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App Development
6 minutes read

Website Vs. Web Application: Understanding the Differences

By Jose Gomez
By Jose Gomez
App Development
6 minutes read

Modern interactive web development capabilities have made the website vs. web application question more difficult to answer. Generally, your typical end-user won’t be able to distinguish between a website and a web application. After all, websites and web applications are very similar to one another. They both require an Internet connection, are accessed through a browser, and are responsive to the device being used.  

However, websites and web applications are very different from a development and design standpoint. This post will explain what websites and web applications are, the main differences between them, and how to determine which digital product is suitable for your business needs. 

What Is a Website? 

A website is a collection of public web pages connected through a domain name. Web pages can contain text, audio, video, documents, or other Internet-accessible content. Traditionally, websites are associated with static content. However, modern web technologies have helped developers create interactive websites that are more app-like. 

More complex, interactive websites are called dynamic websites. In addition to using HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, dynamic websites also use databases and more advanced programming languages to facilitate backend interaction with users. 

Static websites display the same content for all users. On the other hand, dynamic websites can display different content to users depending on various factors such as time, location, date, etc. No matter what kind of website you create for your business, you need to ensure that you populate it with quality content because the content is why people visit your website. 

What Is a Web Application?

A web app is a software that is accessed through a web browser. Web applications differ from mobile and desktop software in that they don’t have to be downloaded. Typically, users access web apps in the same way they access websites through a URL. Web applications are built using many of the same technologies used to build websites. However, web application development tends to be more complex because web apps need to store and manipulate data based on user input. 

A distinguishing feature of web applications is that they help users complete a task. Web apps are capable of performing a wide variety of different tasks. For example, you might use a web app to track expenses, register for classes, create advertisements, scan and convert files, and so much more. Almost all web apps require server-side processing. Apps that require server-side processing are dynamic, and apps that don’t are static. Although, static web apps are uncommon. 

If you want to create a web application for your business, ensure that it performs a task users will find valuable. Apps that don’t provide value to users won’t get used. Web applications are a popular choice for businesses because they are scalable, don’t require mobile app store approval, support all modern browsers, and are cross-platform compatible. 

The Differences Between Websites and Web Applications 

There are many similarities between websites and web apps. Many people would argue that web apps are the next stage of evolution for websites. Still, there are critical differences between these two technologies that should be considered. Key differences between web applications and websites include:

  • Function 
  • Complexity 
  • Access 

Function 

From a user perspective, the significant difference between websites and web applications is function. Websites serve to inform, and web apps serve to help. The content on a website can be viewed, read, or listened to, but the user cannot manipulate it. Conversely, content on web applications is not only viewable but interactive. Web applications allow users to manipulate data. A simple example of interactive web content is a form. Anything on the Internet that performs a service is likely a web app. 

Complexity 

Web applications are far more complex than websites. Websites are just a collection of static web pages. Yes, modern web development standards have made websites more interactive, but they are still relatively simple to build compared to web apps. Not only do web applications have to provide a service and function seamlessly, but they require backend services, more security features, varying user levels, and data processing capabilities. 

While web apps can be built with the same web technologies as websites, such as JavaScript, HTML, and CSS, apps will also need to use more advanced programming languages, frameworks, and server-side script. Additionally, UX/UI design is more crucial to web apps since users actively interact with them. 

Access 

Public access is a hallmark of websites, but almost all web apps require registration and authentication. In most cases, unregistered website visitors have the same access and experience as registered users. On the other hand, web apps almost always require user authentication because they provide services customized to the user’s requirements. Banking web apps provide a great real-world example of this. Yes, all account holders are offered similar services online, but each user has a unique experience based on their personal banking information. 

Website Vs. Web App: Which Is Right for My Business? 

Now that you know more about the differences between websites and web apps, you are probably wondering which would be better for your business. This can be a difficult decision to make. The simplest way to think about this question is to imagine your goals and vision.

If you want users to get to know your business and the products or services you offer, a website is probably the best choice for you. On the other hand, if you want to provide a service to users, you will want to develop a web application. The lines between website and web app blur when you want to allow users to register on your website or buy products from your store. 

Websites can be developed with app-like components that allow users to complete tasks. However, understanding that this is possible doesn’t make it easier to differentiate between websites and web apps. If you are unsure which direction is the best for your business, reach out to an app development partner. A partner will help you design and develop the best possible product for your business. Don’t worry about the semantics of website vs. web application; speak with an experienced partner today, and get the right solution for your business.

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