Websites vs Web Apps
Its hard to remember a time before the internet. I can barely remember back to when I didn’t know a “www” address to go to. As the internet took off so did websites and then web apps, but what exactly are web apps? What are the differences between a website and a web app/application? We hear this question from time to time.
Although it should be simple to answer, it’s more convoluted than it seems. In this blog post we try to cover different perspectives that could help you differentiate between the two.
Creation vs Consumption
Perhaps one of the best way to distinguish between websites and web applications is to look at the visitor’s role. On a website, a visitor is a consumer. They consume information that is provided by the website. The information is read-only and user can’t change it. On the other hand, visitors of a web app can create information. They are not pure consumers anymore. Their ability to change the state of the app means they have write permissions. And more importantly, the information they create can (usually) be consumed by other visitors.
Interaction vs Content
Another good differentiator of websites and web apps is the goal. The goal of a website is its content. That’s what defines a website. That’s different for a web app. It is defined by its interactions not the content. In a website your interactions are limited to visiting a web page and receiving the content. The website is there to provide you with that data, if it’s the store hours or the business lines of a company. But when you visit a web app, you are there to “do” something. That interaction gives meaning to a web app, not the content you generate doing that interaction. If that interaction is to post something on Facebook, the content has next to nothing to do with the goal of Facebook, but the fact that you interacted with the app and posted that update has. It’s the interaction that defines the goal.
Web Apps Are Task Oriented
This is a great point of distinction for web apps: They are task-centric. This means that you use a web app to achieve a specific goal or to do a specific task. You are not there to see what is there, but you are there to complete a task. A good example of that is google drive. You use it to store files on the cloud. Storing of the files on the cloud is the task you are completing by using the app: Google Drive.
Web Apps = Users Are in Charge
One final way that you can use to distinguish websites from web apps is the user. In web apps the user is in charge. Users can create content and can interact with content. Users are the reason the app exists and for apps like Facebook it’s the only reason the web app is useful at all. Although users are important for a website, they can’t make a good website. But since users can generate content for a web app, they can make or break a web app.
50 Shades of Web
Having said all that, it’s good to note that the distinction is not always as clear as that. You might be dealing with something that sometimes behave like a web app and sometimes like a website. There is always a spectrum of solutions on the web, and some of them are closer to a website and some closer to a web app. The distinction should not be a reason to create or not create the solution.
Learn more about our web app development services.