Web Applications vs. Websites vs. Mobile Apps

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Web applications, websites, and apps make up the fabric of our digital world. As far as software goes, these three categories define how we access everything from social media to online shopping. As the Internet has morphed and changed over the last 38 years, we are no longer limited to plain text HTML landing pages. We no longer go online only to find information; we use it to interact, share, and do business. 


There are a few key differences between web apps, websites, and apps that you should keep in mind when building your website. Maybe you’re preparing to make a website for a new business, or your current site needs a remodel; understanding the differences between these three things can be a huge help when you communicate with web developers. So, without further adieu, let’s get right into it. 

JavaScript programming language on a computer screen.


We’re going to start simple: a website is designed to inform and direct. It provides us with information, text, photos, videos, links, and other forms of media for the pure purpose of being used. When you think of a website, think of sites like Wikipedia and Craigslist, whose sole purpose is to provide information. Wikipedia is a database of facts and histories that’s used as a modern-day encyclopedia. Users can suggest edits, but for the most part, each page is a one-way street – no interaction and no two-way communication. Similarly, Craigslist provides users with services and products they searched for. Select a category, and Craigslist informs on what’s available.


Websites can be monetized through advertisements and are easily updated and accessed. Compared to apps, they are easy to make and don’t require much upkeep. Your website developer will likely use HTML to design a website.

Craigslist is a website designed to inform users with one way engagement.

Web Apps 

To understand web apps, picture a two-way stream of communication with the ability to move data around dynamically. Web apps rely on user interaction to be functional. Whether users are posting videos, sharing social content, making purchases, or leaving reviews, web apps cannot exist without input from users. Web apps allow for a high level of customization from users, are action-oriented, and usually employ rich Internet application technologies like JavaScript, Python, Java, and more. 


Since web apps need to collect user data, they operate from a single database of sorts. To better understand this, picture Google or Facebook. While Google’s search engine would be considered a website, GoogleSuite is viewed as a web app. Contained within GSuite, we have Gmail, Google Search Console, Drive Photos, and more. Similarly, Facebook has posting, messaging, and interaction capabilities on its platform and features like Facebook Marketplace, Pages, and more. 


The interactive aspect of web apps makes them significantly more complicated to build. According to GBKSOFT, it would take a team of developers 4.5 months to build a front-end application and a backend infrastructure for an average-sized web app. The time and money that goes into making sure the app runs efficiently and your specifications can add up, but the payoff is enormous. 


Web apps provide more for a user than just relevant information. Your users will get a more customized and possibly a higher quality experience and will be able to take action from it. If you have an online storefront on your website, you’ll need to create a web app to make it functional, so be clear about your needs before talking to a developer. 

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Mobile Apps

Mobile apps are usually optimized for mobile and often work offline. When you think of an iPhone app, this is the category you’re imagining. App development is probably the most difficult of our three types because you’ll need to customize it for each operating system. Even if you want your apps on the Apple and Android App Stores only, that’s quite a lot of work. Fortunately, many app developers, like Algoworks, make the process a little smoother. 


Apps are downloaded onto a person’s device, so you don’t need to be on a browser to access them. For this reason, they’re also known to work offline. Take Microsoft Word, for example. It’s a computer app that doesn’t need to be connected to the Internet to get the job done. Other examples are Waze and the Chipotle app. They don’t serve a purpose offline, but they make the process of driving and ordering food so much easier. 


If you’re thinking about making an app for your business, make sure you have a website or web app first. From there, determine whether or not you need an app. Getting someone to download an app is a little bit harder than asking your audience to visit your URL on Safari. Don’t spend the money if it won’t be used or useful. 


Build Your Digital Presence with smartboost

In today’s digital age, it’s imperative to have an online presence. Whether you decide to go with a website, web app, or app, the most critical step is getting started. To hear more about web design and how you should present your business online, contact smartboost today and see what we have to offer

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