What Is The Difference Between a Web Application And A Website?

by Lauren Schneidewind on February 12, 2016

There are so many different terms and acronyms these days involving the Internet and technology in general. I am not sure how people stay up to date. I almost feel like I am learning another language trying to follow everything that is being said. Luckily for me, my 10-month-old daughter will soon be able to be my translator; however until that time I am left figuring it out for myself. One question I have been trying to answer is describing what is a web app, and why it differs from a website.

Let’s take a moment and pretend we are looking for a new home. We start off our search by checking out a model of a home. This creates a great picture as to what our home could look like. This model provides a great deal of information; however we cannot interact it; it will never provide the functionality we need in a home like shelter, plumbing, etc… Now we go over to visit the real home, we are able to walk in and interact with the home. The features we see actually provide a function, like lighting with electricity to illuminate the home. This house can provide more than just information, we can actually live here, work, sleep, relax, etc… Now both the model and the real home have value, it just depends on what you are looking for. This is similar to a website and a web app. A website is a great place to find information, I love searching websites, (I actually did that when writing this blog). However, that is usually all a website can functionally provide. It is a source of information. Whenever the user gets to click a button, we go into the web app territory.

A web application on the other hand is something we interact with that provides a particular function; similar to a house provides shelter, storage, and a plethora of other features. A web app can provide almost any feature the end user wants to have, the simplicity or complexity lies within the person using the app. Just like a builder can build a modest bungalow or a mega mansion with multiple guesthouses on their own-engineered private island (i.e. Google island off of Richard Branson’s Necker Island). Actually, some builders can, most cannot. This is also true for developer teams; some teams are better than others. (This is another story for another time). A simple web app can be an online booking system that allows the user to click a button and create an appointment. A more complex web app could have users entering data that allows them to create lease packages. This would enable individuals to lease a vehicle, but the app would have to incorporate all of the different tax rates and rules depending on what city, county, state, region, and country a person wanting to lease a vehicle is in, making it a much harder problem to solve. The complexity can go for days; however a great web app is easy to use no matter how complex the back-end of the application is. However, that is an entirely new topic that I would love to discuss with you at a later time as well (Front-end vs. Back-End).

Long story short, a website provides information. A web app provides an interactive feature such as a button.
What are your thoughts on websites and web apps? Are you ready to start building your dream app? Let me know!

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