Technology Mobile Development Web Development

Website vs Web Application – What are the Differences?

Aleksandra Rajczyk
Website vs Web Application - what are the differences

If you’re a business owner, chances are that you’re going to develop a website or an app for your company some time in the future. Here you’ll find a short explanation of what is the difference between a website and a web application and which one will help you achieve your business goals more efficiently. 

For a regular Internet user, web application and website is more or less the same thing: both types of software have a URL and both of them have to be opened in a browser. In fact, most of them see everything that pops up on the screens of their devices as a website. When asked about what’s the difference between an app and a website, users will probably struggle to nail down the exact characteristics of each type of software they’re interacting with. 

If it’s not clear to the user, why should business owners care? They should because websites and web applications bring different benefits to the company. If they want their business to grow, finding the right way of digital expansion is key. 

Let’s start with some basic data. 

What is a website, and when do you need it?

To clearly show what is the difference between a website and an app, we need to get to know the basics. Starting off with a website definition:

To quote Techopedia, a Website is a collection of publicly accessible, interlinked Web pages that share a single domain name. Websites can be created and maintained by an individual, group, business, or organization to serve a variety of purposes. Together, all publicly accessible websites constitute the World Wide Web.

If you’ve ever used the Internet, you’ve seen more than one website. Landing pages, blogs, portfolios – all of these are websites. 

The benefits a well-designed website brings to your business are the following:

  1. Online presence – the users of the Internet know that your business is up and running. 
  1. Online business card – you provide your potential customers with company data, contact details, list of services and products, etc.
  1. Branding – a website it’s the easiest and the most effective way to showcase your logo, motto, colors, fonts, photos, and all other aspects of your brand that have a direct effect on brand recognition.
  1. Customer support – customers can communicate with you through a contact sheet on the website. 
  1. Marketing channel – you have full control over how your products and services are presented to the customers visiting your website, including the reviews. 
  1. Perfectly tailored content – you can advertise your brand any way you like, be it text, photos, videos, etc. 
  1. Social proof – this is a sociological phenomenon where people tend to think that actions taken by the majority are the correct ones; therefore, if companies in your field create websites, you should do the same so that your customers view your firm as a legitimate business.

Website is a perfect choice for companies that look for simple yet reliable solutions. An attractive website backed up by Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is enough to let your customers know about what your business is all about. 

What is a web app and how it benefits your business?

Once again, let’s start with a definition from Techopedia:

Web application A web-based application is any program that is accessed over a network connection using HTTP, rather than existing within a device’s memory. Web-based applications often run inside a web browser. However, web-based applications also may be client-based, where a small part of the program is downloaded to a user’s desktop, but processing is done over the Internet on an external server. Web-based applications are also known as web apps.

As you can see, a web application can be one of the features of a website, but a website is not a part of a web application. Web applications are far more complex and require more interaction with the user as opposed to simple information presented on a website. 

Web applications allow users to perform a variety of tasks: create accounts, shop, add and chat with friends, manage tasks, book appointments, publish content, order food, and many, many more. 

The main benefits of web applications to your business:

  1. No download necessary – as opposed to mobile apps, web apps run on web browsers (Chrome, Safari, Firefox, etc.) so users don’t have to install them.
  1. Easy to maintain – users don’t have to be notified about the web application changes and updates.
  1. Compatibility – web apps run on all popular browsers so there’s no conflict with different software.
  1. Low costs – web application development is generally more affordable than mobile app development, with lower maintenance and support costs. 

As you can see, a web application gives you a lot more possibilities than a website. It’s a good choice if you plan to develop complex features to reach your business goals. 

Web App vs Website – what are the differences?

Just by reading the information above, you can probably pinpoint what’s the difference between a web app and a website. To help you with that, below you’ll find a shortlist. 

User Interaction

A website is based on static content. Users can’t do much with it except view visuals and read the text. There’s no room for interaction or personalization. The web application is all about interacting with users. Users must perform actions: small ones like pressing buttons and more serious ones like transferring money. The web application provides personalized service. Just look at online stores – the most basic type of web application. 

Authorization Process 

Authorization is the activity of identifying the user who navigates the website or the web application. The process of authorization requires a login and a password established during registration. The verification process helps secure users’ data. It’s necessary for a web application. However, typical websites do not need to set up a verification process, although some sort of authorization is required to avoid spammers in the comment section or in the reviews. 

Integration

Both websites and web applications can be integrated with some systems for easier management. Websites use CMS (Content Management System) that allows you to edit and update the content on the website. Integration with external tools and systems is optional since websites do not require user interaction. 

I contrast, web applications store a lot of data and can process several processes at the same time, which is why they are usually integrated with a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system. The system allows for the effective management of customer data. It also helps in operating the web application. 

It is worth noting that despite the differences between a web page and a website, many modern websites are not static as the definition suggests. Usually, they fulfill some functionalities that require integration with a CRM system or even a separate web application.

App development vs web development: which is better? 

There’s no clear answer to what’s better for your business. To find out, you need to write down your business goals and define your target audience. Software development starts with a good understanding of what you’re offering and what’s your place on the market. The purpose is everything: if you want it to mainly present your business in the digital space – a website will be the better option. If interactions with users are at the heart of your company’s revenue model – a web application is the best choice for you. 

Websites are built with a minimal number of tools and need only static HTML files, CSS styles, and possibly JavaScript programming language. If the website is really simple, sometimes it’s a job for two people: Graphic Designer and Frontend Developer. Building a simple website is usually just a few days of work. The technologies used for website building are HTML and CSS. Websites can be created on simple, widely available platforms, e.g. WordPress.

Web applications aren’t that simple. They need frontend and backend, which can be built using various technologies. It’s a work for a whole development team that includes not only developers but also testers and other IT specialists. It can take a few months if not years depending on the complexity of the project. Different types of technologies can be used to develop a web application: HTML, CSS, JavaScript, PHP, Ruby, Python. 

It goes without saying that the budget needed to develop a web application will be much bigger than that for the development of a website. The rule of thumb is that you should estimate how many hours it will take to create your project of choice since IT specialists are paid an hourly rate. Then you’ll have a brief understanding of how much money you’ll have to invest. 

Summary

While websites and web applications are both accessible via Internet, they’re not the same. Websites are more static and do not allow users to interact with them that much. The interaction is usually limited to leaving a comment, a review, or uploading simple pieces of content. Websites are a great way to brand your business and put your company on the map. However, if your business idea relies on user interaction, you should consider web application development. It’s the perfect way to engage users and provide them with personalized products and services. Developing a web app is costly, but it allows you to create complex ideas. What matters most is your business idea – once you have a clear vision, you’ll know what’s the right path towards your business goals. 

Good luck!

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