for free, just to make sure web apps are a good fit for your business.
With Glide, you can cut out the web development company middleman and get right to creating the top web apps your company needs to improve internal workflows and build an amazing user-friendly experience.