How to Design a Web App That Users Will Love

As web apps and websites look practically identical on the outside, you may consider them the same old soup just reheated. This “phantom” indistinction is trappy.

In fact the two product types differ in many regards with design approach on the top of this list. Knowing all the sweet spots of UI/UX uncovers opportunities to build applications that win user attention.

So, without further ado, let’s discuss what makes a friendly web application design.

Reading time: 8 minutes

Table of contents

    Key takeaways 

    • Website is a mass of pages that inform users about a common subject whereas web applications manipulate data and assist us in reaching goals.
    • The key value of web apps impacts their design principles placing utmost importance on user interaction and experience. 
    • Properly designed applications can drive engagement, contribute to brand image and create an enjoyable user-centric UX.
    • Web application design consists of a profound UX research, development of a design concept, creating mockups, prototyping, and UI kit. 

    What’s web app and why it’s different

    First, we have to draw the line between web apps and websites once and for all. Only here we’re speaking in terms of design leaving out tech details.  

    Website is a heap of related internet pages that are interlinked with each other and devoted to a particular subject. You can tell it by abundance of content, textual and visual. Say, now you’re browsing Purrweb site, where articles, company info and projects prove that. So, websites are usually made to appraise.


    Wikipedia is a vivid illustration of an informative site with masses of textual content

    Web application is an application that visually resembles a mobile app but is accessed via browser. Some of them offer direct downloading without going to any store. Just like their mobile “siblings” web applications allow users to manipulate data. Interactivity is their distinctive feature.  


    This is Izumator, a platform for internal education. Users can take courses and launch them, either way it means interaction, which makes iZumator an application

    Web apps are there to assist us in getting to some goal whereas websites bring awareness about something or somebody

    You see that the intended purposes of the two categories are slightly different. As a consequence, design approaches, aims and principles won’t coincide as well. 

    What makes the design of a web app

    Just like web and mobile, web application design consists of two major components UI (user interface) and UX (user experience). 

    UI refers to the aesthetic aspect of a product interface while UX focuses on the emotions, feelings and impressions users get during interaction.

    User interface (UI)User experience (UX)
    Design systemTypography 


    Color palette



    Design patterns 

    User researchInterviewing

    User perception 

    Information architecture

    Scenarios and personas

    User journey



    READ MORE  The difference between UX and UI design

    With web applications being all about engagement and interactivity, the UX part comes first here. That doesn’t really mean omitting visual style for apps or ignoring experience in website design. That’s just the part you should put emphasis on in order to bring value to the users. 

    When you design a web app, you have to bear in mind the following factors. 

    Continuous use. Applications are products of repeated exploitation. That’s why the app design process mostly focuses on efficiency, where everything is plain, easy and intuitive. 

    Covering the demand. Hardly anyone will return just to enjoy the color scheme, but if the interaction culminates in reaching a goal, the man is yours. 

    Adequate interactivity. The process of using any web application should be consistent and predictable. For instance, you don’t want to add a form requiring personal information for a product like maps or store location checker. 

    Why is web app design important

    When it comes to interface concepts you probably can borrow a page, but adopting the entire experience doesn’t seem like a viable idea at all. Entrepreneurs hire teams to render UX/UI design services owing to the cruciality of the matter. 

    Engagement rises higher

    Properly designed experience takes into account all the pains and obstacles users face. People notice such empathy, as being understood is pleasant to feel. 

    Dashboard on Biogeek is built on understanding that patients take lab tests to track health progress, spot issues and get doctors’ diagnoses. This “recognition” provides the experience you want to repeat

    People judge by the product

    Apps and websites, just like any other products, impact the perception of a brand in people’s minds. Say, if you can’t adjust font size and background in some promoted reader, you will be left with an unpleasant taste in the mouth about the editor who owns the app. 

    User-centric experience 

    Web app design process builds upon user-centric approach when experts focus on audience needs in the first place. This is a way to an intuitive and comprehensible interface structure which makes people feel valued. 

    4 examples of modern web application design

    As you plunge into UX matters, you realize that interfaces basically have a lot in common. Think of Discord and Slack, TikTok and Instagram, WhatsApp and Viber. Still, their being similar doesn’t interfere with user-orientation, high engagement and trustworthy reputation. 

    Familiar patterns bring predictability, a highly respected product feature. And if you want to design a web app, make sure to comprise the golden standard. Here are some examples to pry about.  

    #1. E-commerce — Amazon

    👍 cards, visual accents, several types of navigation 


    Classy Amazon homepage

    This is a web application designed to be nailed to the wall. Don’t judge by the ordinary looks, but study the UX potential. There are three ways to navigate for items, distinct buttons and messaging visuals for categories just to name a few.     

    #2. Healthcare — Lytic Health

    👍 simplicity, visual clarity, structure, color coding, plenty of white space

    Lytic Health is a web application where patients and doctors get in touch for preliminary diagnostics and scheduling appointments

    Blank space is dope for design, as it brings “air” where nothing distracts the audience. See how we used it in the Lytic Health case. Doctors mostly have dozens of visits daily and it was vital to design a web app where they could grasp a patient’s history after some moments of skimming. 

    #3. Management — Notion

    👍 data manipulation, emoji, interactivity, neat design

    Notion resembles an online pocket-book

    This web application design is worth the hype due to high customization capabilities and multi-purposeness. Design concept looks neat and plain, but you don’t want another one. See, it supports flexible UX that remains the focus of attention here. 

    #4. Fintech — E-wallet

    👍 grid, intuitive structure, widgets

    Cryptocurrency still raises red flags and we tackled it partly by making the interaction self-explanatory

    E-wallet is our design case for an online wallet where you buy, keep, transfer and exchange cryptocurrency assets. All the controversy and stress people experience while interacting with financial products impacted UI/UX. Widget structure, simple navigation, CTAs on the main screen help mitigate user emotional imbalance. 

    How to design a web app: 6 steps

    There is plenty of psychology in interface design and consequently lots of subtle aspects to consider. Seek assistance from professionals who render UI/UX design services if you have a hazy notion about how to design web apps. We can offer you a helping hand with free project evaluation. 

    Step #1. UX research

    Cases like Notion and Amazon reach tops down to profound knowledge of the audience their owners manage to collect. Make sure to follow their steps at the initiation of the app design process and conduct UX research. 

    UX research uncovers attitudes, actions, patterns, loves and hates about interaction with the product. Our experts stick to ultimate guidelines developed by Nielsen Norman Group, a worldly-respected powerhouse in the field. 

    As a product owner, don’t hesitate to participate in the app design process as well. Here are some tips to what you can handle.

    • Study Betalist to find out if there are any early-stage startups sharing the same ideas and concepts. Insure your product from accusations of brain-picking. 
    • Explore forums, communities on social networks, blogs of your target audience to gather market demands. 
    • Boost awareness about market trends to see what people search for. Google Trends are at your service. 

    Step #2. Functionality and sections/pages

    No expert, whatever their qualification, can structure your product without knowing what it should consist of. Prior to the app design process itself make sure to list all the sections, actions and functions you want your web app to have. 

    Let’s say the feature list for a mental health application can look like this:

    • Users can log in and sign up via email / phone number / social accounts.
    • Users can set goals for their self-therapy. 
    • Users can get daily positive affirmations. 
    • Users can take notes of their emotions and feelings. 
    • Users can talk to a chat-bot. 

    Real illustration for this taken from our case about the development of a mental health app

    Based on this you can also finalize the sections. In our exemplary case these can be “Goals”, “My mental health diary”, “Support”, “Daily inspiration” or something like this. 

    Step # 3. Moodboard and reference pack

    At the next stage your design team will ask you to provide some references. Both negative and positive. You can refer to the whole functionality of some applications and also choose certain features, design hacks and visual touches you like. 

    These people don’t know yet whether you want a huge hero-banner on the first screen or can do with plain text greeting. Try peeping into Behance, it has a convenient search that can simplify the task. And don’t forget about higher-ups in your field. 

    Then share the findings with the team. They serve as grounds for a moodboard which is a rough reflection of visual style, whole atmosphere and tone of the product. 

    Step # 4. Wireframes

    All the insights about functionality and desirable structure from the refs form the basis for wireframes. These are colorless structure drafts made to ensure the design team is on the right track. 

    When you design a web app wireframes are a must, as they let you double-check the choice of UX. You don’t correct flaws after all is done, but do testing and evaluation of the flow convenience from the start. 

    READ MORE  App wireframes: a cornerstone of your project or an extra headache?

    Step # 5. Design concept 

    When all parties have agreed on the application structure, the design team adds visual style to 2-3 screens or pages. Again, this stage saves much stress. Just pretend what you could feel if the web application design presented to you a day before the release were far from expected.

    Step # 6. Mockups and UI kit

    The juiciest stage of the app design process is the final version of your product. Easy to identify, here’s when you get mockups for the entire application. Check out if the design file has all the screens and states you’ve agreed on with the designer. 

    Besides, it would be useful to ensure a UI kit. This is a pack of design elements to reuse in later product iterations. 

    Such components as highlighted above can make up UI kit for the first iteration, as the possibility of reusing them is high

    We recommend adding the following components into UI kit so as to design a web app further in future:

    • color palettes and styles (gradients, color numbers)
    • dark mode
    • typography 
    • grid
    • icons 
    • buttons (with states: initial, hover, focus, loading, disabled)
    • inputs  (with states: initial, active, typing, filled, disabled, success, error)
    • dropdowns
    • cards.
    READ MORE  How to keep design tidy and homogenous by assembling a UI-kit

    As you see, this design job has plenty of twists and turns that amateurs can just fail to see. We encourage you to entrust the task to professionals with proven expertise in UX/UI design services and a solid portfolio. Then your project will be safe.

    In case you have any concepts or ideas for a web application, feel free to share it with our team using the form below. Purrweb has 8+ years of experience in MVP development and your app has every chance to make it to the top.

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