Web Application vs Website: What’s the Difference?

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With more and more people utilizing mobile devices for browsing the web, the terms web application and website are starting to be used interchangeably. When comparing web applications to websites, you’ll find some overlap. However, it’s important to note that they are two very different things.

Below, you’ll find a comprehensive guide to understanding the differences and similarities between web applications and websites. 

What is a Web Application?

A web application (also called a web app) is a piece of software that performs tasks over the internet using a web server or protocol to handle client requests. Unlike native apps, web apps often don’t require a download because they can be accessed via a web browser using a URL. However, web apps can be downloaded on a multitude of operating systems and accessed without a web browser. 

Web apps are developed to serve a wide range of functions and purposes. They contain both a front end (client side) and back end (server side). When users access web apps, they create requests and interactions with the user interface. Requests are often made via content management systems or shopping carts and then stored in a database. This allows companies to provide a personalized user experience tailored to each of their customers’ interests. 

Web Application Vs Website Explained

What is the difference between a website and a web app? Websites exist solely to deliver static content using a collection of web pages, blogs, and downloadable items. There is very little interaction from the user’s end aside from contact forms, purchases, and emails. Additionally, websites rely on HTML to display text, images, tables, audio, and videos. 

Like web apps, websites can be accessed on multiple operating systems and devices. But they can only be accessed through web browsers. The most common features included in websites include URLs, calls to action, blogs, contact forms, forums, and responsive designs. 

Web apps overcome the functionality limitations of websites. They utilize databases to store and retrieve user information, so users can easily find the information they’re looking for. The data web apps collect provides a personalized and interactive user experience. 

Unlike websites, web apps are dynamic and designed to always interact with users. For example, social media apps often notify users of interactions from other users. Additionally, notifications can be used to alert users of stories and posts that may interest them based on their prior interactions. 

While websites can be built from scratch with minimal technical knowledge, web application development is far more sophisticated. It often requires a team of software developers to create a web app. For example, both websites and web apps may require CSS, HTML, and JavaScript. However, programming languages such as Ruby, PHP, and frameworks such as Ruby on Rails, Scriptcase, and Django are often the building blocks of web apps. That’s because the capabilities of web apps far exceed those of websites.

Web Application Vs Website Example

Common web applications for beginners include:

  • Email such as Gmail, Yahoo and Outlook.
  • Word processors such as Microsoft Word and Google Docs.
  • Spreadsheets such as Microsoft Excel and Google Sheets.
  • Social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
  • News aggregation and discussion platforms such as Reddit and Quora
  • Wiki engines such as Wikipedia.
  • Music streaming services such as Spotify, Apple Music, and YouTube Music.
  • Video streaming platforms such as YouTube and Vimeo. 

A few examples of websites include: 

Is Facebook a website or web application?

Most Facebook users know it as a mobile web application. But like most social media platforms, it can also be accessed in a web browser using the HTTPS protocol. However, Facebook acts as a web application because it contains interactive elements that provide a level of functionality not typically offered by a website.

Does SEO Apply to Web Apps?

Like websites, web apps must rank in search engine results pages (SERPs). To accomplish this goal, many businesses that create web apps rely on search engine optimization (SEO) as part of their marketing strategy. Crawlability, image optimization, and readable URLs are essential for optimal web app SEO.

Which is Better Web App or Website?

Which platform is better for your brand depends on your marketing approach. If your goal is simply to provide static informational content without user input, then a website may be ideal. However, web apps are far more efficient for other purposes. 

The advantages of web apps include:

  • Better user experience.
  • Faster load times.
  • Push notifications.
  • Easy navigation.
  • Simple installation and maintenance processes.
  • Accessibility from any device without using a browser.
  • Easy customization.
  • Better security for your business with cloud-based data storage.

"Whether your goal is to provide simple, fixed content or an enhanced user experience for your customers, I can help get you started."

Choose the Web Platform That Best Suits Your Marketing Strategy

Now you should have a better understanding of the web application vs website debate. Whether your goal is to provide simple, fixed content or an enhanced user experience for your customers, I can help get you started. I offer a wide range of web development services such as development, design, e-commerce, and SEO. I would be glad to work with you to develop a web app or website that best suits your company’s brand. 

Want to get your web app or website off the ground? Contact me to learn how to get started.

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