What is a web app? And how is it different than a website?

January 25, 2022

What is a web app? And how is it different than a website?

You may have heard about Google Documents, Google Sheets, Gmail, Yahoo, YouTube but might have never realised they are web applications, not websites. Yes! A Web Application. It looks just like a website but acts as a program which is accessible from any web browser and any device. Is it just a website with logins and extra functionality? Will it work on mobile? Is a web app a mobile app? 

Both the terms seem to be used interchangeably. Essentially a website and web app, both, are applications that run on a remote server and are accessed by a client using the browser via a network, such as the internet. 

The difference between them is a matter of perspective and even if you ask professional web developers, you are likely to get 20 different answers. 

Let’s first define both the terms:

website or a web site is a collection of related web pages or content viewed on a browser. It’s usually a static set of pages usually used to inform the viewer about a company and it’s services, a place, a person, information or products. The content you’re reading now is on the blog page of our website

Websites are static, which means they might not need to be updated as often as a web app. A static website does not need a database. They can be built using HTML, CSS, and maybe a little bit of JavaScript.

webapp or web application are interactive websites like Amazon, Twitter or Facebook. A web application is a web site which the user can control.

Web applications are typically developed with HTML, CSS & JavaScript, and / or use programming languages or frameworks – React, Angular, Vue or Ruby. Databases are also required to manage and maintain the data coming in from user interactions. There is usually also a backend - NodeJS, Express, Django - involved which handles server requests. 

Here’s the difference with an example -

  • Website: a restaurant website with it’s menu, location, working hours and other information to be used by a user to view content and call / place orders.
  • Web App: a restaurant management system where users can place orders online and restaurants can track and manage their cooking workflow, bills, staff, inventory and other important tasks.

Here are some more examples. Can you tell which one is which? 

  1. Static news / magazine website - like the guardian or new york post where users can view the current and past news articles
  2. An ecommerce website selling products to customers
  3. A portfolio website 

To summarize -

There is a lot of blurry lines when it comes to the real definition of web apps and websites but the main difference is that a website is informational and a web app is interactive.

Benefits of Web Apps. 

Increased Efficiency
In Web Apps, data is integrated at one place which makes submission and retrieval of information from database easy. Web Apps makes communication with clients effortless by providing them instant access to the company. While working on a project, every employee access the same version of the document which can be edited by multiple users at the same time. This further eliminates the compatibility issues. 

Easily Accessible
Just like websites, web apps also promotes your brand 24/7. Clients can interact with business at anytime. They can be used on any platform - Windows, Mac, Linux since they are available on every browser. Some web apps can be an exception, if they are developed to work on particular browser or device. Users get instant access to updated version. 

Easy To Use 
Their simple features and functions reduces work. It does not require any special effort and time to train people how to use. This adds functionality to your business and increases productivity. Users and businesses both can customize data available on a web app.

Since it is available on every browser, you can save the memory usage and costs which is used on installation of a software. It’s maintenance cost usually low. This reduces costs for businesses as well as users. 

Still confused whether to opt for a web app or website? Give us a call or send us a message and we’ll be happy to discuss it with you.