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Websites Vs Web Apps: What's Really The Difference?

Chinedu Osondu Oko
Written by Chinedu Osondu
Designer/Developer
website_vs_webapp

The Websites vs Web Apps debate is a very hot one and old one. A lot of articles have been churned out to address it, with some leaving the reader more confused, others seemingly clearing the confusion momentarily, only for it to resurface moments after the memory seems to have forgotten the technical terms used in the articles. What can be done to put to bed this age-old debate? Surely another article!

Laughs. Though that may sound ludicrous, but an article written from a simplistic point of view, taking into cognizance all and not some of the facts, would actually go a long way in, if not dissolving the confusion totally, at least making the matter less foggy. And I believe after the read, you would discover as a “Professor” friend of mine would put it, the difference is the same.

What is a Website?

A website according to Wikipedia, is a collection of web pages and related content, that is identified by a common domain name and published on at least one web server. Notable examples are wikipedia.orggoogle.com, and amazon.com.

What is a Web App?

web application (or web app) is an application software that runs on a web server, unlike computer-based software programs that are run locally on the operating system (OS) of the device. Examples of commonly-used web applications include: web-mailonline retail salesonline banking, and online auctions.

I think we are good to go, thanks for reading… Nah, I’m joking man, or woman. Anyway, having defined the two terms, a closer look, would definitely help us in deciphering how the two terms are related and maybe, different.

More on Websites

Websites are divided into two categories or types, namely: the Static Websites and the Dynamic Websites.

Static Websites

A static website is one that has web pages stored on the server in the format that is sent to a client web browser.

Breaking this down into laity terms, what this means is that, the way the website was built and stored on the web server by the developer, is the exact same way the user or visitor to the website would see it when viewed.

For instance, if the website has on it’s homepage pictures of penguins, videos of pipers dancing and an article titled: “Websites and Web Apps should be Siamese twins”, just saying, then, every user or visitor to the website, would see them as such, until the website developer decides to update the website with a different content. This can be noticed from basically most company websites that are informational in nature, that is websites that show company services and what the company is about. For example: skyloftintelligence.com, adobe.com, huawei.com, tesla.com etc. There may be few differences, especially for those that have sign-in options incorporated into the site, but basically the information displayed is the same for all users.

In a nutshell, there is little or no interaction between the user and the site, the user can’t really control what is seen on the site.

Dynamic Websites

A dynamic website on the other hand, is one that changes or customizes itself frequently and automatically.  

Also putting this into laity understandable terms; this particular kind of website can provide content that can be personalized by the users or visitors to the site. What one user may see on his/her browser on a particular page, could be different from what another user would see. 

Take amazon.com for example, when you visit the site and log into your account and even a family member of yours logs into their account, the information displayed on the homepage is usually different. You would see items you can purchase based on previous interactions you may have had in the past with the website. You can actually personalize a list of things you would like to purchase, input the address you would like the items to be sent, and make other interactions, which would make you experience just that- yours. This brings us to the other matter, that dynamic websites are very interactive in nature. To achieve what you want, you can make series of interactions to get the best out of the website, which in contrast to the static websites means, you can control what you see.

More on Web Apps

When we defined web applications, it was stated that web apps, are application software that run on servers. If we also break that down what it actually means, is, as opposed to application software that run on your computer’s operating system which you use to carry out specific tasks, these ones run on a web server, and can still be used to carry out specific tasks through your web browser.

When we gave examples of types of web applications, we listed web-mails, online retail sales, online banking, online auctions as kinds of web applications. Actually, these are classes of web applications. Let’s try to give direct example of these web applications.

Under web-mails we have web apps like: gmail.com, yahoomail.com etc. Under online retail sales, we have web apps like: amazon.com, ebay.com etc. Hold up right there. If we go back to our examples of websites, we would discover that amazon.com was also given as an example of a website and it seems to be falling under the umbrella of a web application, also. What’s up?

The Difference?

Now, taking into cognizance all the facts that we’ve been presented, if we continue listing a lot of websites and web apps we would discover that a lot would fall under both categories, especially, when we remember that websites are subdivided into static and dynamic sites. Why is this? This brings me back to my friend’s statement: “the difference is the same.” Actually, web applications are dynamic websites.

Conclusion

Web applications are a subset of websites, as they are in actuality, dynamic websites. A website is the general term for any page or collection of pages that can be viewed with a web browser, and all web apps are either individual pages or collection of pages that are viewed with a web browser. Why web apps are usually specified as so, is to make the user or visitor realize, that this particular website is very interactive, and can be used to perform some specified tasks; which actually make them dynamic websites. So all web apps are websites, but not all websites are web apps. I believe this has put to bed the rivalry between the websites vs web apps debate.

Thanks for reading. Your comments will be appreciated in the comment section. Also check out more of our guides and tips articles.

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