Rewriting Windows Applications

Last Updated:
November 15, 2023

Rewriting Your Windows Application as a Web-Native App

If you’re a Windows® ISV who’s concerned about your web-native app competitors, wants to make your application platform-independent, or wants to move to a SaaS model, you may be considering rewriting and relaunching your application as a web-native app.

Rewriting Your Windows Application

What will it take to transform your Windows application to a web-native app? Here’s an overview of the steps involved:

Personnel: ensure that your development team has the skills and experience necessary to rewrite the application in a reasonable timeframe.

Assessment: analyze the existing Windows application to understand its functionality, features, and dependencies; identify the key components that need to be ported to the web application; assess the feasibility and potential challenges in the migration process.

Gather Requirements: including requirements for existing features and any new features or improvements you want to implement during the migration.

Determine the Technology Stack: Choose the technology stack for your web application. This includes selecting a programming language, frameworks, libraries, and tools for development.

Design and Architecture: Design the architecture of the web-native app. Determine how the user interface will be structured, how data will be managed, and how different components will interact. Plan for scalability, security, and performance.

User Interface: Redesign the user interface to fit the web environment. Consider responsive design for various screen sizes and browsers. Choose a design framework or Cascading Style Sheets (CSS library) to assist with styling.

Data Migration: Migrate data from the Windows application to the web-native app. This may involve converting data formats or database schemas.

Backend Development: Build the server-side components, including APIs and web services, to support the functionality of the web application, and implement data storage, server logic, and authentication.

Frontend Development: Develop the web application's frontend using HTML, CSS, and JavaScript (or a JavaScript framework), then implement the user interface, navigation, and client-side functionality.

Testing and Quality Assurance: Conduct extensive testing to ensure the web-native app functions as expected, including unit testing, integration testing, and user acceptance testing; address and fix any issues or bugs discovered during testing.

Security and Authentication: Implement security measures, such as authentication, authorization, and data encryption, to protect the web app and customer data from threats.

Optimization and Performance: Optimize the webapp to enhance performance by minimizing load times, optimizing code, and using content delivery networks (CDNs) for assets.

Documentation and User Training: Provide training and documentation to help users transition from the Windows application to the web-native version.

App Rollout: Build and execute a plan for announcing, promoting, and rolling out the web app, and transitioning customers to the new app.

Retire the Windows Application: Once the web-native app is stable and widely adopted, consider retiring the old Windows application or supporting it in a legacy mode.

If the above sounds like an extensive plan to build and deliver a new application, that’s because rewriting your Windows application as a web-native app IS exactly that.

Consider this. Can you rewrite your Windows application as a web-native app and still deliver the rich functionality loved by your customers that’s available in your current Windows application? Here are the challenges that stand in your way to accomplish that.

Challenges to a Windows Application Rewrite

Personnel: most Windows application developers don’t have expertise or extensive experience in the programming languages and UX design approaches required for building web apps. You may need to hire a new development team, contract with a consulting firm, or retrain your current staff to build a web-native app—while supporting and enhancing your current Windows app.

Resources: Rewriting a Windows application as a web app requires a significant investment of time, money, and skilled resources. Budget constraints and resource availability can be challenges, and time to market with a new app can be as long as ten years for complex, feature-rich Windows applications.

Functionality Parity: Ensuring that the new web-native application has the same functionality as the Windows application is problematic. You may need to re-implement features that are specific to the Windows platform and find equivalent web-based solutions. In many cases, you may not be able to recreate crucial well-loved features that meet existing customer expectations.

UI/UX Adaption: Adapting the user interface and user experience from a desktop environment to the web can be tricky. You'll need to consider responsive design, navigation, and user interaction differences.

Performance: Achieving similar or better performance with a web app as compared to a native Windows application can be challenging, since web apps are subject to network latency, browser limitations, and varying device capabilities.

Browser Compatibility: Web apps must work consistently across different web browsers (e.g., Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Edge), which have their own quirks and standards compliance issues. Ensuring cross-browser compatibility can be intricate and problematic.

Data Migration: Migrating data from the Windows application to the web-native app while maintaining data integrity and consistency is incredibly complex. You’ll probably need to convert data formats, putting your data at risk of loss or corruption.

Security: yes, Windows applications do not support SSO, and do have security vulnerabilities (although the most frequently-exploited vulnerabilities are related to Remote Desktop Protocol), but web applications are also exposed to various security threats, such as cross-site scripting (XSS), cross-site request forgery (CSRF), SQL injection, unvalidated redirects and forwards, etc. Additionally, you will need to integrate your web app with identity providers or implement OAuth, SAML, or other authentication protocols.

Legacy Dependencies: If your Windows application relies on legacy technologies or dependencies that are not easily ported to the web, you will need to find an alternative solution or invest in custom development.

Integration with External Systems/Hardware: If your Windows application interacts with external systems or hardware, such as sensors, printers, or other peripherals, ensuring seamless integration with these components in a web environment can be difficult.

Testing and QA: Managing and maintaining test suites for a web-native application is resource-intensive.

User Training and Adoption: Transitioning users from a Windows application to a web-native one requires training and documentation to facilitate the change. Customers that are happy with the features and functionality in the existing application will be highly reluctant to make the switch.

Do You Really Need to Change?

Windows ISVs considering an application rewrite will face a difficult, expensive and lengthy process to make the switch to a web-native app.

Is it worth it?

If you want to make your application platform-independent, or want to move to a SaaS model, it’s absolutely possible—without an application rewrite—by using GO-Global to deliver your Windows application from the cloud to customers located anywhere.

  • GO-Global enables Windows application access by any device with a web browser, making your application platform-independent and eliminating the need to address cross-browser compatibility.  
  • GO-Global works with any cloud, enabling you to fully leverage the scalability, load balancing, and security capabilities of whatever cloud you choose.
  • GO-Global’s concurrent user pricing model aligns with standard SaaS pricing models, saving you money over named user pricing models and making it easier to move to subscription pricing.
  • GO-Global’s proprietary RXP communications protocol delivers a consistently great user experience on any web browser, even on low-bandwidth networks.
  • Using GO-Global instead of RDP to deliver your application eliminates the vulnerabilities inherent in using RDP, encrypts all client sessions, provides multi-factor authentication capabilities, and allows you to integrate your Windows app with identity providers to enable SSO.

Not rewriting your Windows application means that you:

  • Retain the rich functionality that your customers love and rely on
  • Eliminate the risk of data corruption that’s possible when converting data formats
  • Preserve the user experience your customers already understand
  • Eradicate the need to reconfigure integration with external components
  • Cancel the need to explore alternative solutions to existing legacy dependencies, and
  • Avoid forcing your customers to adopt a new app.

To request a demo, click here; for a free 30-day GO-Global trial, click here.