Desktop Vs Web Applications: How do they compare from a design standpoint?
In a hyper-connected world, we are always looking to find better tools, technologies and solutions to improve the way we work. With the immense popularity of the internet, people now understand they can get anything done in an instant without being physically present at any place. Likewise, the technology world has evolved a great deal from the years of digital computers (ABC and ENIAC) to IBM PCs. In our constant pursuit to build something unique, we have actually made a compromise between the old and the new. Such a challenge is more evident when we design for desktop and web applications.
The difference in desktop and web applications is explained in a very simple manner. Desktop application is a computer program that runs locally on a computer device like a desktop or a laptop whereas a web application needs an internet connection or some sort of network to work properly. Desktop apps are restricted by the hardware requirements of the device on which they run. However, a web application can be used by anyone who has access to the web browser.
Due to the ubiquitous nature of the internet, it has become possible to add more multimedia capabilities to expand the functionality of web browsers. But, desktop applications have also rediscovered itself with services such as Slack, Sunrise and Quip all going popular. Both desktop and web application have their pros and cons, but it depends a lot on the user environment on how best they could be used.
While modern applications are complex in nature, old applications provide reliability and stability that makes them both valuable to us. Designing for a web app or a desktop app is a completely different experience. During the development of web and desktop apps, the design pattern reveal that web apps are applicable in situations where we need to perform tasks quickly over the internet. Desktop Apps are more suitable for time-consuming tasks, and can support full features even when they’re offline.
So, how to we deploy UI/UX to design better app and interfaces? It’s simple enough, we need to carefully construct app experiences to help the user effectively work on any device and take advantage of any features available on the user’s device and browser.
Some of the key points you need to consider to deliver a consistent user experience across web and desktop platforms are:
Explore the OS
Most web apps work in the same way as they do in Mac and Windows. But, desktop apps are subject to UI guidelines, which are specified set of instructions about how you need to design a certain element. It is easy for the user to get confused if you don’t separate the style you use in Mac to that of Windows. For example, most Window prompts have the OK button on the left side, while MAC prompts place the OK button on the right. It might look like a small adjustment, but these things do matter for the user. You need to make sure the design for both the Windows and MAC apps are consistent. Windows provides a lot of freedom to designers to play around with different style when designing a web app. However, it is better to follow the standard UI guidelines to help the user better interact with the app.
Keep track of multi-tasking
In a web app, a user can open multiple tabs side-by-side in the browser to perform any number of tasks. Although with so many tabs on display at the same time, it can get a little overwhelming to use the browser. But, if you are able to identify the right tab you want to use without accidently losing it, then you can get the job done right away. In a PC environment, users will have to deal with several windows cramped up together or visible in an overlay fashion. It can be hard to recognize which window you need to do the task. In these type of situations, the good design choice will be to help users find the window they need and bring the right window foreground during multi-tasking.
Platform-specific touch interactions
Another crucial part of designing a web and desktop app is to make sure important features like touch interactions are compatible with your design. For example, MacBook Pro (2016) supports a touch bar as the extension of the current keyboard, and Windows Surface Book (2015) makes the main screen touchable. Keep in mind that the hardware capabilities of Mac and Windows have enriched screen-based interactions in both Web and Desktop Apps. As soon as we make a case for the web apps as they are less expensive and easier to access, we should also not forget that people are not connected all the time. Desktop apps are still relevant to us at this stage, and could be made more progressive like the web apps. It is important to remember that these are just the tools people use to help them solve problems.