“Is it not just a website?”, is a question that we often get when explaining what a web application is to many of our clients that seek software development services. Let us start by defining both websites and web applications, both their similarities and differences, hopefully by the end of this read you will be in a position to easily pick which of the two is best for your business.
What is a Website?
A website is generally defined as a set of web pages hosted under the same domain name, produced and organized by either an individual or organization showcasing a certain brand over the internet. There are several examples of websites such as Wikipedia, Breaking News, Vihlix Website and more that you’ll be able to list individually.
A web page is a hypertext document that may contain images, text, video, audio, etc provided by a website that can be displayed through a web browser, the name "web page" is a metaphor for paper pages bound together into a book.
What is a Web Application?
A web application is software that can be accessed through a browser. It uses a combination of server-side scripts, lines of code that need to run or execute from a server, and client-side scripts, lines of code that easily execute in a browser.
We interact with web applications much more often that we mistake them to be just websites. For example, you had a question on the topic of websites vs web applications and typed it into the search bar (Google), for the results to be shown which you may find useful to you, the web application, Google runs server-side scripts to get responses which then it will display to you on the results page. There are several examples of web applications such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc
How can I differentiate between a website and a web application?
Below we shall list a few things that you can base on to define what you load in a browser as a website or a web application.
What was it created for?
A website consists of static content, that is content that won’t get changed by your interaction with the web pages well as a web application has dynamic content, which will change based on your input or interaction.
Does it require user authentication?
For a website, if having authentication is not obligatory to access the information on it, well as for a web application, authentication is a common requirement to access its content.
How is the user interaction?
The user of a website can only read the content but not be able to manipulate it, for a web application, the user can both read and manipulate the content.
How is it deployed?
A web application needs to be precompiled before getting deployed or hosted, while a website need not be precompiled before deployment.
How complex is it to build?
Web application functions are quite complex, say you need a solution that will require users to rate a product you have posted and you need to be able to assign each response to a given user compared to a website which will display already collected data of product and rating.
Since web applications are very customizable and can have a wide range of functionality, they are generally more complex to build and require an experienced software developer or team of. They require a database to offer an interactive user experience, this data can be referenced, stored, and accessed through a customized web page simplifying the delivery of information to the app users.