Online terminology can get incredibly confusing. For example, you probably know the difference between a mobile application and a website, but what is a web application?
Clearly, it lies somewhere in between the two. And yet, even knowing that may not get you the information needed to help your business. If you are wondering why it matters whether you are and should be building a website or web application, this post is for you.
Defining The Concepts
According to Merriam-Webster, a website is “a place on the World Wide Web that contains information about a person, organization, etc., and that usually consists of many Web pages joined by hyperlinks.”
Meanwhile, Techopedia defines web applications as “any program that is accessed over a network connection using HTTP, rather than existing within a device’s memory.”
Comparing the two definitions gives the first level of insight into their utility and differences.
Distinguishing Websites And Web Apps
The Merriam-Webster definition contains a crucial word: information. Websites, above all, are the premier digital way to disseminate information about your business and brand. They can contain calls to action, aiming to spur users to, for example, fill out a sign-up form.
Web applications, on the other hand, focus not on information, but task accomplishment. As a piece of software, a web app exists ultimately to enable its users to take specific actions. It's an environment in which users don't just learn about your company or brand, but actually complete work. Because the web app is built in HTML, it can be accessed through any internet browser.
Understanding Blurred Lines
Of course, as you can probably imagine, the above distinction is a bit simplistic. Sites such as Hootsuite, Buffer, Facebook, and others blur the lines. They publicize brand information, and also allow for sign-ups and log-ins that provide extensive task-oriented environments. But understanding the core differences between both websites and web apps remains crucial, particularly when it comes to web development.
Do You Need A Web App Or Website?
A question that seemed confusing now becomes a bit clearer. If your digital presence should exist primarily to spread brand awareness and generate leads, you are looking for a website. However, if the actual product your business provides should be accessible within that online presence, a web app should be your focus. Choosing between the two needs to be closely aligned with your core business and digital goals.
Answering that question honestly and accurately makes a major impact on the development process. Put simply, a website needs a very different approach than a web application. Both are typically built in HTML, but require very different structures.
Considering the fact that websites act mainly as information distributors, they rely on a CMS that helps administrators create and publish content. Additional features, such as calls to action and integration with lead databases, may add to the complexity, but your content will remain the core focus during a development project.
Web apps, on the other hand, focus on interactivity. As a result, they will need different levels of user security, along with a complex structure of workflows and other tools designed to help users take full advantage of the app's capability. Content matters, but not in the same way as it would for a website.
Do you need a website or a web app? In the end, that depends on what your online presence seeks to accomplish. Continue to educate yourself and talk to web professionals to determine which solution will best fit your needs.