Even though most people use websites and web apps on a daily basis when browsing for work and entertainment, very few know the difference between the two formats. If you are considering launching an online platform for business or other purposes, this article will help you make a well-informed choice to best satisfy your needs.
How a Web App Differs from a Website
It is common for a normal user to classify every online platform as a website. They are not exactly wrong, they are just using general terminology without delving into the fine points of web development.
But if you are ready to launch an online platform for your brand, you need to have a clear idea of your platform’s purpose and desired functionality before contacting an IT company to develop it. Function and purpose constitute the key distinctions between a web app and a website.
Let’s consider an example of how two brands in the fashion and clothing industry can present their business on the web:
- One company reviews the latest trends and provides tips on choosing clothing and accessories in its blog. Their catalogue has no filters, and the content of its product pages cannot be altered by users. On their contact page, you can find the hours of operation, static map, phone and email. To purchase products, you have to call in an order or visit a brick-and-mortar store. This is a simple website.
- Our second platform is a web app that provides the same static information, along with interactive functionality. You can take advantage of on-site search, use filters to quickly retrieve desired items from a catalogue, add products to your cart and place orders online. The platform memorizes your behaviour and provides customized content during your next shopping session, offering you products related to those already purchased or viewed. Also, using your IP or address, they may provide localized offers. A web app is essentially a website empowered with interactivity that can change its content based on user actions or individual preferences.
If you ask an IT company to develop a website, you will receive a simple platform similar to the first option. To take advantage of interactive extensions, order a web app. Understanding the differences between these two types of online platforms will help you avoid investing in a platform that does not meet your needs or expectations.
Choosing between a website or a web app is an important decision. Wikipedia offers a good example. At first glance, Wiki is a purely informational website, since the purpose of any online encyclopedia is to inform. At the same time, users can edit the content of Wiki pages, use filters to find information, and interact with the platform in other ways, making Wikipedia a web app.
Advantages of Web Apps
Web applications have enjoyed booming popularity throughout recent years. The key reasons for their mass adoption:
- Since the entire app uses the same code, it is easy to manage and maintain and causes no compatibility issues at the moment of launch.
- In contrast to mobile apps that are acquired via app stores, web apps can be used online and free of charge.
- With all the functionality accessible in a browser, there is no need to clog RAM with downloadable files.
- As a cutting-edge technology, web applications can be used and have a stellar performance in any browser and operating system. In contrast, websites launched a decade ago often provide features that are no longer maintained, which impairs user experience.
- As a web app owner, you manage the renovation of your product and do not need users to upload updates.
- Web apps can function around the clock on any device connected to the Internet, whether it is a PC, a tablet, or a mobile phone.
- Even though web apps are more costly than websites, at the same time, they are less expensive than software licenses.
Are More Features Always Better?
A web app is considered by most to be a more comprehensive and cutting-edge solution than a basic website. Many IT companies try to sell their clients on the idea that traditional websites are obsolete and deliver only a fraction of the value of a web app. Sophisticated web applications are more costly, and web developers stand to make more money from a web app launch.
However, some clients only need a website, saving them money on unnecessary features. Conscientious IT companies take an individual approach to each client and select solutions that best fit their promotional strategies. They are more intent on helping their clients reach their goals than on selling them expensive services they don’t need.
A traditional website will suffice to meet the following objectives:
- Shifting from print and TV ads to digital marketing, and familiarizing an online audience with your brand
- Boosting your brand’s authority by empowering its web presence
- Educating your audience about your services and products
- Showcasing your portfolio and case studies
- Informing consumers about proprietary technologies, important developments, contracts, corporate events, the release of new products, and other important landmarks of your venture
Even though both websites and web apps often require users to create an account before accessing content, it is more common for web apps to request user data. They use this information to customize user browsing and shopping experiences. Social media platforms are web apps that require users to create personal profiles and provide sensitive data, to provide higher levels of security than websites. The same applies to e-commerce apps that collect financial information like credit card and bank account numbers.
Since the functionality of a web app is more complex than that of a website, developers often back them up with third-party extensions to enable data collection, storage and processing. Developers use proven methods for syncing web apps with external software. Website syncing often causes integration issues.
Knowing the difference between a website and a web app can help you make an informed decision about which is right for your company. Each of them can deliver tons of value when matched to your strategic goals.
In your company’s early stages you may be able to make do with a simple website. But as you grow, you may need a sophisticated interactive web app to scale your business. In the long run, it makes sense to hire a web dev team to create your web platform from day one and add upgrades as needed.