Browser-Based Applications Pros And Cons

Practical Computer Applications (PCApps) has developed many browser-based applications and this is what we have found to be the major pros and cons.


  • Runs on any OS. Browser-based applications will run on any computer which has a fully-functional web browser. This may not include many smart devices such as cell phones or PDAs, which use a limited browser which cannot display or interact with non-mobile specific web pages.
  • No installation. Browser-based applications do not need to be installed in any way. Users simply navigate their web browser to the correct address. A web browser is required.


  • User Interface Differences. Since users may have different machines, different operating systems, and different browsers (with different versions), the display and layout of web pages (and the overall user experience) can change drastically among users.
  • JavaScript Differences. Since users may have different browsers, the functionality of a website may be affected due to differences in how client-side JavaScript code is executed. Unfortunately, due to the ‘browser wars’ many browsers do not fully adhere to any given standard, or adhere to different versions of a standard, which makes programming cross-browser JavaScript difficult, tedious and time-intensive. This also results in increased time to debug specific users’ problems.
  • Browser Capability Issues. Since users may have different browsers, the capabilities available to those browsers might be significantly different, especially based on the user’s specific preferences. Some browsers may have JavaScript disabled, will not allow Cookies, will block Popups, do not have correct helper applications installed (Flash for example), and will not execute certain code or allow certain controls. Mobile-based browsers, such as those found in many cell phones and PDAs will not correctly render “normal” web pages and will have reduced capabilities. Once again, this results in increased time to debug specific users’ problems.
  • Slower Development. Designing and creating web pages is more time consuming because it is based on the HTML and CSS-based architecture of the web instead of.NET Windows Forms. Cross-browser layout issues not only result in delays but also require defensive programming which consumes additional time. Making small layout changes can also require complicated CSS programming and result in slower turnaround to clients.
  • Costly to Development. Slower development and the more complicated programming required to account for machine, operating system, and browser differences among users, creating pure web-based applications is not as cost effective as Smart Client applications.
  • Difficult to Debug. Since users of applications can have almost any type of computer, smart device, operating system, and web browser, it can be extremely difficult to reproduce problems reported by users, and therefore even more difficult to remedy problems. A team might require an extensive set of computers of different types, running different operating systems, and with different settings to properly reproduce reported problems, which is often not feasible. The introduction of browsers on PDAs and cell phones makes this even more challenging.

Read about browser-based applications versus Smart Client Applications.