Regardless of whatever industry you’re in, it’s absolutely vital to have an online presence in this day and age. Businesses that do not focus on their online presence risk being left behind, especially if their competitors are actively outranking them.
This results in a loss of business that can easily be avoided.
There’s no shortage of ways to form an online presence these days. It all depends on the kind of business you’re in.
Some are content with simply having their own pages on social media networks like Facebook and Twitter. Others need a full-fledged presence that may include a website, an app, an online portal, and more.
The advancement in online platforms over the past decade has provided businesses with a lot of flexibility. They can utilize all of these different avenues to reach their customers. Most businesses will be content with having just a website while some would need a separate web app.
How exactly are the two different? That’s what we’re here to discuss.
What’s the difference between a website and web application?
The fundamental difference between a website and a web app is that of interactivity. Websites are largely static in nature, in that which they do present digital content and are navigable, the content doesn't update dynamically when you interact with it.
The content on a website updates when the webmaster publishes the changes.
A website can only be a single-page affair or have thousands of pages. A website has a singular domain with interlinked and well-structured pages.
How "big" a website is doesn't change this fundamental difference that it has with web apps. Websites are much smarter now than they used to be.
There are responsive websites that will adapt to a variety of devices and screen sizes. New web technologies have also enabled developers to create more sleek and modern websites.
Web apps are different. They offer functionality that you can directly interact with. These interactive elements are basically what differentiates web applications from web sites. Building them gets progressively complex if a wide range of features is to be offered. There are plenty of examples of simple web apps, too. For example, your favorite pizza joint might have one that lets you order the pie of your choice.
Websites are meant to be largely information in nature. Think blogs or news websites. There’s little in the way of interaction for visitors aside from clicking on links or using the search functionality.
Wikipedia.com is a classic example of what a website looks like. It has countless pages on anything and everything that you may need to know but it’s not interactive like a web app. It presents information but doesn’t dynamically update content on those pages.
Major news organizations also operate their own websites, think the New York Times or the Washington Post. Once again, we find a similar approach here, where the goal is to provide easy access to information under a singular domain.
- Effective Branding
Websites are great for when you want to increase your brand visibility. It can be used to tell the story of your brand, its values as well as provide information to the public about the key stakeholders in the organization.
- Product Showcase
A website can also act like a product showcase for you, particularly if you don’t require an online store for your products but would like potential customers to know what products you have on offer.
- Easy Setup
It’s relatively easy to set up a website even if you don’t have any knowledge of coding. There are plenty of solutions available, like WordPress, that enable people to set up basic blogs and websites.
- Not Interactive Enough
People are used to interactive experiences on the web these days. They expect a similar experience so it can be a slight negative for some visitors. However, there are ways to look even the most basic of single page websites more appealing and modern.
- Requires Management
Many web apps are of the set and forget type, the developers can configure them to do what they need to do and then forget about it. Websites require constant management, particularly in regards to the content that’s on there. A website with outdated content isn’t going to win any points for user experience.
- Limited User Feedback
If users have any feedback about the website, it’s a bit of a chore for them to get their voice heard. They have to find out the webmaster’s contact details and then send them an email. Taking in feedback from users is much more easy and seamless on web apps.
Web applications are far more powerful and versatile compared to standard websites. They’re also a great alternative for businesses who don’t want to invest in a full-fledged mobile app for both dominant mobile platforms.
The great thing about web apps is that they’re platform agnostic, meaning no submission and approval is required from the App Store or the Play Store. Web apps only require a browser to run. Most major online services, particularly social networks, provide both mobile and web apps.
YouTube is one of the prime examples of a web app. Open it up in your browser, search for and watch tens of millions of videos. Like them, share them, leave comments and receive personalized suggestions all within the browser without even having to leave the tab.
Twitter is another great example of a robust web app. It displays a constantly updating stream of tweets from the people you follow. You can interact with them, post your own tweets, upload pictures and videos, follow trends, and a lot more just from the browser.
That’s aside from the fact that both of these services offer great mobile apps for both iOS and Android. However, in their specific business case, it makes perfect sense for them to have both conventional apps as well as well developed web apps.
- Highly Interactive
One of the advantages of web apps which make them unbeatable compared to standard websites is the level of interactivity that they allow. Entire services that connect billions of people across the globe can be run within just a browser window, providing all of the same features as app users get.
- Faster To Deploy
Web applications are much faster to deploy compared to conventional applications. In some cases, it may also be most cost effective for some businesses to opt for having web app developed instead of a full-fledged app for two different mobile platforms.
- Third-party Integrations
Web apps are great if you want to offer integration with third-party software and services. For example, you might require people to create an account on your website but you'd rather prefer they just login with their Google account credentials. That's doable for a web app. Third-party integrations allow web apps to offer a lot of functionality that the developer doesn't have to code themselves.
- Browser Support Can Be Tricky
While most modern browsers have the software stack that they need to support web apps that have been built using advanced web technologies, legacy browsers may have issues properly running web apps. This can be an issue if your business has a lot of customers that use older computers.
- Requires More Resources
If you’re bootstrapping your business, it may not be feasible to get a web app developed, especially if you’d like it to be complex and offer a lot of functionality. Feature-rich web apps are expensive to develop.
- Security Can Be An Issue
There can be security risks to keep in mind if you have a lot of third-party integrations in your web app. Any vulnerability in a connected service could have the potential to put the security of your web app at risk.
Which should you use for your business?
Both websites and web apps have their strengths and weaknesses. It all depends on the kind of business that you have and what its needs are exactly.
If you’re a consulting firm, for example, you don’t need much more than a website with a few pages that tells potential clients about the services you offer and how to get in touch.
If you’re an eCommerce business, you probably want a robust web app that lets your customers see all of the products in one place, check them out in detail, place orders, track orders, and even chat with customer support within the browser.
Whether you need a website or a web app, you can count on Zibtek to provide you with a solution that best suits your business needs. Our highly skilled team of developers has over a decade of experience helping clients maximize their online presence.Already know what’s the best option for your business? Then contact us today for a consultant. We’d be happy to chat with you about your needs and explain how we can help you achieve your goals for your business.